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.