Combining life skills with independent living: Welcome to Midnight Farm

Midnight Farm

In a recent post, RISE and TEAM Work: Developing skills for an independent life, we shared GoodLife’s one-of-a-kind work programs that allow individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) within the Neighborhood Network to work, learn and grow in a safe, inclusive and familiar environment. 

Today, we put on our best pair of boots to visit one of our program partners, Midnight Farm. Director of Northeast Kansas Day and Work Services, Melba Wright, has more than 15 years experience in the education field and 8 years working with individuals with I/DD. Together with Laura William and Kourie Kanaman, our residents think life on the farm is pretty great. 

Melba, tell us about Midnight Farm.
Oh goodness, there is so much I could say! Midnight Farm is an amazing place, and I’d say that even if I didn’t work here! It is a working farm, event space and environment of learning for about 50 GoodLife men and women with I/DD, five days a week from nine to three. 

What kinds of things are they learning?
We have a multitude of classes, like cooking, greenhouse, music and musical theater and pottery. It’s more than classes though, it’s hands-on life learning and as teachers, we only facilitate. They are the ones that plant, water, grow, harvest and sell the produce grown in our eight garden beds. They keep the farm running.

Through TEAM Work, individuals work in maintenance, property care and animal care. TEAM Work employees also work for KC Pop Co, which is headquartered here at  Midnight Farm. 

We make sure to save time for fun, too. We have golf cart races, kickball games, swimming, themed dances and activities, and my staff loves to join the adventure. It’s never boring at the farm!

Speaking of your staff … Laura, how do you contribute to GoodLife at Midnight Farm?
I am the day services coordinator and run the day-to-day operations for our classes and activities with GoodLife individuals. I help our individuals and employees learn social, life and job skills. I also get to watch them grow and move on to the next model and move forward with their life. We are a building block in their journey to more independent living, and it’s great to be a part of that.

How about you, Kourie?
Hello there! I do several things on the farm– first, I’m the barn manager caring for the animals and the property with the help of our TEAM Work folks. I also coordinate monthly events for our GoodLife residents that are open to the public, like flag football games, color runs and holiday-themed activities. 

What do you feel you’re doing differently at Midnight Farm, Laura?
I have yet to find adult services programming like ours – it’s very unique. The farm truly belongs to the men and women we serve. They take so much pride and ownership in caring for the land, animals and produce. 
(Kourie) I’d like to add to that. We are helping these individuals make real progress that can only come from real-world exposure, experience and one-on-one care. For example, I give them a task and teach them how to complete it. They learn problem-solving, workplace attitude and pride in a job well done. Before I know it, they arrive knowing what they need to do and they get it done. Those are good moments. It makes me wonder why there aren’t I/DD programs like this everywhere.

What’s something you’re looking forward to, Laura?
I cannot wait for the Kaw Valley Farm Tour. This will be the first year Midnight Farm is featured on the tour. One of my goals for the farm is to be more community involved, and the tour is a huge opportunity to show our community who we are and what we do. We are a hidden gem, and it’s time people know about us! 

Melba, how do you see the work at Midnight Farm translating to the outside world for GoodLife residents?
The farm is a great place for them to practice social networking skills. They are learning life and behavior skills on the farm. Now, when they go out into the community with us to see a concert at the Kauffman Center, for example, they know how to sit quietly and listen or say hello to the person next to them, because they’ve been practicing in a safe environment at Midnight Farm. That brings me so much joy to see!

Want to learn more and get involved at Midnight Farm? Contact us!

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