TAYLOR COUNTY— Nestled among the beautiful mountainous scenery of the backroads Taylor County is the Homestead Farm Center.
Since its establishment in 2014, the Homestead Farm Center and its founders, Dan and Ann Burns, has been on mission to provide education, employment and a safe living environment for individuals living with disabilities.
This mission has been driven by the autism diagnosis of the couple’s son, Isaiah, when he was only two-years-old, and the family struggled to find direct services and programs to meet his needs.
From a young age, Isaiah has participated in many of the farm chores including working in the garden, feeding livestock, moving cows to new pasture, building fence and splitting wood.
Seeing him thrive in his surroundings and knowing there was a need in the area for direct service programs for people with developmental disabilities, the idea of creating a farm center, which would give those individuals access to a healthy, peaceful and nurturing lifestyle, was born.
Through opportunities offered by the nonprofit Homestead Farm Center those individuals have the chance to not only work, learn and live in a rural farm setting, but to also acquire the skills, knowledge and assistance they need in order to thrive along the way.
Going hand-in-hand with their mission, the center has recently established a new program that brings little bit of farming to your very own home.
Harvest at Home is an initiative intended to assist those who qualify in the building, planting and harvesting of a raised bed vegetable garden, right in their own backyards.
“This program really strikes home,” commented Ann Burns. “It’s your garden, at your own home and you’re the gardener. It is the perfect opportunity to get out and learn to grow!”
With funding from the United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties and a donation for one bed made by the Rotary Club of Fairmont, the Homestead Farm Center, is kicking off Harvest at Home with the capability to build 11, four feet by eight feet raised garden beds at the homes of qualifying applicants.
Not only will the Homestead Farm Center visit the home to build the garden bed, but they will also be filling the beds with premium garden soil and will provide plants and seeds of the recipients choice of tomatoes, zucchini, beans and/or cucumbers.
“The harvest project is all about empowering people. Even more so as we move through this national emergency with the Coronavirus,” A. Burns shared. “It gives back a bit of the control that many feel they have lost with everything that is happening and also gives confidence, while making people feel helpful to their families and fellow neighbor.”
In addition, those receiving a garden bed through Harvest at Home will be supplied with all the necessary tools, instructions and assistance in the raising and harvesting of their vegetables.
Individuals with developmental disabilities or households that have a disabled family member residing with them may apply for one garden bed at their residence. Preference will be given to individuals residing in Marion and Taylor Counties.
“It is defiantly not just for adults living with disabilities. It is a great thing for children to get into gardening too. I encourage families with children that have a disability to please apply. Gardening is a great activity for the entire family, not just the adults,” A. Burns added.
The center will also be considering applicants who have participated in other Homestead programs including; Disability Action Center (DAC) gardening classes, RURAL and SowNGrow and are encouraged to apply regardless of their location.
“We have already have a tremendous response,” revealed A. Burns. “People are excited about it, and we are just as excited to get started.”
She also shared that the center is continuing to work towards securing additional funding for the program that would allow them to build even more beds.
Those interested in the opportunity can visit www.homesteadfarmcenter.org to download a simple application.
Applicants will be asked a few questions about the proposed yard to ensure that each home has the proper set up and a flat area that receives ample amount of sunlight, along with access to a water source.
Upon completion, applications may be mail it to Homestead Farm Center, 1039 Burns Farm Road, Grafton, WV 26354, or can be sent via email at [email protected] with the needed information from the application.
Alternately, if the applicant is unable to send their form via mail or email, they can take a photograph and text it 304-435-2332.
The deadline for all applications is Friday, May 8 and recipients will be notified on Sunday, May 10, with plans in place to begin work on the first beds during the third and fourth weeks of the month.
A. Burns also noted that safety precautions would be taken when volunteers arrive to build the beds, reassuring applicants that health and safety during this time are a number one priority.
“We are anticipating to have the frames of the beds prebuilt, and ask that the recipients secure a level location for it to be set. We will send two to three workers in gloves and masks, and limit interaction with families as much as possible,” she explained.
She also disclosed that those with concerns of contamination may leave their plants in the tray for a day for two before planting, as long as they water them.
After your garden is planted, the Homestead Farm Center will continue to help with the growing of the vegetables with a weekly broadcast on the DAC’s YouTube channel, that will focus on the care of the plants, adding fertilizer and how to deal with unwanted, pesky garden invaders.
“Even if you aren’t selected to receive one of the beds, we will have extra seeds and plants to distribute to you,” said A. Burns. “We hope that even those who don’t receive a garden bed, will join in on the broadcast and garden along with us.”
Despite all of the programs now in place at the Homestead Farm Center to assist those living with disabilities, there is still more to come.
According to their aforementioned webpage, the center is continuing their hard work and dedication by expanding the facility, with the construction of an outdoor classroom pavilion that will be complete with a kitchen, thanks to the “Raise the Roof” fundraising effort.
The farm center now hosts a variety of programs in partnership with the Disability Action Center. A 10 year plan has been developed to make the farm center, including the residential units, fully functional by 2025.
Be sure to follow the Homestead Farm Center on Facebook at, www.facebook.com/homesteadfarmcenter to keep up with all the happenings of the center.
To learn more about the programs offered through the center, or to plan a Farm Day visit www.homesteadfarmcenter.org. Those interested in making a donation, can do so on the homepage of the website via Paypal.
“We have a lot of exciting things happening here at the farm center. And our services expand far beyond Marion and Taylor Counties. Every donation helps the cause, and is very much appreciated,” expressed A. Burns. “We, here at the Homestead Farm Center, look forward to growing with you!”