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/.
January 31, 2020; Erin Shifflet
Hope Springs Farm is proud to announce that they received a grant from Walmart Giving! Our program at Hope Springs Farm was nominated by the Team at the Harrisburg Walmart Store, and we want to thank them for this great honor. The Walmart Foundation provides grants and donations to support their local communities. This grant will be used for the Horticulture and Cooking programs at Hope Springs Farm. The generous grant will aid the staff by purchasing gardening and cooking supplies for them to prepare and conduct activities with the Growers at the Farm.
Horticulture is the art or practice of garden cultivation and management. The Growers learn how to care for the plants and even start growing the vegetables and fruit from seeds over the winter in our greenhouse located on the farm’s property. The cooking program allows the Growers to continue to grasp the life skill of cooking and baking while getting to enjoy it after. Harvests from the garden are used in addition to other supplies obtained through donations or shopping at various grocery stores.
Keep up with our blog and social media pages so you don’t miss any of the behind the scenes fun!
December 23, 2019
We are excited that we had such a good turnout for this year’s Annual Holiday Community Sing! Many thanks go out to WB Music Therapy for leading this event every year. We could not be more thankful for their help in bringing holiday joy and happiness to our Growers and supporters. The staff and Growers here would also like to thank Community Aid for their help in providing us a grant to support our Music Therapy program at Hope Springs Farm. Another huge thank you goes to the First United Methodist Church of Hershey who so kindly hosted us for our annual event again.
Our Annual Holiday Community Sing allows the Growers, their family, and everyone else in the community to come enjoy a day of singing holiday classics. The Growers have been working so hard for the last couple months to learn the sign language to several songs they performed at the Sing. Kristyn Beeman and Melonie Walborn from WB Music Therapy made it so much fun for all the Growers, their families, and all the children from all around the community; and as always Kristyn did our favorite Hippo song. We are so glad lots of families came to sing with us and the Growers so we could celebrate the wonderful holiday season. We are already excited for next years! You can see the fun we had at our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwKImlvB0GDjUWS6D4nOJew
Hope Springs Farm offers our Therapeutic Music Program weekly to the Growers. Run by Kristyn Beeman, clinical music therapist, the class is a source of confidence, learning, working together and overall good health for the Growers. This program allows for Growers to connect with one another and face challenges together. The class includes listening to and learning to play various instruments. Conquering challenges and learning within the Therapeutic Music program benefits the Growers immensely.
December 16, 2019
The Hershey Partnership’s 16th Annual Soup Cook-off was held on October 5th, 2019 at the Hershey Volunteer Fire Company Firehouse. This event is to benefit those who volunteer at the Hershey Volunteer Fire Company. This year Hope Springs Farm Growers presented a special seasonal soup in the cook-off, and they won 2nd Place! Congratulations to all the Growers and staff who helped make this our best year yet.
Growers are adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and Autism; they love to participate in community activities like this. They also volunteer for programs in the community such as Meals on Wheels, the Humane Society, and Food banks. These community activities give them a real sense of value in their community. If you would like to help support our Growers, see the link below.
To donate visit: https://farmofhope.networkforgood.com/projects/14912-friends-of-hope-springs-farm
April 24, 2019; Elyse Erdman
Horticulture, the art or practice of garden cultivation and management, provides a connection between Growers’ efforts and results of growing something here at Hope Springs Farm. They gain a sense of accomplishment and pride when they grow something they can eat and share with their family and friends. We have an exciting new horticulture therapy program being integrated into our programming, run by Nora Palmer from Delaware Valley University. Horticultural therapy is proven to improve cognitive abilities, socialization, language skills, and task initiation within adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. In the physical sense, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles, and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. Growers learn to work independently and as a team, problem solve, and follow directions through this form of therapy. Many different varieties of flowers and herbs grow around the property that the Growers can cut and take home. Apple, Cherry, Pear, and Peach trees provide fall fruit for cooking and canning crafts. Horseradish, Garlic, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries and Strawberries comeback year after year and provide the Growers plenty of summer fruit for crafts and snacks. Our Growers learn how to care for all the plants and even start most of our vegetables from seeds over the winter in the greenhouse. Lettuce, Parsley, Dill, Radishes, Cherry Tomatoes, Cabbage, Arugula, and Spinach are just some of the vegetables grown in the greenhouse over the winter and in early spring. Carrots, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Celery, Beets, Squash, Broccoli, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Green Beans, Onions, and Peppers are germinated into plants in the greenhouse to be transplanted to the raised beds in late spring. We also grow sweet corn during the summer. We have over 40 raised garden beds, dozens of blueberry and raspberry bushes, and several different types of fruit trees, as well as hundreds of varieties of flowers all around the Farm. Some horticulture activities designed by Palmer for our Growers are plant bingo, garden notebooks, fall scavenger hunt, and nature sun catchers. She has lots of activities planned for every different season aimed at helping the Growers improve different skills.
Donations of gift cards from local home and gardening stores or nurseries are helpful in providing Growers the opportunity to grow plants and flowers here at the farm. We do a lot of shopping at Lowes, Home Depot, Stauffers of Kissell Hill, and Ashcombes. Or you can CLICK HERE to donate to the program.
Thank you for your support of gardening at Hope Springs Farm.
March 20, 2019; Elyse Erdman
During the week of March 4-8, 2019, a group of nine students and one staff member from Appalachian State University volunteered here at Hope Springs Farm. Students had the opportunity to volunteer in various ways during their week, from working out in the pastures with the animals, to going on community outings with Growers. They also helped grow vegetables in the Greenhouse and assisted Growers with cooking and crafting activities. The farm grounds were snow-covered the entire week, but students braved the cold temperatures to make a difference in the conditions on the farm for our animals, Growers, and staff.
The Appalachian State volunteers got involved with this experience through the Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT) program at their University. The first week of March is the ACT’s international and domestic spring break program, including opportunities for students to volunteer at non-profits across the country and world. The program is referred to as an alternative service experience, or ASE. ASE programs are social issue-focused rather than destination based because they are more than just opportunities for student travel. This group of students viewed their week as an opportunity to learn about and experience the issues that confront people with disabilities. They wanted to explore the spheres that affect their daily life, as well as gain some hands-on experience by working alongside our Growers. The group of volunteers partnered with the Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program (SDAP) at Appalachian State, which is a program that helps enable everyone to have access to higher education, no matter what their ability.
Each ASE is led by peer leaders, who are undergraduate students, and one staff member serving as a learning partner. Kelsey Trevethan of Wilkes Barre, PA was the staff volunteer coordinator for this service trip. She was asked by student leaders Michala Penninger, Cat Peirce, and Germaine Horodyski to embark on this special volunteer experience. During her time as a student at Appalachian State, Trevethan volunteered often with individuals with disabilities, so she was excited to be asked to lead this trip. When asked what her personal goal of this volunteer experience was, she responded, “I want to learn what it means to be a Grower. And I learned that it means to have a community of people who care and support your growth as an adult with a disability.” Her favorite part of volunteering here was spending time watching the interactions between Growers and animals during the morning and afternoon animal care sessions.
Student volunteer, Gabby Lamb of Cary, North Carolina, said that this is her first volunteer experience to this capacity. She, along with several other volunteers in the group, were not very experienced with farm chores, but they were eager to do whatever work needed done by following instruction. During her week at the Farm, she enjoyed cleaning the horse and pig stalls, as well as organizing and helping in the office. “We’re doing things that may not have been getting done here otherwise. The staff’s first priority is the Growers, so cleaning can get forgotten,” she noted.
Hope Springs Farm is very grateful for every volunteer, whether an individual or member of a group. It means so much to us that a group of students traveled all the way from Boone, North Carolina and spent their Spring break helping the Farm keep up with all of its needs.