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Growing gardens, tending bees, learning animals, making crafts

Life on the farm for those with developmental disabilities at Chick-A-Dee Acres Farm

April 17, 2020 by Abigail Bostwick

Outside, the winter snow is glistening in afternoon sunlight, covering the renovated main building of Chick-A-Dee Acres Farm, Inc. where, inside, people with physical and developmental disabilities learn, make friends, obtain life skills, hone daily living skills as well as enjoy recreation and friendship. 

About Chick-A-Dee Acres Farm

Chick-A-Dee Acres Farm — a place for day services for the developmentally disabled — was the passionate idea of Timothy and Tammy Bogeman, whose son has Fragile X. 

Timothy is from Eagle River and Tammy from St. Germain, both having heartstrings for the Northwoods, they wanted to bring something to the area that would develop and enhance the lives of the developmentally and physically disabled adults.

“There are so many people in this area with disabilities,” Timothy Bogeman said. “But after they leave high school at 21, there is nowhere for them to go, there’s nothing for them.” 

The economy in the area is primarily seasonal jobs or jobs too technical for clients to excel or be able to function in, Bogeman said. To have someplace for them to go and find their talents is a dream for the Bogemans. 

“They love to just stay busy, they have the same dreams all of us do,” Bogeman observed. 

The mission of Chick-A-Dee Acres Farm is to provide a supportive working and farming community for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities, where recreation and lifelong learning are fostered, both on the farm and in the local community, Bogeman noted. This program offers daily multi-faceted program to include life skills, recreation and daily living skills.

Through these skills, the Bogemans hope their clients are instilled with healthy life style habits they learn through exercise, education and proper nutrition. Each client is worked with one-on-one to determine strength and weaknesses, accommodations and modifications needed, so as to best meet the needs to clients.

Life skills include organic gardening, woodworking, car detailing, bee keeping, maple syrup collecting and processing and wreath making among others. For recreation, there may be archery, fishing, swimming, bowling, movies, snowshoeing and craft projects. Products produced on the farm will be packaged, marketed and sold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and at area flea and farmers markets, Bogeman indicated. 

“The ultimate goal for the Chick-A-Dee Acres community is that clients have an array of opportunities that will contribute to a sense of fulfillment, joy, success and purpose,” Bogeman indicated. 

Chick-A-Dee Acres serves Vilas, Oneida and Forest counties. It is a non-profit organization providing varying day services to people with physical and cognitive disabilities that range from everyday skills to life on a farm and in the home and kitchen to other specialty projects like making jewelry, pottery, woodworking and recreation on the farm and around the community.

How Chick-A-Dee Acres was born

Timothy and Tammy had gone to high school together, but would not have a relationship until later in life — where Bogeman would meet Tammy’s special needs son. 

“I was terrified,” he laughed at the memory, being unsure how to act. “I had never had dealings with a special needs person, and I was scared.”

Tommy, however, was excited to meet Bogeman and greeted him with a bear hug. Within a short period of time, Tommy was already calling Bogeman, “dad,” and a family was born.

“He likes to do things I like to do, we enjoy doing everything together,” Bogeman said. 

Which is much of the case with many of the clients at Chick-A-Dee Acres, Bogeman said. Everyone enjoys being involved in different activities and finding their “niche.” Some come a few days a week, some just one. They have about seven clients currently. 

“We want to set everything up so everyone has a good day,” Bogeman said. “So they can feel like they’ve had a good day.” 

The Bogemans brought their idea to the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation, which in turn, guided them to incubator classes for them to develop a business plan that would help them secure funding and grants for their idea. 

“It was very helpful,” Bogeman said. “We had the idea, we did our research for many years … our non-profit plan was the only one in the class … some thought we were crazy!”

That business plan was finished about six years ago and some loans were secured for their venture. They sought out the Eagle River property on Bloom Road about three years ago and have been working ever since. The doors officially opened to clients last fall. 

Help appreciated, needed

The Bogemans have been working around the clock for more than a year continuing to get Chick-A-Dee Acres Farm up and going. They also have plans to keep expanding as they can. 

“What amazes me is the absolute ability of these people. It’s remarkable,” Bogeman said. “Our goal here is to help out the whole community. We grew up here. We love being here. We love what we’re doing.” 

Bogeman spent more than 21 years in the United States Coast Guard, but this new venture has been the one that has touched his heart the most, he relayed. 

“These last 19 years have been the best of my life. I love what I’m doing,” Bogeman said. “Stuff that seems really simple to me, is everything to them.” 

Chick-A-Dee Acres could use some extra support to get the farm up and off the ground. Renovations needed at the property were extensive, including repair of a caved in roof and ruined floor. There also was a large amount of items to be sorted through and gotten rid of, Bogeman said. 

“We’d love to see more people come in,” he said. 

Windows are still being installed, painting and more trim is still in need of being done. The organization also hopes to have a barn someday as well as chicken coop, wood shop and greenhouse. They’d like to have chickens, goats and sheep and horses. A garden is planned for this summer as well as bee hives. 

Besides needing assistance to complete revocation, the Bogemans also need help to purchase a van large enough to take clients to and from the farm all year long. A Go Fund Me Page has been started.  

Chick-A-Dee Acres, Bogeman says, will ultimately benefit the entire community. There will be hopefully job opportunities and certainly volunteer chances. 

“We’re just starting out,” Bogeman relayed. 

More information on how to help can be found at https://www.chickadeeacresfarm.org. 

Abigail Bostwick may be reached at [email protected]

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