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Educate>Homefields Inc.

 

Homefields Inc.

 

Background of Homefields Farm

Mission Statement Becomes Reality

Goodwill at Homefields

New Additions to Homefields Board of Directors

Programs Threatened

How to become a Shareholder

What the Farm Provides

Harvest Day on the Farm

Events at Homefields Farm

 

Background of Homefields Farm


                  Homefields Farm is a group of parents and invited professionals who joined together to discuss and figure out what the future held for their children, and adults with mental retardation and other disabilities in Lancaster County. Existing programs were all filled up and also provided a long waiting list to enter a program. In 1991, the group decided to build a farm that would create opportunities for adults with mental retardation and other special needs, families, and the community, all while being in a comfortable environment. Homefields creates in-house unique opportunities for people. Homefields is made up of a small Board of Directors which raises funds to maintain the land and buildings where people with disabilities live and work. They are associated with Community Services Group, which provides residential services, and Goodwill Keystone Area, which provides the Vocational Farm program and operates the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), program.


Residential Mission:


To create financially secure, long-term homes in safe, family-like settings where there is respect for the individual in a holistic sense, and fun and creativity are revered as basic human needs.

Vocational Mission:


To provide agricultural facilities for individuals who prosper with supported employment; to nurture integration through community interaction; and to cultivate a spirit of volunteerism within our community.

 

Mission Statement Becomes Reality


In the summer of 1994, in Millersville, PA five families who loved an adult member who was with special needs incorporated all got together and were able to purchase an eight-acre farm to jump start what Homefields has become today. However, there were still many task that needed to be completed before Homefields, a nonprofit organization, 501(c)3 would be up and running. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and got ready to transform the farm into the vision that they dreamed during the first meeting. After remodeling a ranch house, restoring a stone house, disassembling and moving a fence, painting a barn, cleaning up the grounds and planting even more flowers the farm was ready to become a reality. The homes would be situated on land that supported a small farming operation that provided year-round projects and on-going activities that would offer the residents an opportunity to learn new skills, while being located and involved in a home like atmosphere.
                  It was June of 1995, when the Community Services Group and Homefields opened the first house on the Homefields property and started off a long term relationship that is still together today. The residents continue to live at homefields as independently as possible, while receiving support from the professional staff of Community Services Group, protected and loved by their families and workers at the farm.
Three years after the first meeting Homefields opened up and three adults that required assisted living moved into the completed stone house. Not long after housing the first three residents the ranch house was completed and three more residents moved in, totaling the farms residents to six and making the dream a reality.
Since Homefields was founded the success of the programs have increased from year to year and provide a location for people with disabilities. Goodwill at Homefields provides the job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities that would struggle to live the life they wanted without this program. The Success of the program is clear by the amount of trainees going through the program and the increase of shareholders every year. With the access to the new land Homefields and the programs can become more efficient and produce more locally grown organic food for the community. The program at Homefields is growing, not just for the community, but also in the job training that is offered to the adults who face barriers when it comes to finding a job they are comfortable at.
At Homefields farm there are still six adults who continue to live safe and happy in their home that Homefields has provided for them. The same adults have lived in this family like setting for over 15 years and shows no end in sight. Homefields has evolved from the ground up just like the dream of the original founders, to create financially secure, long-term homes in safe, family-like settings where there is respect for the individual in a holistic sense, and fun and creativity are revered as basic human needs. Homefields needs the help and support of the community to keep the operation up and running strong

Homefields hard work pays off


Homefields recently won the Distinguished Civic Leadership Award, which is a CCERP initiative that recognizes notable civic and community contributions on the part of individuals and places that locally promote and provide the community with their actions and programs. To become nominated for this award the individual or program must fall in one these categories:

  • Local, regional, national, or international figure
  • Millersville faculty or staff member
  • Millersville student
  • Millersville alumni
  • Non-Millersville student (including pre-college)
  • Non-profit organization
  • Corporation or other business entity
  • An institution that includes schools but not governmental agencies

Homefields has continued to make a significant contribution to the local community by providing fresh locally grown food for the community and provide housing and job opportunities to adults with disabilities.  They also continue to reach out to get the community involved and also to support the dream the founding members imagined.  Homefields provides a unique opportunity for adults with disabilities to experience what it is like to be involved in a real business atmosphere, while providing and supporting the community that supports their program.

 

 

Goodwill at Homefields Farm


In 2000, goodwill joined with homefields to provide horticultural job opportunities for people with disabilities in Lancaster County, while sticking to the founding vision of homefields. Goodwill Industries has never incorporated the cultural significance of farming with the workforce development programs until they became involved with homefields farm. Goodwill at Homefields Farm provides food for families in the Lancaster County area. Homefields is easily accessible for everyone locally who cannot drive because the farm is located on a bus route and within walking distance of Millersville University, giving the chance for students and locals to easily learn more about the program and how to become involved.                  
The program provides the community with a plentifully amount of different produce and chances to become involved. All the different crops that are sold to the shareholders are harvested fresh weekly in the field by hand. The farm does not use any chemicals while harvesting the produce.  Each week the farm manager figures out what needs to be picked that day to insure that no food is wasted.  They practice sustainable growing that enriches the soil and produces food that is more nutritious, taste better and last longer.


Vocational Farm Program at Homefields:


The program started when Goodwill Keystone Area was invited by Homefields to create and maintain a program for adults with disabilities at Homefields Farm. The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and Vocational Program started off their first season in 2000, when the soil became fertile enough to start growing the crops on what was once a horse farm.
 Paul Martin was the one who brought the first growing season at Homefields Farm. He also played a huge part in getting this program up and running smoothly just as it is today. The farm first started out supplying vegetables to 28 shareholders weekly.
The next year Peter Emerson became the new farm manager, for the next four years. Under that time, Peter managed to grow the number of shareholders from 28 to 125 with the use of the new land. The program shortly turned into a Monday through Friday operation trying to compensate for the increase in shareholders. After working for Peter for 4 years Scott Breneman took over managing the farm.
The Goodwill at Homefields vocational farm program has taught work skills to over a hundred farmer trainees. The farmers learn everything about the trade with a hand on experience, in an atmosphere that is like no other. This program has nourished hundreds of families with organic produce and given opportunities for people with disabilities to learn the trade of farming.

 

 

New additions to Homefields Board of Directors


Homefields has add new members to the board of directors in efforts to expand the membership and interested of the farm. With the new accusation of the land it has allowed the farm to open up to new ideas and ways of improvements because of the amount of land now controlled by homefields. This was not only a change to expand the farm but also a way to save the farm from being ruined.
Dr. Rich Mehrenberg a professor of special education at Millersville University has recently joined the board. He first discovered Homefields from one of his students that did a presentation on Homefields and the mission they put forth to help individuals with disabilities. Since Rich lives in Millersville he made the connection with the farm and presentation when receiving a newsletter from the farm.  After making contact with the farm and taking a tour Rich realized his desire to get involved Homefields.
Deb Deberdine learned about what Homefields did for the community through her participation as a shareholder in the Goodwill Program, along with being a local resident. She grew more attached to what the farm provide and experiences her children enjoyed from being able to pick crops on their own. After reading an article in homefields newsletter that reached out for additional members to join the board. Once learning more about the purpose behind the farm she elected to sign on and become a new member of the board. Deb is really interested in the outcome and planning of the monthly and field events. The events will place a large part in expanding the support received by the community.
Kelly Baylis joined the Homefields board of directors in November 2011; however, an injury put aside her involvement with Homefields for several months. Once regaining her health Kelly rejoined the board to help the Media Committee. She learned what the farm provides for the community from being a volunteer at the golf tournament hosted by Homefields. Kelly provides a relief for families of people affected by IDD (Intellectual Developmental Disability), to help fabricate the lives they want to live. She works in a community based program that services adults with IDD who wish to live on their own. The goals of Homefields and what the organization provides are well related to the work she does in the community program. Kelly is a great addition to the board and will continue to do anything she can for the people that are a part of Homefields.
The board of directors is interested in expanding the board and committees. Homefields are searching for people who are ready to make contributions to the community. A couple of the skill sets homefields are interested in are Financial, Legal, Grant Writing, and Marketing skills, which includes experience with online multimedia platforms. Support is also needed to help fund the land they were forced into buying.

 

 

Programs Threatened


                  The programs associated with Homefields farm almost came to a sudden stop when their land was threatened by a housing developer who wanted to build 35 houses on the farm land that is behind the farm. The threat of having this land developed would contaminate and ruin the image that homefields provides. The nature around homefields farm is one of the huge reasons why the farm provides a feeling of being free and creates a home feeling. Not only would the houses affect the land, it would also create a damper on the whole atmosphere. The runoff from the roads and houses would be enough to ruin the quality of soil and the whole farming program.
The risk of possibly losing the farm and what it stands for was too great and something had to be done. Homefields responded quickly by posting a down payment at the auction for the land; however, they will not be able to afford the land and keep the farm running without the help and support of the community.

The Land:


Right next door for the original farm of homefields stats a 14 acres that provide the farm with more opportunities to make this non-profit organization. The farmhouse that is located on this property received new owners who fixed up the house with new paint and flooring. While most of the land is being used to keep producing fruits and vegetables for the shareholders, there is plenty of extra land for new ideas and partners to form future projects. In spring 2013, goodwill at Homefields planted kale, cabbage and some other crops on the new land, which started off the use of the new land. The new land will add another 14 acres to the farm, which brings the total acres to 28. With is amount of land these programs will be capable of producing more locally grown organic food for hundreds of more families and provide more opportunity for people to go through farming program.

How to Support Homefields:


With the accusation of the new land it brings new possibilities for community and homefields to create opportunities for people with disabilities. The goal is to raise $250,000 to be able to afford and keep the land. Homefields host many different events and fundraisers that work toward meeting this goal and saving the whole farm.
  Homefields needs the support from the community to help pay the mortgage, any donations will help secure this farmland that has been farmland for generations and keep it that way.
To donate and help support Homefields Farm visit: http://www.homefields.org/

Benefits of being a member:


Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from June to November, shareholders can come to the farm to collect their share of the produce. The produce is a locally harvested and cleaned on site and ready to be used at the dinner table.  The farm also allows shareholders to bring the family and stroll through the fields and peek in the greenhouses to see how the crops are growing and where the food they eat come from. If the time is right the farm also provides an area for the family to pick strawberries and blueberries. When becoming a member you can insure that the food you receive from homefields farm will be fresh, chemical free and locally grown.
                  When shareholders come to pick up their share of the produce they are met with an atmosphere that feels just like home. All of the produce is displayed nicely and ready for selection by the shareholder. The shares are made up of different varieties and amounts of fruits and vegetables each week, which are displayed on two big black boards that are posted above the produce. The shareholders select and weigh their own produce and decided what they want to take or leave depending what is listed on the boards. Next to the black boards is a smaller white board that allows members to write what produce they are not taking home with them and allows other members to pick up more of a certain produce or swap out for a different fruit of vegetable that is already listed on the board. Normally people can become very greedy when things are not watched closely or based on trust; however, that never seems to be the case at homefields farm.

 

How to Become a Shareholder


If you wish to become a shareholder and receive locally grown, chemical free produce follow the steps below. After registering, you will be contacted with a conformation letter and more details about the upcoming season.

  • Send Payment or minimum of $50 deposit to:

Goodwill at Homefields Farm
PO Box 38
Millersville, PA 17557

  • Designated share size:
  • Full Share (intended for a family of four) $695/season ($29/week)
  • Half Share (intended for two individuals) $425/season ($17/week)
  • Provide your contact information:
  • Name
  • Address
  • City, State, Zip
  • Phone Number
  • Email

Or sign up online: http://yourgoodwill.org/farm/homefields_membership.php

What does the Farm Grow?


                  The farm provides more than 300 different varieties of 45 different fruits and vegetables each season for the shareholders. Everything that is grown at Homefields is completely organic and fresh. All of the produce is hand selected and cleaned before the shareholders come pick up their share of the harvest. The distance the food travels before reaching the customer does not even compare to the distance produce travels normally. Lancaster is a large farming are that supplies produce to places all the way up into New York; however, the produce has to be preserved to keep the food from going back. Homefields farm brings a large amount of locally grown fruits and vegetables to the community. Some of the fruits and vegetables grown each season are:


Arugla

Diakon

Peppers

Beans

Radish

Potatoes

Beats

Eggplant

Pumpkins

Basil

Garlic

Spinach

Blueberries*

Kale

Squash

Broccoli

Lettuce Mix

Strawberries*

Cabbage

Lettuce Heads

Tomatoes

Carrots

Cantaloupes

Culinary

Cauliflower

Watermelons

Herbs

Chard

Onions

Flowers*

Cilantro

Onions, Green

 

Cucumbers

Peas*

 

 *Available in the pick-your-own field.

What the Farm Provides


Homefields Farm provides the residents an opportunity to live as independently as possible and employment opportunities to adults who wish to work in a different environment. It connects the individual who is learning to farm to the community in a real-world business atmosphere. The farmers provide the community with fresh, healthy and chemical free food options at a respectable price.

Locally Grown Organic Produce:

 


In today’s society it is very common for many large farms and even small home gardens to use many different types of chemicals when growing their crops. It is a very easy way to make sure the crops your grow harvest correctly without being damage by bugs and other natural elements. The use of chemicals and pesticides support the plants life; however these actions are not good for the health of humans.
Farming organically has become one of the new interest for people that take their health seriously. Back in the older days of farming crops were harvested without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Organic farming is starting to make its way back into the picture with people becoming more concerned about their health. The use of chemicals in farming flourished after WWII. It was realized that the use of these chemicals was a fast and efficient way to control the weeds and kill pest that would harm the plants. The farmers are able to spray the chemicals and pesticides all over the farm without having to put in the manual labor harvesting their crops.
When it comes to organic farming the soil plays one of the biggest parts for the crops, if the soil is healthy and well mineralized the plant will be healthy. When you have a healthy plant they will normally fight off most diseases that attempt to kill or ruin the crop. The better quality of soil the fewer weeds will show up. Weeds play a large part in organic growing and requires a good amount of work to removed and control the weeds, especially without the use of herbicides. When weeds start showing up it usually means that the weeds are trying to balance out the minerals in the soil.
The soil is monitored by taking soil samples and adding whatever minerals are needed to balance it out. Another step used to keep the soil healthy is by adding compost to the fields. Instead of using chemicals to keep the crops healthy they add fish emulsion and seaweed to feed the microbes and crops. By creating this super soil allow the food taste better and be kept longer than food in store does.

Creativity at Homefields:


                  The atmosphere at homefields allows for works to improve, invent and even build new tools that get used on the farm. Since works can have different disabilities not all tools are suited for each person. Certain workers make or improve a tool to make it easier to use for themselves, while other make tools for everyone to use.
                  When working on a farm there always seems to be something that is broken or not working properly. The amount of work and projects on the farm are never ending and always in need of repair. Homefields farm has two dedicated people who bring continuous repair and improvement for just about anything on the farm.
                  One of the founders of Homefields, Butch Bixler is always willing to lend a hand on farm and has a son in the farm program. Over the years he has created many different tools that have made jobs on the farm easier and quicker for the workers. Butch also does maintenance on the tractors to make sure things are running smoothly on the farm.
                  Bob McClure also has a son who works in the farm program at Homefields and is the guy behind making many different woodcrafts around the farm. He has made things from the distribution table to the closet in the women’s bathroom. Bob has also engineered a few things around the farm that make a difference in everyday work.
The workshop on the farm is full of many different parts and supplies from tractors to scraps of wood or tubes. The work and effort put forth by these two gentleman has shaped the way the farm produces today. There are some impressive things that come out of the workshop that someone would never expect.

The McClure seeder:


                  The McClure seeder was invented by one of the residents at homefields farm. Normally to plant all the seeds they have to place each individual seed in a greenhouse flat with 128 different little holes.  The contraption is made from wood, plastic pipe and a shop vacuum. The vacuum sucks all the seeds into the right position and when turned off releases the seeds into the holes. This invention allows them to plant all the seeds quickly, making some of the most time consuming parts of farming to be skipped.

Homemade water wheel transplanter:


On the farm a compact water wheel planter for planting our vegetables in tight access areas was needed. A water wheel planter, it makes a divot, fills it with water, and the person on the seat places a transplant into the muddy divot. This type of farm equipment can be very costly; however, the creativity of Jim Determan and Butch Bixler created a solution with parts on the farm and some that had to be bought. They used existing divot wheels, bought tank to hold the water and a seat to make transplanting easy. All of these parts were placed onto a welded the frame of angle iron that is pulled by the tractor.

Wood chip express


When clearly and preparing the land for growing season broken trees and brush have to be moved a taken care of. Normally there would be a lot of time waste pulling and unhooking each the wood chipper and compost spreader. So workers quickly thought up a small improvement and added a ball hitch to the rear of the compost spreader, which allows them to both move together and work like a team.


Widened compact tractor

 


The cost of a tractor today is way out of the budget for homefields farm; however, with the vision and work of everyone involved old parts can be joined together to complete a job as efficiently as possible, without spending a large amount of money. Homefields taken their compact diesel tractor and transformed it into a more useful machine.
The tractor is normally narrow and the axels cannot be adjusted, which causes a problem when riding over the vegetable beds.  The tractor was transformed from only being able to clear 36 inches to being able to cover 54 inches. This was done by welding spacers to the front and rear axles of the tractor to increase efficiency.

The carrot and garlic under cutter


                  At Homefields farm a lot of garlic and carrots are grown, which called for an improvement of how garlic and carrots are harvested. Normally the garlic is hard to harvest because they were being cut out with shovels. With the use of the shovels many pieces of garlic had the bottoms cut right off by accident.
                  With the use of an existing toolbar, clamps, a flat blade that is the same size as the beds the carrots and garlic are grown in and some welding of bars has inexpensively created a way for Homefields to harvest these crops.  The blade goes beneath the crop and cuts everything lose, allowing the farmers to gather the crops with ease. The making of this tool only cost the farm about $30 compared to buying a complete unit, which cost about $900. It is the type of creativity that allows the program to keep running as strong as it does efficiently and inexpensively.

 

Harvest Day on the Farm


The typical harvest day starts off with a meeting in the barn at 8 a.m. with all the workers. From the start of the work day the atmosphere on the farm is relaxed but still exciting at the same time. All of the workers care about and know the stories of everyone living and participating in the programs.  During the meeting a plan is discussed on what needs to be done during the day and what needs to be harvested.
After the meeting everyone heads out to the fields to start picking what is needed for the shareholders to get what they are supposed to receive. Since there are many different plots on the farm everyone gets spread out and just does their job, but everyone is always willing to put what they are doing down to help out. The crew only selects the best or what is ready to be picked from that plant because all of the crops are handpicked from the field. Some crew members finish picking what they were supposed to and start the other processes to get the food ready for the customer. After loading up the tractors and cart with produce it is driven back up to the barn where the washing, storage, and produce are displayed.
Once the produce starts to stack up members start cutting and trimming the produce to be visually ready for sale. Everything that is cut off of the produce is reused as compost or in other areas around the farm. After the produce is trimmed it is placed into a bin and ready for cleaning. The washing station is located right next to the display area, so as each bin is finished being hand washed and inspected for any damage it is placed on the shelves. In the months when it is hot out the produce is stored in the large refrigerator to keep fresh for the shareholder.
When the shareholder arrives to pick up their locally grown organic produce they look through a sign in sheet and check their name to inform the farmers which shareholders have picked up their produce. The shareholder is trusted to weigh out the correct amount of produce they select, which allows them to pick the ones that appeal to them the most. The produce travels no farther than a couple hundred yards from the fresh organic plant to the shareholders possession and is harvest and cleaned only a few hours before the shareholders arrive. 

Events Held at Homefields


Not only does Homefields provide the community with fresh organic crops, they also hold events on the farm for the community.  One of the events Homefields organizes are the “Talks in the Fields”, which links local experts to residents, families and shareholders in the community.
These talks focus on promoting healthy living, by sharing information about different topics and just talking about how to improve your living. A couple of topics that these talks focus on are grass-fed beef, apple sauce and canning, salsa in the fields and many more that differ throughout the season. These talks are able to teach the community about what is healthy for you and what is not healthy, along with teaching others how to make different meals that promote healthy living.
Homefields also host “Dining in the fields”, which is a new event that allows the community and shareholders to enjoy a meal in the fields. This event provides a large dinner menu that is nearly 80% from the crops grown just a few steps away from where the crop was harvested. The main idea for this event was to spread the word and bring people to see and learn about what Homefields accomplishes and stands for. The first year this event was hosted 162 people and 20 volunteers showed up to support Homefields and the vision the farm has for the community and residents. The support from the community is what keeps the farm up and running.
Every year, Homefields organizes a golf tournament at Crossgates Golf Club, which is located right off the campus at Millersville University.  The funds raised through the gold tournament are used to support the infrastructure of Homefields. The first tournament was held in 1997 and made possible by the contribution through corporate sponsorship, personal time and expenses, and professional connections Homefields has received. In 2012, one of the golfers in the tournament recorded a hole-in one on one of the most challenging par 3s the course has to offer. The event offers a lighthearted, but worthwhile opening for friendship and interesting variations of the classic game know as golf. The continued support from the community for this event has greatly made an impact on the life the residents and workers at Homefields.
Homefields has evolved into an amazing program for the individuals and community. The support Homefields receives from the community never goes unappreciated by the farmers or anyone involved in the programs.  The events hosted by Homefields allows for a great stepping stone to get more involved and learn more about the operations that take place, all while supporting a non-profit organization that invest everything they have back into the programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This site was created by Ryan Henderson at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

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