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/.