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/.