Farm in the Dell program teaches life, job skills

2011-10-20T00:00:00Z Farm in the Dell program teaches life, job skillsBy Nick Gevock / of The Montana Standard Montana Standard
October 20, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Looking south out the large windows of a future sun room, Adam Bartels gets a gorgeous view of the Highlands.

In about a month, the view will belong to clients who live at the Farm in the Dell - a group home near Buxton where developmentally disabled people learn to be self sufficient. The six-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot facility is expected to be open in late November.

"They want it to be more home-like and have less of an institutional feel," said Bartels, whose father Lowell Bartels started the Farm in the Dell program 22 years ago. "And they want it to be a working ranch."

That's exactly what other farms in the program around Montana, in Canada and in other countries are: Developmentally disabled people work in a farm and ranch setting to learn life and job skills.

By next year, cattle will graze on the

90-acre property located about 15 miles southwest of Butte.

AWARE, Inc. will run the small farm, which will have a staff of 15 to 20 people. Farm residents will do the cooking, but staff will be there to help, said Larry Noonan, CEO of AWARE.

He said the farm will be geared toward residents who are able to work with livestock and do basic chores.

"We really are looking for residents there that are good workers and want to work on a ranch," he said.

The group also plans greenhouses to grow produce. That model has worked at other Farm in the Dell properties, where residents have grown enough produce to sell some at local farmers' markets.

Lowell Bartels said through the years as the program has grown, they've heard from people in other communities who asked that they build a farm in their town. That's exactly what they want.

"The idea is that we go into a community and it's their home," Lowell Bartels said. "We ask them to take ownership."

Farm in the Dell facilities are paid for through donations.

Noonan said the staff will include a clinical supervisor, shift supervisors and other support workers. But it will also need a foreman and wranglers to help oversee the ranch operation. The farm will have staff on site seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Farm in the Dell in Butte will reach to the local community to help it run. Noonan said they're looking to groups such as 4-H, area ranchers and other agriculture resources.

A major goal of the farm is to get its residents and workers to become integrated into the community.

They can develop skills as ranch hands, doing work with animals such as shoeing or numerous other ranch related jobs.

"We want to find things that they really are involved in and feel good about - they see the animals and the crops growing," he said. "At some point, some of them get to the point where they're not necessarily working for us, but they're working for someone else in that type of business."

Another benefit is felt by the community, Noonan said. While the residents and workers gain the most, people also get to see that developmentally disabled people can be productive.

"This helps people understand how functional and how much they can do when they're given the right kind of support," Noonan said.

- Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at

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