Danny's Farm is familiar to children, teachers, and parents throughout Altadena -- a chance for children to encounter real farm animals in a safe and sane setting. But besides, that, its mission is to provide meaningful jobs for developmentally disabled adults, who handle the maintenance and care tasks involved in running such a facility.
Says owner Cathy Gott, "Nothing in my life has been better than giving these guys meaningful jobs ... I want Altadena to set the bar for loving people with all their differences."
Cathy and her husband, former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott, have two sons with autism, CJ and Danny. They opened Education Spectrum, an educational program for autistic children, in 1997. The farm, which is a nonprofit foundation started in 2007, was an outgrowth of Danny's love of animals, and the fact that he was getting older.
"There is little opportunity [for the developmentally disabled] to get jobs," Cathy said. With help from the San Gabriel-Pomona Regional Center, Villa Esperanza, and Supv. Michael Antonovich, they stated Danny's Farm with the goal of it being self-supporting by the time Danny turned 18.
(Pictured: Reynard Franklin, 20, likes to help out with the goats)Due to zoning issues, Danny's Farm has had to cut back on the kinds of farm animals onsite, and that meant the birthday parties and school field trips that were its mainstay are gone, too. It still offers a Regional Center-vendored specialty autism program for after school hours, and it will "bring the farm to you," with their mobile petting farm. But they have plans to make it even better. (See this story about their future plans).
The mobile petting farm is licensed and insured, and will go to schools, block parties, or other events. The price is flexible, depending on distance and the animals they bring with them.
(PIctured: Alex Reeser, 21, helps look after the bunnies at his first real job.)
But keeping it running involves a lot of community support, Gott says, in terms of cash, in-kind donations, and volunteer work -- and anybody can help. "Empty your fridge!" Gott said "Bring your old vegetables, leave 'em at our front door -- it keeps our costs down for food."
Volunteering at Danny's Farm also represents an opportunity for students who need to put in community service hours for school -- "come pet the animals, brush them, bath them " -- or take on other tasks, such as making curtains.Gott also credits contribution of Altadena Stables, next door, which owns the land and rents it to Danny's Farm. "They not only allowed it, they empowered us, they supported us -- it's pretty extraordinary."
All told, Danny's Farm is one of Altadena's special treasures, and we urge you to give them a try!