May 24, 2017

Ranch Is a Haven for People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Photo Story

Reporting Texas

Calvin Keeney, resident assistant, and Travis, rancher, take a one mile, post-dinner walk around the ranch, as dusk falls.
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On a quiet country road outside Elgin sits Down Home Ranch, a working farm and ranch for people with intellectual disabilities. The 80 full- and part-time employees — 39 of whom have Down syndrome, autism or another intellectual disability — work together to run the 410-acre operation. They raise cattle, chickens, donkeys and horses, as well as vegetables and flowers in expansive greenhouses.

Judy and Jerry Horton opened the facility after their daughter, Kelly, was born with Down syndrome. The Hortons wanted to find a supportive, caring environment where Kelly could live independently with other “ranchers” with intellectual disabilities.

People with intellectual disabilities have significantly below-average IQs, according to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. Down syndrome, the most common disability, occurs in about one in every 1,000 births. In Texas, 13 percent of the population, roughly 3.5 million people, have an intellectual disability.

The Hortons moved to the ranch in 1991 with only a tiny mobile home. Now several group homes and micro-homes sit among fields of wildflowers and beneath canopies of Spanish oaks.

Ranch officials asked that ranchers’ last names not be used to protect their privacy.