November 11, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Early into our initial Farm closure due to COVID-19, 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 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. Now that we had to close the Farm temporarily for 14 days, Zoom parties again became an essential way for our staff and Growers to communicate. The Zoom parties start with an introduction from Jim. He walks around the Farm to show the animals and gardens. 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. Staff and Growers 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 Fall crafts we are making on Zoom parties are owl pinecones, candy corn garlands, and thankful turkeys. We are cooking candied oranges, harvest hash chex mix, candied jalapenos, and more.
Pat Steely from Yoga for Kids gives a yoga class via Zoom that the Growers are eager to participate in. Staff are always thinking of creative activities such as pigcassos and horse lunging, 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 at home. Please visit https://farmofhope.networkforgood.com/ to donate and support us in continuing providing free daily Zoom parties.
You can find video clips from Zoom parties on our YouTube channel, check them out here.
November 3, 2020; Elyse Erdman and Jim Gainer
As we navigate through many challenges this year, we want to stop and thank our gracious and hardworking staff. After our initial COVID-19 closure in late March, 2020, staff continued to come to the Farm to care for the miniature horses, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and other animals that reside on the farm. They also tended to the gardens and greenhouse to prepare for the Growers’ return. Finally on July 13, we were able to open the Farm program again at limited capacity. The Growers and staff were thrilled to get back to their animal and gardening chores, craft and cooking activities, and more. Unfortunately, on October 26, 2020 we again were forced to temporarily close our programs due to a confirmed case of COVID-19 among our staff. All the Growers who had direct contact with the staff member were notified, and all Growers and staff have been recommended to quarantine for 14 days. The programs are scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, November 11, 2020. Again, staff stepped up to the plate and are caring for the animals and gardens in a safe manner.
We want to thank all of our staff that are continuing to volunteer during this time of crisis. Your work is greatly appreciated.
To support the Farm and the return of Growers and programming, please visit https://farmofhope.networkforgood.com/.
October 28, 2020; Elyse Erdman and Jim Gainer
Thank you to everyone who made our first Drive Thru Chicken Bar-B-Que a success! Most of our fundraisers this year were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, so this one was essential to keep our programs running. It was a beautiful October afternoon for our fundraiser. We enjoyed seeing the friendly faces of families and supporters picking up their delicious meals from Konopelski’s Catering of Sinking Spring, PA. We also want to thank our drink sponsor, The Wawa Foundation, and Classic Cleaners who donated drinks, and Good’s Chips of Adamstown, PA who donated bags of chips. We also sold some baked goods provided by Family and Friends of the Farm, and Tim & Andy’s famous Chicken Corn Soup.
This COVID-19 friendly fundraiser was able to raise about $4,000 for our programs at Hope Springs Farm. We also partnered with Family Promise of Harrisburg Capital Region to distribute meals to local families in need. So, supporters purchased a chicken dinner for themselves, and if they could, purchased a special ticket "To Feed the Hungry" and it was given to someone in need. Thanks to the gracious help of our supporters, we were able to donate 94 meals to local families in need.
Thanks again to everyone who made this fundraiser possible. Stay tuned for upcoming fundraisers including Giving Tuesday 2020. We really need your help this year to keep our programs running.
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