Newcomers to Fairfield – and the surrounding area – often comment about how the community involves members with cognitive disabilities into the fabric of community life. There is probably nothing else that demonstrates the heart of a community.
It is a natural progression for Fairfield to provide a home for those community members, and that has been a passion for Steve Lettengarver of Fairfield for four years.
Steve and Jean Schroeder, of Vaughn, visited a Farm In The Dell, and came away with the idea that this region had a need for a small working farm that would provide adults with cognitive disabilities with a place where they could live, work and achieve some independence.
Farm In The Dell traces its roots to the 1980s, when Lowell and Susan Bartels and a group of parents began working to establish a place for adults with cognitive disabilities. The Bartels co-founded Farm in the Dell International.
Farm in the Dell International is a non-profit charity. The Farm in the Dell Rocky Mountain Front is a 501C3 corporation, and is affiliated with Farm in the Dell International.
The local Farm in the Dell pays no fees to the International organization, so all funds raised to support the local farm stays here.
Steve Lettengarver said that none of the local farm board members take any pay, and the group has, so far, raised $75,000.
With the property acquisition completed except for the final signatures, which the farm purchased from 3 Rivers Communications, Steve is already looking forward to breaking ground. In 2018, he plans to build a greenhouse, shop, and do the landscaping. By 2020, plans are to construct a home.
By Montana code, the home is limited to six residents. But, by establishing a completely separate, second organization, a second home could be constructed on the site.
The home will be staffed twenty-four hours a day.
With a cost of $19,000 a month to operate the home, financial support will come from donations, Social Security Disability Income – and from production at the farm.
At other Farm in the Dell locations, the residents grow and sell fruits and vegetables, and according to Steve, the residents could raise cows, pigs and chickens that could be sold.
Not only would this support the Farm’s efforts, it would give the residents a sense of contribution to their home. Steve, thinking a few steps ahead, told the Sun Times that the farm could raise flowers. “Think of the hotels in Great Falls that use fresh flowers… just imagine growing those flowers here, filling the vases and then taking them to Great Falls every week.”
Farm residents could also take on jobs at local businesses in town, with the Farm location, residents could walk into town.
Asked how the Farm idea was being received by the community, Steve said that area support is strong, both financially and with people eager to volunteer. “One lady asked if I thought the residents would enjoy learning how to knit.”
In choosing a location for the Farm in the Dell Rocky Mountain Front, the board considered several area towns. Consideration was given as to whether or not a town already had a similar operation, such as Choteau Activities Center in Choteau. “We didn’t want to appear like we were competing with other organizations,” said Steve. The board also looked at the size of a town’s business district. “It was important that there were local businesses that might hire some of the residents,” Steve added, “such as a local grocery that might hire some of our residents.”
The Farm in the Dell Rocky Mountain Front has a fundraiser planned for this Saturday October 14, in Choteau. The Farm will be holding their second annual Pheasant Fest for Farm in the Dell Rocky Mountain Front at the Stage Stop Inn. “The idea is that there will be pheasant hunters in Choteau that will be tired and hungry after a day of hunting – this will give them a place to gather, enjoy a taco fiesta dinner, provided by the Log Cabin restaurant, and support the Farm.”
The Fest gets underway at 5:30 pm, and hunters can enter contests for $10 per pheasant, with cash prizes awarded for longest tail, longest spur and heaviest bird.
To enjoy the Taco Fiesta, the cost if $12 per person, $8 for kids ten and younger; a table can be sponsored for $400.
There will also be raffles for a Louisiana Pellet Grill and Liberty Gun Safe, and there will be games and both a silent and live auction.
For more information, our readers can contact Steve Lettengarver at (406) 590-2744 or Cory Copenhaver at (406) 781-1688. Steve told the Sun Times that they will be accepting donations for the auctions all week, until the day of the event. The Farm has a website, www.farminthedellrmf.com and they have a Facebook page at www.farminthedellrmf.com