More Than a Family Business
Written by: Amy Kerrigan, Community Education Specialist
For Downsize Farm, a Champaign County service provider, the word 'business' is synonymous with 'family'. Founders Bob and Midge Custer created a business where everyone feels included. Their daughter, Bobbi McKee is now the CEO. Their nephew and in-laws work in day to day operations. They even employ staff who are related to each other or related to program participants. And if you are not a relative, they will surely make you feel like one.
Bobbi says, "Since the business was founded on the idea of caring for our family members, we give all clients and staff the same dignity and respect as if they are our true family."
Downsize Farm started and continues to operate a Day Program where people with developmental disabilities spend their time learning everyday jobs to keep a farm running. They cook with food grown in their own garden, feed and care for animals, craft items to sell (https://downsize-farm.square.site), and maintain the buildings and vehicles.
With Bobbi as CEO, Downsize Farm expanded its operations with more programs: a vocational program, an employment team, and a residential program. Not only can clients practice everyday living skills at the farm, but they also receive training for competitive employment, become actively employed, try their hand at living independently, and give back to the community with service projects.
This program is a collaboration with The Spotted Cow Coffeehouse and The Spotted Owl Coffee Bar in Urbana, OH. Clients can join an educational program to train for jobs in food service, manufacturing, janitorial, and other work. From there, clients can progress to the Employment Team, if they choose.
Downsize Farm partners with area businesses to place clients in competitive employment positions which best suit everyone's needs and interests. The staff at Downsize provide job coaching and work closely with both clients and businesses to assure a proper placement.
Some clients set goals to live independently. The residential program can provide Homemaker/Personal Care (HPC) assistance to those living independently. It can also coordinate Ohio Shared Living (OSL) placements, which places someone with a developmental disability in the home of a person or family willing to be a paid caregiver.