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Rural Ames-based Cultivating Hope care farm begins programming, continues fundraising for barn
Ames Tribune - 3/26/2021
With help from Story County Conservation, programming starts next week at Cultivating Hope Farms, located at 5500 240th St. in rural Ames. It’s an inclusive, family-centered and community-oriented farm — the first care farm in Iowa — that’s especially focused on serving children with autism and other special needs.
“Cultivating Hope Farms was born in April of 2020, and having that as your birthday is definitely challenging,” Perkins said. “We had a couple of events in 2020, but there was no programming.”
The farm started its programming in February by getting kids involved in basketball and soccer at Sports Iowa. Cultivating Hope is the Ames affiliate of Courage League, an adaptive sports program, and it had programs for basketball in February and soccer in March.
“We had four autistic kiddos involved,” said Gina Perkins, founder of Cultivating Hope. “We’re inclusive so we create opportunities for inclusion, acceptance and learning — not just autism but all abilities and ages.”
Programming is just an hour a week at this point because the goal is to “start slow and do it well,” she said.
Cultivating Hope is partnering with area organizations, such as Story County Conservation.
“We’ve been so thankful as an entity that these organizations have come alongside us," Perkins said.
Networking was a challenge to overcome in 2020, as it was difficult to reach out to schools that were conducting classes online.
Story County Conservation is holding a birding program at the farm, which begins Tuesday. The youth program will be held from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is a three-week program run by an SCC naturalist. A $10 fee per participant covers the three-week period. Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All of the community is welcome to come.
“It’s a really awesome opportunity for the community to come together in a really inclusive and compassionate way, to just walk alongside each other,” Perkins said.
The farm’s Board of Directors has expertise in areas such as applied behavior analysis, physical therapy and occupational therapy, which helps the farm advocate for families with special needs.
“It’s a very hard world to navigate as special needs families,” Perkins said. “With the waivers and programs and different things they can access, it’s not as easy as you might think until you start walking it.”
Perkins knows there will be bumps in the road as Cultivating Hope tries to “reinvent the wheel,” she said.
The farm is opening in April, and Cultivating Hope is starting its programming with a baby animal program.
“The program is for all-ability farmhands, who might not be able to go full speed,” Perkins said. “So we’re opening up with a baby donkey, baby chicks, baby goats and baby pigs.”
McMurray Hatchery of Webster City donated a dozen baby chicks for the program.
Windy Hill Ranch of Runnells is bringing in mini-goats.
Dayhen Farms of St. Charles donated several kunekune pigs (pronounced “cooney cooney”).
“They’re a heritage pig, so they won’t get big like a commercial pig,” Perkins said. “These are mini-pasture pigs, and they’re very docile and doglike. So it’s a very good fit with our farm.
“The farm is a great place to learn hard work ethics and being consistent, being patient, learning your social skills, life skills, even job skills.
“The critters that we’re picking are very good at interacting in a very calm manner, which is important for these kids who have a lot of anxiety and panic.”
Previously: Ames nonprofit raising funds to build care farm for families with special needs
The emotional climate of the farm helps autistic and differently-abled kids relax their minds, which helps them learn, she said.
“These critters are animal assistants, but they’re not therapy animals — they’re therapeutic and we use them in a therapeutic manner,” Perkins said.
Cultivating Hope is raising $100,000 to build a barn on the farm, to provide a permanent facility to house the animals and provide space for year-round programming, Perkins said. The plan is to build an 80-by-60, insulated facility.
“We need some stability and consistency,” she said. “That’s where a building is really needed for us to be doing this and doing it well.”
Cultivating Hope was invited to the Iowa Horse Fair, which is being held at the Iowa State Fair grounds from Friday through Sunday. The farm will have a space in the kids’ area of the cattle barn.
“We’ll be able to showcase Cultivating Hope Farms and what we are planning on doing,” she said. “We’ll have what we’re calling Critter Town.”
Homemakers furniture store in Des Moines is delivering 25 large boxes and kids will be able to cut and color and create Critter Town. Critters on hand will include two mini-goats, two mini-donkeys, two ducks and a horse.
“So they get to build a barn for their critters,” she said. “It’s a family-based program, so the families can come into Critter Town and build and create a barn. And hopefully this allows us to promote the need for a barn at our facility. So it’s a double purpose.”
To donate to Cultivating Hope Farms’ barn project, checks can be made out to Cultivating Hope Farms and mailed to Bankers Trust Ames, Attn: Jill Crosser, 3725 Stange, Ames, IA 50010.
This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Rural Ames-based Cultivating Hope care farm begins programming, continues fundraising for barn
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