You can’t stop Cathy Gott when she puts her mind to something. And now she has her mind set on creating a place in Altadena for autistic and other developmentally challenged adults -- on an historic and legendary piece of Altadena property.Education Spectrum , which provides innovative programs for individuals with autism and related disorders. In 2007, they started Danny’s Farm, a petting zoo and events facility at 3064 1/2 Ridgeview Drive, a place for all kinds of kids but with a special place for special needs children. Young people with developmental disabilities worked on Danny’s Farm staff, learning to care for the animals and help with the birthday parties and other events that occurred there.
(Pictured: Cathy Gott at the gate to lower Zorthian Ranch, where she hopes to build the farm.)
But, says Cathy, Danny’s Farm has been a victim of its own success. The Gotts rented the space from the Altadena Stables next door, but it has proven so successful that it’s earned the wrath of some neighbors who complained about all the cars parking in the neighborhood.
So, with the livestock dispersed among various friends, Cathy and Jim started looking for a place to move Danny’s Farm.
The past: a primavera
The place they found was not just any place. Alan Zorthian, owner of the Zorthian Ranch at the north end of Fair Oaks, offered to take in some of the livestock, and suggested they look at some land on the lower end of the property as a new location for Danny’s Farm.
Zorthian Ranch is a legendary place in Altadena. Alan’s father, Jirayr Zorthian, was an artist and architect with a long career, and was probably most notorious locally for his “primaveras,” birthday parties that included naked young nymphs who fed him grapes as he lounged in a toga and long red underwear. The upper ranch includes the Zorthian home, many outbuildings, works of art, and vast piles of -- well, some would call it junk, others would call it “raw materials.”
A green dream of a farm
In Cathy’s dream, the farm becomes a place where autistic and other disabled adults raise animals, grow crops sustainably, and learn about farming, business and marketing, including budgeting and website design. The eggs, animals, and crops they sustainably raise would be sold at roadside stands, farmer’s markets, or to select restaurants.
This would mean building the structures that any farm needs -- chicken coops, fences, pens, outbuildings. Where would they get the materials?
Simple, Cathy said -- from the piles of “raw materials” left over by Jiryar Zorthian.
“Look at this!” she said during a recent tour of the ranch, pointing to a pile of metal debris. “Fencing!” She pointed to piles of doors, wooden shelving of all kinds that could be converted to coops, stocks of wood and found objects. “I want to get in here with my gloves on!”
Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office has been supportive of the plan, Gott said, and Alan Zorthian is on board, but right now everything is in its early stages -- there’ll have to be a board to run it, there needs to be fundraising, the community needs to be informed. She said she's ready to get started.
Just don’t stand in her way!
Cathy Gott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.