A new retail store has opened along Rainbow Blvd. in Westwood, selling a wide variety of kitchenware, gifts, toys, food and pet items, just to name a few. But the real purpose of The Farmers House runs much deeper.
The mission of The Farmer’s House is to provide a work environment that will serve youth and adults with developmental disabilities. The Westwood store is the third for the non-profit that was founded in 2006 by Peaches and David Cunningham and Suzanne and Alan Zimmerman. The two families met at a preschool for children with developmental disabilities. Their concern was how to provide a future for their children in a safe environment that created a fulfilling and valued lifestyle. That has now turned into a place where lots of people with disabilities can learn job skills and make a contribution.
Starting with a garden project in 2010, the Famers House now has a market and farm at the Vaughn’s Orchard between Weston and Platte City, and a store in downtown Weston. The new Westwood store is closer to home for the Cunninghams who live in the SM East area. Peaches said the “up and coming area” in Westwood also was an attraction for the location of the third store in the Westwood Village shops on the west side of Rainbow not far south of 47th Street.
Peaches and Suzanne go to market looking for small companies, preferably local, that can supply products for the stores. Then the farmers (as the participants are called) work on labeling, packaging and a variety of different jobs in caring for the store and products. The Farmers House also has a bakery program and, while not at the Westwood location yet, does catering.
The Westwood location will have a focus on the arts, Peaches says, offering classes at the store. The operation is nearly self-sustaining but still depends on lots of volunteers, fundraising and grants. As it grows, more staff can be added including job coaches. “We’re an alternative to a (sheltered) workshop,” she said, “and it’s fun.”
“We’re about learning job skills, but mainly it is about fun and (having) a sense of belonging,” Cunningham said.
The Westwood store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. It has a wide selection of products, including seasonal ornaments for the holidays and products from the bakery program.