Hummelstown farm helping people with disabilities through horticulture therapy

Local

Sixty Midstaters with intellectual and developmental disabilities are learning from horticulture therapy at a Hummelstown farm. 

Smiles are as bright as the sun at Hope Springs Farm. The horticulture therapy program’s participants are called growers.

“It’s really cool just to see how it all comes together for them,” said Colby Zimmerman, a program director at the farm. 

“We teach the growers how to propagate plants,” said Jim Gainer, an executive director at the farm. 

Gardening can benefit you in more ways than you may think. 

“It can help with memory, cognitive function,” said Zimmerman. “It helps with motor skills.”

Penn State says the health care community recognizes that plants and gardening can have therapeutic effects. 

Delaware Valley University trains its horticulture therapists at the farm.

Growers learn about senses by touching and smelling plants in the herb garden.

“This one is a little woody, but these herbs are soft and spongy so there’s a lot of differences to learn about,” said Gainer.

Small details prompt big lessons.

“Instead of a sign that’s a cucumber, now they can see what the vegetable’s going to be,” said Kellen Skorupski, a supervisor at the farm.

No one is left out.

The farm has raised garden beds.

“This is for the growers who have more physical handicaps, where they will be able to step in and actually work,” said Skorupski.

Growers leave the farm with skill, knowledge and confidence.

“It’s not just a one-dimensional thing,” said Zimmerman.

“They’re getting to learn new things about what we’re growing, and seeing how the vegetables are produced and the canning aspect and the whole process through everything,” said Skorupski.

Growers bring some of what they plant and harvest to local nursing homes for bingo prizes.

They sell other plants at the farm’s yard sales. 

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