Family wants to use Hunker farm to support those with disabilities
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - 5/29/2019
May 29-- May 29--Jenna Farmerie, an autism support specialist at Children's Behavioral Health in Greensburg, has seen firsthand what can happen when the proper support is not in place for a child or adult living with a developmental disorder.
"A child I was working with was going to attend a YMCA camp, but they had no support in place for him," said Farmerie, of Hunker. "He was acting out and doing all the things we didn't want him to do, and without that support, he pretty much was not going to be able to attend the camp."
Even within her profession, support can be a challenge.
"Finding therapeutic staff support and behavioral specialists is tough," Farmerie said. "People don't want to do that job."
In an effort to both provide a place for that support as well as provide knowledge for parents of developmentally disabled children, Farmerie found inspiration in her family.
"I came home in a tizzy one day and my dad said, 'We have all this acreage on the farm, let's do something,'" she said.
The family's farm in Hunker, established in 1845, will serve as the starting point for Maple Knob Farms, the nonprofit Farmerie formed in 2017.
"I want to bring in kids and families so they can learn these coping skills in a natural-based setting, to help build up their home lives," she said.
Farmerie and her family want to provide the experience of visiting an operating farm, complete with an observation milking parlor, maple sugar camp, greenhouse, wood shop, snow-tubing run and more. To realize that goal, however, they need to raise $500,000 for construction.
"Finding grants for construction is very hard," Farmerie said. "That's why we're starting with just the summer program here on the farm. Having that in place is very important when it comes to grants."
The summer program will begin in 2020. In addition to farm activities, the five-member Maple Knob board has begun fostering partnerships with regional groups and planning outings for summer campers.
"We're planning trips to work on socialization," Farmerie said. "We'll take trips to the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Youngwood Area Park & Pool, do equestrian therapy through Stoney Ridge Stables (in Hunker); and we have a lot of fundraisers planned, too."
For the fundraisers, Farmerie connected with Danielle Lang, of Penn Township. She has a full slate of events lined up to benefit the farm.
"I'm working on a poker run in September, a classic car show that will also double as a trunk-or-treat event in October and a vendor show in November," Lang said.
First, the Youngwood Area Park & Pool will host a "Summer Blast Party" fundraiser on July 27.
In addition to those with developmental disabilities, Farmerie would like to open Maple Knob Farms up to veterans wounded in action -- both as a place to get away as well as a somewhere they can volunteer and work with kids.
"I went into this knowing how much work it would be," Farmerie said. "It took two years just to get our nonprofit status. But I want to show parents that even though their kids have this problem, they can still be happy and become productive members of society."
For more, see the Maple Knob Farms website.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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