OUR STORY

When Larry and Mary Collette’s non-verbal autistic son Gregory timed out of the public-school system at age 26 there became an immediate need to find Greg another program to occupy his life. Realistically Greg was not going to be competitively employed in the general workforce and absolutely could not exist in the indoor static workshop environment. With great gross motor skills, he needed activity, exercise, fresh air and social interaction.

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Soon the Collette’s found there were many other families experiencing the same dilemma with their recently timed out special need adults. While attempting to find the solution the families heard of a farm in Ohio, called Bittersweet Farm, which was a farm with residences for adults with autism. After three visits to Bittersweet and much discussion the decision was made to create a program loosely based on the Bittersweet model in Michigan. The families, along with a teacher and other professionals had the first meeting for Special Dreams Farm in October 2004.

Special Dreams Farm was very fortunate to have a corporate attorney from the Plunkett Cooney Law Firm Detroit, join SDF as a pro-bono attorney to assist in all the legal tasks of incorporation, 501(c)(3) status, by-laws, and proper board of director structure. In June 2005 we are awarded our 501(c)(3) determination from the IRS.

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Our first program was a one-year agreement with a private farm in Ira Township, to start a garden with our special need adults. This was a great learning experience for the Special Dreams Farm founders as we learned how our farmers worked, their capabilities, and the length of day that our special needs adults could comfortably tolerate along their interest level at different tasks. After the one-year agreement concluded, Wolcott Farm, which is a learning farm owned and operated by the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Parks, invited Special Dreams Farm to participate at their farm. They provided about an acre of land for a garden and they taught our farmers how to feed and care for chickens, rabbits, and goats. The Wolcott Farm was another great experience for farmers and staff. We participated there until October of 2008.

During the time period spent at the temporary programs the board of Special Dreams Farm had been fundraising and gathering support from others that needed a program like ours. In October 2008 we had raised enough money to put a down payment on a 31-acre farm in St. Clair. The old dairy farm had been unoccupied for over four years. With the help of the Detroit Area Building Trades we upgraded the farm with new heating and cooling systems, electrical systems, the plumbing was redone, a new septic system, new roofs on several buildings along with paving the driveway and creating a new paved parking lot. What was once an eyesore in the community is now a beautiful farm for our special needs adults that the community is very proud of.

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Special Dreams Farm was founded by parents of adults with special needs and after fifteen years the farm is still managed by parents of special need adults. We still maintain the core values and principles that created the farm in the beginning and we are very proud of that.

Larry Collette
President