In both 2014 & 2015 from May 1st through November 1st, we ran our first Farm School Pilot Program and extended participation to our founding farmers Charlie & Ivanka. Both participants were funded by Self-Determination plans which is a Medicaid Waiver Service and had their own transportation and job coaches (aides). Charlie needed more routine and arrived everyday at 9am and stayed until 1pm and then did his other choice of programs though his service agency. Ivanka participated 2-3 days a week and enjoyed this additional program with her already very busy social schedule. Both Charlie & Ivanka have I/D Disabilities and on the spectrum are very different in abilities. In the early spring, both farmers began working in the greenhouse sowing seeds to tending the starter plants the farm had already prepared. We then added planting in the fields, while giving discussion of what plants were to go first and last. Every day we added skills to the already gained routine which over time worked out well. Each farmer knew what was on the schedule and the expectations.

As we continued to nurture the plants in the greenhouse and fields, it was an amazing surprise to watch everything starting to grow- early crops like strawberries began popping up! Each week more plants were added to the ground and more seemed to be sprouting up. On the slow or ‘lazy’ days we would do fun activities like fishing, picking flowers, or enjoying picnic lunches by the water. On the rainy days we did farm-related crafts in the greenhouse like creating row labels and signs for the different produce. In the early harvest we picked what was ready every day and we would stock our roadside farm stand.

These pilot farmers were catching on quick, as they knew it was easier to pick the larger vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers than the small never-ending peas- no one liked to pick peas (it took longer to fill the baskets). We collected a good following at the stand and many would come to greet the farmers daily – Chucky being there more often gave him the opportunity to interact with customers, collect money at times, and help bag the goods. By the end of each season, the routine had given both participants the gratification of a meaningful lifestyle that through more vigorous attention could lead to more vocational training for employment on the farm or another within their specific community.

If you or your family member is interested in enrollment please contact Olena Lylak Olena@HomesteadsforHope.org