When Jennifer Hardacre left her teaching position of 20 years to pursue her dream of giving back to the community, she says she took a “leap of faith.”
Hardacre, a single mom of two daughters and owner of 25 acres of farmland in New Carlisle, is celebrating five working years of The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm – a fully operational farm that provides a working environment for adults with developmental disabilities and dementia.
Cofounded with Clark County native Beth Snyder, the acronym H.A.R.D. – derived from Hardacre’s last name – stands for Honor and Respect Daily.
“We felt like that is what everybody wants every day no matter what their ability level is,” she says. “Because we were both teachers, we felt like we had a lot of background knowledge that other programs might not have in how to structure the day, how to structure the program, how to work with the different individual service plans (ISP).”
Hardacre and Snyder knew that for K-12 students who needed services, transitioning out of high school and finding services as an adult becomes more difficult. “We still wanted to be able to use the farm and agriculture (to serve this population), just in a different way,” says Hardacre.
It took three years of behind the scenes planning for The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm to come into fruition. The company received its license in August 2016 and opened that summer.
“I had always told my children that whatever we did on this property had to be of use to other individuals; we had to be able to use it to give back to the community in some way,” says Hardacre. “We weren’t just living on 25 acres because it was pretty.”
Currently The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm serves 31 adults known on the farm as “farmers,” but due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, they can only have 15 people on the property at one time. The Farm is open Monday through Friday and serves 12 people a day in two small groups with two staff members.
While The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm is not a non-profit group because it is housed on private property, they do have many community groups and volunteers participate. “We have had a lot of positive community support in the last five years,” says Hardacre.
In the spirit of “giving back” and with the desire to pay it forward to the community, each year the "Farmers" select a community organization to make things for, such as herbal rice bags for the local cancer center, hygiene bags for a homeless shelter and farm-raised turkeys for food banks.
“We like to encourage that giving back aspect because so many people have been generous and giving to us, we want to continue that,” says Hardacre.
The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm does accept donations – but not just monetarily – things like dryer lint, toilet paper rolls, reclaimed wood, fabric, and leftover scented wax have been used to create items for retail sales to support the farm.
“We use these things for crafts that we sell in our Retail Barn,” says Hardacre. “We have natural gifts, crafts, holiday decor and other items available.”
Because of the pandemic, customers are asked to call ahead to make an appointment to visit the Retail Barn. However, there’s no need to call before visiting the farm’s Honor Barn where customers can stop in any time and select in-season produce and pay using the honor system based on the posted prices.
Annually, The H.A.R.D. Acre Farm also hosts three community events including a flower sale around Mother’s Day in the spring, a fall festival (which has been canceled this year because of COVID-19) and a Live Nativity, which will be drive-through style this year.
Hardacre says she has always been a caring, compassionate person toward others and that is why she went into education: to instill those positive attributes in children. But taking this leap of faith has shown her there is much more that people with disabilities can do, want to do and are capable of doing.
“Our main goal is to give these individuals a sense of purpose and feeling of accomplishment,” says Hardacre. “To give them independence, flexibility and the freedoms of fresh air and country life.”