The second Saturday of October, Foxhollow Farm opens the gate to thousands of visitors at our Annual Fall Festival. Many people know that this Festival is a vehicle to raise funds for Maryhurst and Foxhollow’s outreach. Over the past 6 years, we have been able to donate nearly $60,000 to Maryhurst. The funds go toward supporting and expanding Maryhurst’s critical, therapeutic and educational programs, providing medical and educational services to more than 150 children in their care each day. Many of their clients have experienced severe abuse and neglect. As a consequence, they may have significant emotional challenges and are on average more than four years behind in school performance. Funds raised help fill the gap between support Maryhurst provides to the children, and the reimbursement they receive. In addition, funds from the Festival have recently been dedicated to build a raised bed garden for learning and recreational activities.
What many people don’t know is that our festival is more than just a day of fundraising. It is an ongoing partnership that allows us to provide- free of charge – tours and activities on the farm for Maryhurst clients. Our visits have a singular goal – to help these phenomenal young ladies connect with nature in a meaningful and healing way.
The staff at Foxhollow love hosting the girls, and we try to make each trip unique. We take suggestions from caregivers and educators at Maryhurst about what would best serve their needs. We consider ways to engage with the farm in consideration of the weather. We talk to partners in the community who donate their time, expertise and supplies. Over the past year, we have hosted many fun trips, including an afternoon at the farmer’s market with a cooking lesson, a tasting tour of the garden, a day of planting seedlings, and a collaboration on art projects. After so many visits, there are a few memorable moments that stand out for me.
When Maryhurst visitors arrive, what strikes me first is how tough they are – they dress like women older than they are and sometimes have attitudes to match. But it’s amazing to see them light up as children when they see farm animals. Some of them tell stories about the farm where they grew up, raising pigs or cows. They laugh as they feed lunch scraps to the greedy oinking pigs. They always ask to see horses, and when a girl once found a horseshoe on the property, she asked to take home the cherished prize (we consented of course). After years of being asked to see a horse, we finally were able to make a barn visit part of the tour last October. After a hay ride through fields to see big brown eyed, relaxed cows munching on grass, and picking pumpkins, we swung by the neighboring barn, Aspiring Heights Equestrian.
Owner Jessie brought out Annie, a small mare she’d rescued and brought back from boney unkempt illness to full and glossy beauty. The girls ooh’d and aaah’d, took turns stroking her nose and asked lots of questions about her. One couldn’t help but think the horse might hold some deeper meaning for these young ladies, recovering from their own neglect, maybe seeing a glimpse of the beautiful creature they held inside themselves.
There are times when our activities don’t go as well as we’d planned. Last summer, we invited our guests to plant the pumpkin patch with us. It was a hot day and some were unhappy to dirty their beautiful nails and new shoes. The silver lining was the delicious roast beef sandwiches and beet salad Mayan Café had provided. Another day, a sudden rainstorm had us hiding out in the greenhouse. Luckily there are successes too. This summer, we gathered together to start seedlings for the greenhouse and the girls couldn’t get enough of hand mixing soil, shaping it in pots, and dropping in a seed that would become a healthy plant.
One particularly successful trip this summer we collaborated with Louisville Visual Arts (LVA). Maggie led the girls on a walk through the gardens, where they were invited to observe textures and structures of plants. A few girls bravely tasted peppers and ground cherries they picked. Jackie and Sarah, our co-hosts from LVA invited the girls to fill a cup with flowers, vegetables, ornamental grasses, and objects they liked. Once selected, we began making cyanotypes that Jackie had demonstrated. We arranged the objects on photosensitive paper and exposed them to the bright summer sunlight. When the time was right, we quickly put them in water to stop the exposure. We repeated the process several times until dozens of beautiful works of art were laid out to dry. After each girl selected one artwork to take home, LVA took the remainder to mount on wood from the farm. These works will be for sale at the Festival, and funds will benefit Maryhurst.
Each trip usually concludes with a farm fresh dinner together. Dorm food is dorm food, no matter where you are, so our guests are pretty happy to enjoy a home cooked meal. Many of the girls try vegetables they’ve never had before, and we always include some of our grassfed beef. We talk about the girls’ interests. There are always some who watch with wary eyes, but don’t say a word. It’s a magnificent surprise when a particularly quiet young woman looks me in the eye at the end of a trip and utters “thank you for having us”. That moment of connection gives me hope she knows how very welcome she is here.
The Fall Festival is a wonderful day of community celebration. We have fun, laugh, and enjoy our families together. But for me, the Festival’s highest purpose is in pooling our community’s resources to support the young women at Maryhurst. It is the moment I wait for with bated breath all day – the moment when Melodie, our amazing money czar – tells us we reached our goal. Over the course of each year, my colleagues and I get to know the young women this fundraising serves. We work tirelessly to make this Festival a hit for you, the Festival guests – but it the greatest honor to make it a hit for the girls at Maryhurst. They deserve nothing less.
Fall Festival Coordinator and Office Ninja