Before Fall Festival: Sammy Gives Tour of Dutton Farm

Before Fall Festival: Sammy Gives Tour of Dutton Farm

(Crystal Proxmire, October 4, 2021)

Rochester,  MI –  The community of friends that make Dutton Farm come alive with learning and love, has been working hard to prepare for the Fall Festival on October 7-8.

There haven’t been many visitors since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  And everyone has been doing their part to get the farm ready for the exciting event.

Gordie been helping to paint the picnic benches in the same bright red that they painted the barn for their newest pet Thor.   Rebecca has been picking weeds in the flower and vegetable beds The accent the farm’s 5 acre property.  And Jessica does a great job keeping the bunny cages clean, adding fresh wood chips as part of her chores.

Dutton Farm is a family run nonprofit that provides a day center program for adults with disabilities that includes educational learning goals, community involvement outings, and customized employment for some of the participants. Needs and abilities vary, but everyone is an important part of the team.

Sammy Thompson has been getting ready for the fall visitors, by practicing giving tours of the farm, with a Oakland County Times getting an exclusive peek.

On a sunny day, the doors of the barn which is attached to the main house, are open, with participants sitting at tables like a classroom, working on crafts or paying attention to a lesson.  Sometimes there are guest speakers or special topics to learn about.

“We try to teach some basic life skills,” said Dutton Farm Community Relations Manager Kim Staudacher.  “Some of our participants live with their families, but others might live in a group home where they have a kitchen to cook and clean.  So we do basic cooking classes, nutrition classes, fitness. Things that are helpful.”

The next step on the tour was the chicken coop, where a couple dozen chickens lay fresh eggs that get sold at the Dutton Farm Market.  “They all come over like you’re gonna feed them,” Sammy said.  “That’s Big Red,” she said pointing to the biggest, loudest bird. “Big Red is the boss.”

There are several flower and vegetable beds, with room to grow. And tucked away behind the barn is a pen for Thor- a rescue pig that participants love to pet and feed.

Thor’s castle is a regal red, with his name spelled across the top.  Next to Thor is an empty pen, that used to be home to a pair of sheep.  During the pandemic The animals needed to be re-homed because they weren’t holding classes at the farm.  But now that things are arriving back up again, Staudacher says her dream is to find a few sheep or goats to make that space home.  (Anyone with a lead on such creatures can reach out at kim@duttonfarm.org).  “Everyone here loves animals, and there’s such pride in taking care of them,” she said.

Back inside the house, Sammy showed off the bunnies and kitties they make the environment extra cuddly.  There is also a small store where participants can spend  “Dutton Dollars “ they earn while at the farm, with a selection of interesting items like games toys knickknacks etc.  There is also ample space for group activities and opportunities to mingle with friends.

Some participants also participate in work programs, like helping out at Lava Mountain Coffee in Orion Township, or at Everybody in Pontiac, a social enterprise where participants make and sell body care products (like soap and sugar-based body scrubs), and candles.

“The best thing about coming here is how loving everyone is.  People just want to feel that attention and belonging. There are so many hugs and ‘I love yous,’ it’s impossible not to feel good here,” Staudacher said.

 

One of Sammy’s best friends is Becca Smither, whose family started Dutton Farm to give Becca and other adults with special needs a place to learn and grow together.  Her father Jim donated the land, while mother Michele and sister Jenny Brown worked on building the organization.  The program is supported with private donations and state funding for day center activities, Dutton Farm has grown to a community with over 80 participants at the farm and in their job skills programs.

Sammy and Becca are looking forward to the October 7-8th Fall Festival Event which will include pumpkins, animals, cider and donuts, and a haystack maze. Everyone is welcome to attend this family-friendly event and meet the folks at the farm! Dutton Farm is located at 2290 Dutton Road in Rochester Hills. Admission to the Fall Festival is $5 and the hours are 10am to 2pm.

“We really want to get the public out here to see what we do, and meet everyone,” Staudacher said.  Dutton Farm also does tours for groups, including students and seniors.  To learn more about Dutton Farm visit https://duttonfarm.org.  For more on the Fall Festival, click here for the flier.

   

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