Rochester Hills farm creates workplace for people with disabilities

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. - Rebecca Smithers looks forward to spending every morning feeding the animals at Dutton Farm in Rochester Hills.

"I love Dutton Farm so much. I love being here," she said. "Every day I like to feed the sheep."

Smithers has Down syndrome and said the farm is a place she can feel self-sufficient.

The farm was created by Smithers' sister, Jeanette Brown, as a gift.

"My mom and I decided to co-found Dutton Farm in her honor, so when she's old and [we] can't really care for her anymore, she knows there's something for her to do," Brown said.

The family wanted a place where Smithers could learn job skills, earn a paycheck and gain a sense of independence.

"My sister, who has Down syndrome, was in the school system until she was 26. When she graduated out of the school system, there just wasn't anything out there that we felt was meaningful," Brown said.

The nonprofit working farm and store caters to people with physical or developmental disabilities.

"Everybody has meaning and deserves to have a purposeful life and to have community and friends and to have people who care about them," Brown said. "If disability has touched your life, it changes you and it inspires you and it teaches you to kind of always look out for the underdog and to not complain as much."

When the farm first started, it had six workers. Now, it has more than 150.

"Emotionally, to see people just blossom when they're given the respect that they deserve as adults, is very moving and very much worth it to me to see with all the hard work that we do, to see them just develop into the people they were intended to be," Smithers' mom, Michele, said.

Workers sell all-natural products like soap, lotion and candles, along with used items donated from the community. All the money raised goes back to the farm or is used to pay the workers.

"Yeah, it makes me happy. I work a lot," Smithers said. "I feel awesome. I feel good."

For more information on how to get involved with Dutton Farm, click here.

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.