At Dutton Farm we have a unique, successful program I refer to as “Reverse Inclusion”. We invite the local elementary school students (typically fourth or fifth graders) to spend a day with us at the farm.
The farmers, all adults affected by disability, walk them through a typical day at the farm. They show the children how to feed the animals, passing out individual bags of feed so they can do it themselves. They collect eggs as a group and prepare them for sale.
The farmers take them into the production area where they make all natural products (soap, candles, etc). A lesson on soap making is presented and the children get to make some with assistance from our farmers. Many of the ingredients for the products are grown right on the farm.
Finally, they are given time to shop in Dutton Farm Market where all the items are created by people affected by disabilities. The farmers wait on the customers and ring up the sales.
As Director, I give a 15 minute introduction and closing to explain disability to them the way that God sees it: positively and lovingly. Everyone is fully prepared, comfortable and confident. It becomes a level playing field. It is so wonderful to see the interaction that occurs naturally with everyone being educated and reassured. In my debriefing time we talk about the Farm and then I always ask “ What did you learn about special needs today?” The answers are always positive.
“Just because someone has a disability it doesn’t mean they can’t have a job” or “Everyone can do something!”
That is reverse inclusion!
Dutton Farm is a non-profit organization in Oakland County that serves individuals with mental, physical, and emotional impairments. Staff are friends (no really) and work is meaningful. Our purpose is to positively impact the lives of our participants through partnership, dignity, and contentment. We provide an array of activities that foster self-belief and satisfaction. Our Community Integration Program and our Dutton Farm Market offer employment opportunities to people of all abilities. Here on the farm, we believe in the endless potential and worth of every human being and their ability to lead productive and fulfilling lives.