Rochester area businesses partner with Dutton Farm to support workers with disabilities

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 25, 2023

 Dutton Farm Workforce Development participant Andy Aldorfer, with his job coach, Greg Donaldson, is employed by the city of Rochester Hills to work at Innovation Hills.

Dutton Farm Workforce Development participant Andy Aldorfer, with his job coach, Greg Donaldson, is employed by the city of Rochester Hills to work at Innovation Hills.

Photo provided by Dutton Farm


ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS — October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Dutton Farm is celebrating the contributions of workers with disabilities.

Dutton Farm is a nonprofit in Rochester that empowers and supports adults with developmental disabilities through its adult education, community involvement, and workforce development programs with the goal of building a more inclusive community. On-site, Dutton Farm gives participants opportunities to explore their unique talents through horticulture and animal care, which in turn promotes independence, skill development, and community integration.

Dutton Farm’s workforce development program places and supports 53 workers in jobs within the broader community, providing the support services to set them up for success.

“These individuals deserve to work, and can work,” said Anne Rosario, Dutton Farm’s workforce development director. “And you’re only going to get dedication and loyalty.”

The program promotes employment opportunities by providing vocational training, job development, placement and job coaching, which plays a big role in the success of the program, Rosario explained.

The majority of Dutton Farm’s job seekers work one-on-one with job coaches.

“Those job coaches are the key piece to help ensure that there is long-term job success. If the individual can do 85% of the job, the job coach will step in and help with that 15% and make sure that the employer is satisfied as well,” she said.

Community support is also crucial to the program, which partners with many businesses in the community — including Blossom Ridge, Coldstone Creamery, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Meijer, PetSmart, Precision Irrigation, Spice and Tea Exchange, Tonia’s Tea Room, Nothing Bundt Cake and many others.

“The more that people see these positions being filled, the more we get referrals for employers who realize that supportive employment is important and want to be a part of that,” Rosario said. “The community is also seeing that we are an inclusive community, that we support each other and that Rochester is the best place to live, because our individuals are out there forward facing and our community supports them.”

Employing those with developmental disabilities brings a different perspective to the workforce, according to Rosario.

“Workforce doesn’t have to be a corporate model or be so stringent,” she said. “A lot of these roles can be filled with people with different abilities, and it actually adds value to the business and brings around a whole different perspective in that sense.”

Getting into the workforce also helps develop the independence of those in the workforce development program.

“These are positions that are essential to the business, so that also makes them, as employees, valuable, and it makes them more dedicated. They find a lot of value and self-worth by being able to hold employment,” Rosario said.

Employers appreciate the dedication of Dutton Farm participation.

“The highest feedback we get is … ‘We know that Dutton Farm participants are going to be there and are going to be consistent,’ and I think that’s really important to highlight because of the hard work that it takes for these individuals to come out of their shells, to realize their worth, and that they are contributing members of society,” said Rosario.

The city of Rochester Hills employs a member of Dutton Farm’s workforce development program.

“We have a Dutton Farmer that works at Innovation Hills, and he is a wonderful part of our team. He is responsible for cleaning up areas and for greeting our guests there,” Mayor Bryan Barnett said.

Barnett said he loves Dutton Farm.

“They really have a passion for serving what many may consider a very challenged group, and they do it with excellence, so we love to support them, whether it’s hiring their farmers, displaying their art at City Hall, or donating to their events. We are 100% on team Dutton Farm,” Barnett said.

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