Special farmers tune up for spring
The MSU Product Center helps support adults with disabilities at Special Dreams Farm.
February 18, 2011 - Author: Hannah Stevens, Michigan State University Extension
Farmers across Michigan are doing more than thinking about spring. Flowers and vegetable transplants are rooting in greenhouses, tools are being sharpened and equipment readied, trees pruned, fences mended, storage barns cleaned. At Special Dreams Farm, these chores and others are being accomplished by a special group of farmers with developmental disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, closed head injuries and other cognitive disabilities.
Seven years ago this non-profit enterprise was just a dream of several Macomb and St. Clair County families with adult children who, because of such disabling conditions, faced a future with no meaningful work and little social interaction. These adults now join with some 30 others during the week at the 34 acre farm in St. Clair Township, purchased in 2008. In a little over two years, with the support of fundraisers, donations, grants, volunteers and MSU Extension, these farmers and their coaches have developed an orchard, vegetable garden, greenhouse, chicken house, workshop and walking trails through 10 acres of woods. They are able to market the produce and eggs, prepare and preserve the bounty while learning life skills throughout the year.
TheMSU Product Center for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources has been working with founders Larry and Mary Collette and the board of directors of Special Dreams Farm, since its inception, lending support in venture and product development.
While Special Dreams Farm will never be able to serve the entire disabled population, they are proud to be the only farm of this kind in Michigan. Seeing the positive changes in their children and other special farmers makes them determined to work towards garnering resources to be able to serve more disabled adults and their families in the coming years.