Family Raises Funds for a New Kind of Farm

Dennis and Michele Elmers have an idea.

They are concerned that their daughter, Rebecca, who has a developmental disability, and many other young people with similar issues need stimulation and a feeling of usefulness as they become adults.

The state mandates that the public education system work with the developmentally delayed population until age 21, Michele Elmers noted. But after that, their options are limited, and many young adults end up living with their parents. “They want a place to work. They want to be valued,” Dennis Elmers said.

The couple’s solution is to form Rebecca’s Homestead, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax exempt working farm. It will provide pre-vocational training and work skills for those living on the farm, as well as a feeling of satisfaction in everyday life skills. The kickoff fundraiser for the project was held on Thursday, November 1, at the Lake Forest Yacht Club.

Participants in the fundraiser enjoyed a “wine tour of Italy.” A professional sommelier explained about wines from four regions of the country, which attendees could sample along with various foods. The event was catered by Encore Catering in East Hanover and Portofino’s in Jefferson. It also included a “wine pull” for a donation, explained Elaine McLaughlin, a friend of the family who was helping out. Attendees were invited to make donations at the tables as well.

Entertainment was provided by pianist Jose Pomales and singer Abigail Blazovic, who both perform regularly. Pomales, a native of Puerto Rico, is retired from the U.S. Army. He and his wife, Megan, are residents of Odenton, Maryland. Blazovic and her husband, Thomas, are residents of Mt. Arlington. Both couples are lifelong friends of Dennis and Michele Elmers.

Pianist Jose Pomales and singer Abigail Blazovic perform at the Lake Forest Yacht Club. (Photo: Jane Primerano)

The Farm

The Elmers explained their vision.

They are looking for a farm to operate as Rebecca’s Homestead. A couple of acres for a vegetable garden is the least they need, said Dennis. They would like to have barns and plenty of room for animals – plus, if possible, fruit trees. It should be a self-sustaining community with the developmentally disabled residents doing the work under the supervision of people who have experience in farming, he added.

Elmers, an irrigation contractor, knows people in farming and hopes to attract farmers, master gardeners, and 4-H Club members to assist, although he has not yet approached any group. Rebecca participates in therapeutic riding at the Equine Tranquility and Wellness Center in Andover, so her parents know horse experts.

“The first step is buying the land,” Dennis noted – preferably preserved farmland. They have looked at two farms in Fredon Township in Sussex County, and are planning to speak with a municipal official.

Elmers explained that Rebecca’s Homestead will be a community project. It will be not just for the developmentally disabled, but also to help community members get used to working with people who are different. He believes people want to help their community and will become more understanding as they get to know others.

Michele and Dennis Elmers make their presentation about Rebecca’s Homestead in front of a slideshow. (Photo: Jane Primerano)

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