By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net
From the road, it looks like many farms in Clark County that you might pass by and get a quick glimpse of, with 24 acres or rolling hills, woodland areas, gardens, greenhouses, livestock pens and red barns. But once you step onto The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm you begin to realize that there is more to this farm that what you see as you drive by.
The farm got its start after two school teachers who decided to leave their well-established careers, along with the benefits that came along with them, to open a working farm that would become a day program for adults with disabilities, including those suffering from autism spectrum disorder and dementia. The farm’s mission is to provide those adults the dignity to enjoy meaningful work, life and social relationships in a safe agricultural community, to participate as good stewards of God’s bounty.
“One of the motivations to do this for me, personally, is that my son is one of our farmers involved in the program and I wanted a different kind of programming for him than anything I had found available,” said Beth Snyder, one of the owners and founders of The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm, which stands for Honor And Respect Daily. “I wanted him to be able to experience the joys of working with living things and being outside and being active.”
The farmers at H.A.R.D. Acre are involved in different activities every day. At some point in the day, they will get to take care of the animals, which include a cow, some sheep, goats, miniature donkeys, and an alpaca. Gardening will also be a part of the farmers’ daily routine, starting with seed pods in February and ending with harvest as late as November. Items grown and crafts made on the farm are available all year long at the farm’s retail shop.
“I think there is a real satisfaction that the work you are doing has meaning and you feel a responsibility to come back the next day to continue the job, whether it be to water, to weed, to pick or to make sure the animals are okay,” Snyder said. “That sense of belonging that you get on a farm is important to anyone and I think we are finding out that it is really meaningful to this population.”
Being a working farm, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with the tasks that may need to be done on certain days, so the day doesn’t always go according to plan. But, like any working farm, there is always something to do.
“Once the chores are done, we might end out painting outside and them hold on to those projects and finish them inside the barn on a rainy day,” said Jennifer Hardacre, who also owns and founded The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm. “Daily programs are also based on the ability of our farmers. For instance, gardening for someone that has full range of mobility might include weeding the garden at the ground level, where someone who may not be able to bend over would be weeding at one of our raised beds or planting seeds at a high table top. We can plan a program for anybody and make it a meaningful day on the farm.”
Leaving careers in teaching to start a program like this was certainly a leap of faith, but Snyder and Hardacre have been very thankful for the support of the community and the early success of The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm.
“It has been more successful then Beth and I could have envisioned,” Hardacre said. “There is an army of people that support us. They donate. They volunteer. Our farmers and their families and the local agricultural community and so many people are backing this effort because it is such a needed program.
“It was very scary to step out from a solid teaching career, but seeing the progress of the program and the individuals taking part in it has been very rewarding.”
The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm is hosting their 3rd Annual Fall Festival that features hay rides, kids games, food trucks, direct sales vendors, a petting zoo, crafts/fall decor, a love offering bake sale, pumpkin painting, fall family photos, live entertainment, raffle baskets, a 50/50 drawing and more on September 15th starting at 11am. For more information, follow The Hard Acre Farm on Facebook or visit TheHardAcreFarm.org.