September 24, 2020; Elyse Erdman
We have set up a COVID-19 friendly fundraiser for members of the community to support our day program for adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Autism.
The Drive Thru Chicken Bar-B-Que will be held on Saturday, October 24th from 11:00am-2:00pm. For $12 you will receive 1/2 BBQ Chicken, baked potato, apple sauce, roll and butter, a bag of chips, and a drink. The vendor is Konopelski's Catering from Sinking Spring, PA. There is an option for families to purchase baked goods and homemade Chicken Soup the day of the Drive Thru BBQ, while they last. Our goal is to sell 400 dinners in order to help keep up with the costs of our program for adults with disabilities, which includes animal and horticulture therapy, craft and cooking activities, and community outings. Drinks for the event are courtesy of The Wawa Foundation in Wawa, PA, and Classic Cleaners of Harrisburg PA. Potato Chips have been donated from Good's Chips in Adamstown, PA.
Visit our home page to purchase your tickets. You will pick up your meals at the Farm at 201 Trail Rd. Hershey. Most of our fundraisers have been canceled this year due to COVID-19, so we hope to have a successful Bar-B-Que. Come and get some delicious chicken BBQ and support local adults with disabilities!
September 2, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Other contributors: Nina Rovner and Lori Lidle
Late summer and early fall in Pennsylvania mean carnival rides, funnel cakes, and farm animal exhibits. This year, however, all county fairs have been cancelled across Pennsylvania. Growers in our program annually visit and submit our own produce to the Lebanon County Fair. They love spending days walking around meeting the vendors, eating their favorite fair foods, and earning ribbons for our produce. Without the opportunity to go to fairs this year, farm founder, Nina Rovner thought it appropriate to bring the county fair to the Farm! We will host a Harvest festival week from September 14th to 18th with live broadcasts via Zoom each day from 1-2 PM. The week will consist of harvesting produce from the garden, special animal activities, and making farm to table food.
Our fundraisers this year were all canceled due to COVID-19, so we really need your help in order to keep up with the costs of our program. Please consider using this Harvest week of activities to make a donation. The proceeds will go toward all of our programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. These are animal therapy, horticulture therapy, music therapy, yoga, crafting, cooking, and more. We will have a special giveaway coming up on our social media pages (@hopespringsfarm.hershey on Instagram and Hope Springs Farm on Facebook.) Follow the pages to find out how you can win some cool prizes and keep up to date with our Harvest Week.
Visit farmofhope.networkforgood.com to make a donation.
August 24, 2020; Elyse Erdman
We were forced to shut down our Farm program in mid-March due to COVID-19 regulations. Since the Farm based program reopened on July 13, we have seen staff and program participants, called Growers, participating in safe measures that have kept everyone healthy and happy. This successful safe environment on the Farm is one that we had hoped for. With over a month of success, we can now expand our program from 4 groups of 3 Growers on the Farm daily, to 4 groups of 4. This will increase the opportunity for Growers to get back on the Farm with 20 additional slots per week. We hope that Growers and families embrace this small step toward "normalcy." Before our COVID-19 shutdown, we welcomed thirty-eight Growers to the Farm each day.
Beginning on September 21, 2020 we will welcome 16 Growers to the Farm each day, as compared to the 12 per day we had been welcoming since July 13. Safety precautions that we will continue enforcing include mandating all staff to wear masks and conduct COVID-19 screenings each day, and asking the Growers to wear masks, acknowledging that some of them can't. We ask families and residential staff to pre-screen the Growers before they send them to the Farm, and screen them again when they arrive. Growers and staff wash their hands often and social distance whenever possible. The 4 groups of Growers each have their own designated indoor space for rests between activities. Unfortunately, Growers will still not be going on community outings from the Farm.
We will continue daily Farm Zoom parties from 1-2 PM each week day. Growers enjoy seeing their friends through the screen and showing off their crafts, animals, gardens, and more. They are proud of the work they’ve done since returning to the Farm. They’ve been hard at work harvesting peaches, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, and other produce to use in recipes. The animals at the Farm are finally getting the loving attention from their Growers that they missed during our shutdown.
Hope Springs Farm’s staff has done a phenomenal job at keeping the Farm running in a safe and effective manner. The ability to maintain and sustain the Farm program during these COVID-19 restrictions is attributed to them. The addition of one Grower per group each day on the Farm may seem like a small change, but it is a sign of hope for the future.
Click here to donate to our Farm program. We need your donations now more than ever due to our fundraiser cancellations.
July 27, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Other Contributors: Nina Rovner and Kristyn Beeman
Board certified music therapist Kristyn Beeman states that “the beautiful thing about music is it's a whole brain experience.” Music bypasses parts of the brain that may have delays for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program,” according to the American Music Therapy Association. It is important to note the difference between therapeutic music and music therapy; when a Grower is listening to his favorite music through headphones that activity is simply therapeutic, while a board certified music therapist working with a Grower to improve communication skills is music therapy.
Since 2012, WB Music Therapy has been coming to the Farm and leading Growers in music therapy sessions. It all started when Kristyn and her family visited the Farm’s annual Harvest BBQ in 2012. Through engaging in typical conversation with other attendees, she was connected with the administration who was eager to collaborate with her. She led her first session on the Farm in October 2012, and monthly sessions quickly turned weekly with occasional individual sessions to help address more specific goals. She was even able to take some Growers to the Capitol in Harrisburg to talk to legislators about the importance of music therapy.
Not only do Growers embrace and greatly enjoy the music therapy sessions, they experience various aspects of growth through them. Music therapy improves speech and communication, fine and gross motor skills, academics, social skill development, behavioral skills, social-emotional skills, and self-esteem and quality of life. Kristyn has personally experienced this growth over time with our Growers. Coping skills, direction following, and identifying and handling feelings are some of the non-musical goals that Growers work on with Kristyn. To work on these goals, they participate in songwriting, instrument plays, movement to music, and call and response singing. In Kristyn’s own words, “Growers have shown significant progress in working towards these goals together as a group. Growers have their own songs that address daily tasks at the farm and how to complete them, even when they don't want to. They've shown progress in working together as a group, identifying feelings, learning self-control, and having opportunities for self-expression.”
Although we can’t all be together on the Farm for music therapy right now, Kristyn continues to give sessions via our Zoom parties. The Growers sing their welcome and goodbye songs every single day. Then, twice a week, Kristyn leads them in a special music therapy activity. Whether it is clapping and gross motor movement to We Will Rock You, singing a song about things we don’t like doing, or following directions and dancing to Jump in the Line (Shake Senora), we see the Growers beaming through our computer screens. They truly let go and have a good time, taking their minds off of the stressful past few months spent in quarantine. “It's so important for the Growers to continue experiencing it to maintain a sense of normalcy to their routines,” says Kristyn. “By continuing to sing the original songs they've created, to participate in movement to music, and to interact with each other, allows them to continue addressing their goals and see that even in tough times, we are all in this together. Until the day we can all be together again in person, the Zoom Farm parties allow us to continue to connect and grow within our music therapy sessions.”
We want to thank WB Music Therapy and Kristyn Beeman for their transformative work with our Growers. If you would like more information on music therapy, you can visit WB Music Therapy’s site at www.wbmusictherapy.com or the American Music Therapy Association’s site at https://www.musictherapy.org/research/factsheets. If you would like to donate to support our ability to provide Growers these sessions, please visit our fundraising site.
July 17, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Other Contributors: Kirsten Fairs, Lori Lidle, Nina Rovner, and Nora Palmer
The summer is an exciting time for harvesting vegetables and fruits here at the Farm. Now that our Growers are back, they will use harvested goods for their cooking activities, and take some home to share with their families and friends. Cucumbers are one of the Growers’ favorite vegetables because they turn them into pickles! The pickling helps us raise money, as they are sold at different events and daily in the farmhouse. Beansprouts are planted on the Farm for the ducks and the chickens. During the winter months they don’t have access to as much grass, so sprouts provide them with food and enrichment. Broccoli and cauliflower are also grown in the garden. The broccoli and cauliflower, once harvested, can be used for cooking activities, sent home with growers, or frozen for future use. Summer crookneck squash is a bush plant that we grow. They don’t grow on long vines, like most winter squash and pumpkins. This makes them easier to grow in pots and small spaces. Growers wear gloves while harvesting the squash because the stems have small spines which can be irritating to the skin. The fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. The Howden and Jack Be Little pumpkins are two varieties that grow from our compost. The Howden pumpkin is the well-known icon for Halloween. While it is edible, usually only the seeds are eaten as a baked snack. Howden pumpkins are easy to grow, but require sufficient space for the vines to spread. The Jack Be Little on the other hand is one of the world’s smallest variety. They measure up on average at 2 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter. This variety of pumpkin is bright orange and completely edible, but is more commonly used for decoration and as miniature Jack O’Lanterns. Watermelon is a delicious summer treat grown for Growers and our animals to enjoy! The Moon and Stars watermelon gets its name because the dark green rind is dotted with bright yellow splotches of varying sizes which resemble the moon and stars in the galaxy. The large fruit can reach up to 40 lbs. and is enjoyed for its sweet, bright red flesh. The Sangria watermelon has a green rind that is striped. It can reach 20lbs or more in weight. The flesh is dark red in color and is well known for its sweet flavor. This watermelon can be directly sown outside and does not need an early start indoors. The cantaloupe melon that we grow have an orange flesh which is sweet and fragrant in smell. We allow melons to ripen on the vine, then can easily remove the fruit when the ripe vines start to crack. Cantaloupes are ripe when the rind turns from green to tan. They can be stored in the fridge but only for a short period of time as it will start to lose flavor and color. We also grow grapes, tomatoes, corn, blueberries, strawberries, herbs, and so much more. This week, we picked some rhubarb that we will freeze and eventually turn into jam!
Our garden markers show what is growing in each of our garden beds so that they can be easily identified by Growers and staff. Growers made the markers themselves for a craft activity using garden rocks, acrylic paint, and paint brushes. They washed off the rocks to remove any mud and soil. They dried off the rocks, selected the appropriate paint colors, painted a white background, and detailed with images of the selected fruit or vegetable. They left the rocks to dry, painted a second coat if necessary, and put the rocks back in the garden!
Our garden is looking beautiful and the produce is turning out great. If you would like to stop by and volunteer in the garden, we would love to see you! If you want to donate to help us purchase equipment, seeds, etc. for the garden please visit our fundraising site!
7/6/2020; Elyse Erdman
Animal care and therapy is an essential aspect of our day program on the Farm. The number and variety of animals we have had over the years keeps growing. Currently, the Farm is home to two miniature horses, three pigs, six goats, four sheep, five alpacas, two rabbits, two ducks, many chickens, a guinea pig, and several cats. Animal-Assisted Therapy has been shown to reduce certain brain chemicals associated with stress and anxiety, to increase certain brain chemicals associated with healthy behavior and social function, and to reduce depression in older adults. These benefits, and the feeling of meaningfulness that Growers gain through caring for their animals, proves just how important all of our animals are to our program on the Farm. Growers’ faces light up with joy when it’s time to see and care for their animals. During our Covid-19 closure, Growers and their families even visited the Farm (following social distancing precautions) to see how their animals were doing. However, since our day program is closed, our staff cares for and feeds the animals daily. They even give them special attention during our Zoom parties. For example, during the parties we have walked the goats, let the guinea pig run around in the grass, and allowed the pigs to play in a ball pit. Even with these activities, we can all tell that the animals our missing their Growers. “We come up to the fences or the gates, or sometimes I’ll just go and rattle the chain, and they come running because they want to see somebody,” spoke Executive Director Jim Gainer. “They’re kind of missing their Growers too. While we’re volunteering and while we’re there, we’re really making an effort to work with the animals and keep them socialized by giving them that interaction that they’re used to.” With the return of Growers next week on a limited basis, the animals should feel more at home. We may all feel the world changing around us because of Covid-19 regulations, but our animals feel it too. Stay tuned to meet some of our adorable, loving animals this week on our Instagram and Facebook pages.
For videos of Growers caring for their animals on the Farm, visit our YouTube channel.
June 29, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Serving the community has always been an essential part of our day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Before the Covid-19 crisis, Growers regularly went in the community to volunteer at various places such as food banks, nursing homes, and community gardens. Locally, they served at the Ronald McDonald House, Caring Cupboard, Paxton Street Ministries, Caitlin’s Smiles, and more. They also took trips to movie theatres, orchards, libraries, malls, and markets. The Growers love to be involved in the community and it gives them a true sense of meaning and value.
When Dauphin County entered yellow phase on May 29th, 2020, we were allowed to send Growers into the community once again, but on a very limited basis. Growers normally participate in a six hour program daily, but they now are limited to four hours in the community only on a few days a week. Their locations are mainly outdoors and include parks and strawberry and blueberry fields. Volunteer opportunities are in short supply at this time, but Growers currently volunteer at Meals on Wheels, the Hershey Community Garden, and Milk & Honey Farms. Growers have also been doing various projects at local conservation sites, such as weeding, mulching, and painting park benches. They get treats from Rita’s, mini golf at City Island, and visit petting zoos. One of the favorite outdoor outings is playing with baby goats at Batz Farm. While Growers are on their outings, they tune into the Farm Zoom parties and participate in the craft, yoga, and/or music therapy activities of the day. Staff member Amanda Ream stated, “The Growers are grateful to be with their friends making a difference in their community again. It truly shows by the amount of pride they have in their work.”
The vans that staff travel in to take Growers to their outings need to be cleaned extensively daily, and there can only be one individual per row in the van to account for social distancing measures. Staff are required to wear masks, and Growers are encouraged to, although staff take into consideration that some of them are unable to for medical reasons. We are ecstatic to be able to offer community outings for Growers, but with the required limitations come additional costs to our organization. There is additional vehicle maintenance because fewer Growers are allowed in each van, and additional payroll costs because the groups of Growers are smaller, but need the same number of staff.
We need help from our supporters to continue providing community outings to Growers. If you would like to give to our general fund which supports the more staff per Grower regulation, and increases our vehicles and cleaning supplies, please visit https://farmofhope.networkforgood.com/projects/14912-friends-of-hope-springs-farm
June 25, 2020 (Updated June 29, 2020) ; Elyse Erdman
College students across the country are struggling to find and complete required internships due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Occupational therapy students at Elizabethtown College overcame this struggle by participating in a non-conventional internship program here at the Farm. Since our day program is closed until further notice, Christine Achenbach, Academic Fieldwork Coordinator for the Occupational Therapy Department at Elizabethtown College, suggested that students would integrate themselves into our daily Farm Zoom parties. Not only do the students attend Zoom parties, they send in videos for our Growers to watch during the parties. Hailey Alger’s videos feature her work on a dairy farm, including a how-to on milking cows. Hailey had been to Hope Springs Farm in the spring of 2019 during her first semester of fieldwork. When asked about her experience as a virtual intern she remarked, “It has been great to join the Zoom parties and see the smiling faces of the Growers that I had the privilege of meeting over a year ago. Their smiles definitely brighten my day. Occupational therapy is all about adapting, and I think taking on this virtual experience has contributed to my ability to adapt. I am so thankful that Hope Springs Farm has allowed me to take part in this incredible program.” Another intern, Jessi Clark, got the Growers involved at home by sending in a video on how to make no-bake monster energy balls. Lauren Scheib showed us how to make gluten free banana pancakes, and Ashleigh Denault whipped up some yummy banana split bites. Broccoli Salad was made by Hannah Burleigh in a video for a Zoom party, while Cristina VanBrocklin translated the video into sign language. Emily Buss also teaches words in American Sign Language through her videos. She most recently taught Growers and staff the words “hungry” and “thirsty,” ones that could be very helpful when our day program starts back up. "It was clear to me that Hope Springs Farm is a remarkable place since the first moment I interacted with the Growers,” stated Emily. “There is no other program that provides their participants practice in functional skills on a farm & within the community, a space to create social relationships, and even the ability to walk an alpaca! While COVID-19 has restricted in-person interaction with the Growers, students like me from Elizabethtown College have partnered with Hope Springs Farm to create content for their interactive Zoom experiences. As students we have gained valuable insight that we will apply in our future careers as occupational therapists! I have enjoyed creating videos for the Growers, especially teaching basic ASL vocabulary, and look forward to visiting again in person." Intern Sadie Hawkins brought out her crafty side and led Growers in making planters out of plastic bottles. Liz Mazer and Emily Nelson used their home gardens to give examples of the five senses. These are just some of the creative videos that Elizabethtown College interns have sent in. You can find clips of all our interns’ videos on our YouTube channel, under the playlist “Farm-at-Home; Have fun at home while staying safe.” Thanks Christine Achenbach and the Occupational Therapy Department at Elizabethtown College for all of your work in developing and implementing this internship, and thanks Elizabethtown College students for your outstanding creativity as Hope Springs Farm interns.
Click here to watch our interns' videos on YouTube.
Click here to donate so that we can continue providing free Zoom parties to Growers until their return.
June 22, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Hope Springs Farm’s temporary closure due to Covid-19 regulations left many Growers quarantined in their own homes. Growers and their families were forced to quickly adjust to a completely new way of life, one without their program here at the Farm. Any face to face interaction between Growers and staff was out of the question initially, so our online presence became of great importance. Volunteers started by posting pictures of the animals on Facebook for Growers to see. Soon, we realized that Zoom could be an effective tool in interacting with Growers. Weekly Zoom parties for Growers to interact with each other and Farm staff turned to daily parties.
On Monday, June 1, 2020 we started to hold the Zoom Farm Parties for an hour on every week day! The parties are completely free to Growers, prospective program participants, and family members, because we want everyone to have an opportunity to participate while stuck at home. The Zoom parties start with an introduction from Jim. He walks around the Farm to show the Growers their animals and gardens that are being tended to by our staff. Next, music therapist Kristyn Beeman encourages all participants to join her in singing a welcome song. Other activities that are included in Zoom parties include crafts, cooking, yoga, story reading, and more.
Growers receive a schedule for the Zoom parties a week in advance of their happening. The schedule details the materials for crafts and cooking for the week, so that if the Growers want to participate in an activity, they have time to gather the needed materials. Staff on the Farm head to the kitchen or craft room, and become the spotlight video on the Zoom party. They create the project, while giving step by step instructions for those following along at home. Some of the crafts made on Farm Zoom parties are bottle planters, tissue paper sunflowers, and egg carton turtles. Tasty treats such as banana split bites, s’mores, and apple slice donuts were favorite recipes made on Zoom parties.
Anne Platt, the mother of one of our Growers, shared that her daughter looks forward to the Zoom parties daily. “She reminds me every morning about the party in the afternoon,” she remarked. “She says she really looks forward to the crafts and singing with Kristyn! The parties give her a chance to see her friends and staff from the Farm. She misses them and loves having the opportunity to say hello. They help her stay connected to the people in her life that are important to her. Prior to the regular Zoom sessions, we noticed that she was starting to show signs of stress that I believe were from feeling isolated since she was used to going out and being with the familiar people at the Farm. We're seeing that her mood has really improved overall since she started attending the Zoom parties.”
Some OT students from Elizabethtown College join the Farm Parties and provide segments for Growers as part of their College Internship program. Pat Steely from Yoga for Kids gives a yoga class via Zoom that the Growers are eager to participate in. Around the Farm, staff think of creative activities such as pigs playing in a ball pit, to show Growers on Zoom.
Farm Zoom parties are not only fun for Growers, their families, and staff, but provide Growers with the opportunity for some mental and physical activity while stuck at home. Hope Springs Farm’s staff is looking forward to the Growers' return, and remind them on each Zoom party that their Farm will be ready for them when they are permitted to come back. However, we needed to upgrade our internal Wi-Fi capacity in order to do the Zoom Farm parties every day, which means we need your help raising funds! Please visit https://farmofhope.networkforgood.com/ to donate and support us in putting on Zoom parties for Growers until their return.
You can find video clips from Zoom parties on our YouTube channel, check them out here.
June 15, 2020; Elyse Erdman
The cloud of confusion surrounding Covid-19 in the United States in March 2020 caused immediate fear and worry in staff, growers, and families here at the farm. Staff feared the inability to provide Growers with the structure of the farm that they thrive in. On March 17, 2020, DHS/ODP instructed all day programs and prevocational programs in Pennsylvania to close until further notice. The stay at home order was issued on March 20, forcing staff to be temporarily laid off.
All programming for Growers, such as music therapy, community volunteering, crafts, cooking, and much more came to a halt. However, the miniature horses, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and other animals that reside on the farm needed care regardless of our closed program. The gardens and greenhouse also needed to be tended to. Volunteers and laid-off staff stepped up to the plate and continued coming to the farm to care for the animals and plants that are essential to our programs here. Staff even helped repaint and clean out buildings used for the day program activities. Lauren Skorupski was one of our many staff members who volunteered on the farm after its close. When asked about why she continued to volunteer on the farm, she remarked “I wanted to volunteer even when the program temporarily closed so that when the Growers are able to return, their farm is just like they left it. I helped care for the animals while they are gone because animal therapy is so helpful for their sensory skills, and they love getting to take care of them.”
Growers and their families were forced to quickly adjust to a completely new way of life, one stuck inside of their homes. We offered families the opportunity to visit the farm, using social distancing precautions, for Growers to see the animals they care for. We also provided families with a list of local parks that the Growers usually visit for their community outings as a way to get out of the house.
We finally felt a bit of relief when DHS/ODP announced that they would receive retainer payments until the crisis passes. These payments meant that all staff would have their jobs back, and the farm program would be alive and well for Growers when they are allowed to return. However, annual fundraisers are a large part of our ability to continue our programs for Growers. The Pancake Breakfast scheduled for April, the Golf Outing in May, and the Yard Sale in June were all canceled due to Covid-19 regulations. We hope to have our Fall Harvest BBQ in September as scheduled.
We want to thank all of our staff that continued volunteering during this time of crisis. Your work is greatly appreciated, and we will take this week to highlight your hard work and dedication to the farm.
To support the Farm and the eventual return of Growers and regular programming, please visit https://farmofhope.networkforgood.com/.