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Every farmer sings the praises of a little rain this time of year.

But the intermittent rain made for muddy conditions for a group of volunteers who tended to gardens and did other chores at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education in Hellam Township on Friday.

"I think it's great," volunteer Aaron Hoffman said of the farm as he took a mid-morning doughnut break from his work. "Especially the community gardens that they have."

Hoffman was one of a dozen or so United Natural Foods employees who spent the day on the farm. He, along with fellow employee Cody Selby, were tasked with cleaning a barn; very different work from the warehouse they labor day in and day out.

Volunteers, like the ones from United Natural Foods, are a key part in keeping the farm going.

On Wednesday, the York County commissioners made sure the farm will be around for at least another century.

Lease on life: Commissioners extended a lease agreement with the nonprofit organization that operates the farm and granted it an easement, ensuring the 186-acre tract of land will never be developed.

The new lease, which is for $1 a year, runs 99 years and expires in 2115. The original lease, signed in 2007, was for 30 years.

Under the new agreement, the county would only be able to resume control of the property for certain reasons, such as if the farm ceased operations.

Jon Darby, Horn Farm's education director, called the lease and easement amazing.

“It's a huge help,” he said.

Down on the farm: The land the Horn Farm is located on along Route 30 has been farmed since the 1700s but was nearly rezoned about 15 years to allow for industrial use.

Since then, the farm has become a staple in the community where residents can go and learn about agriculture and grow their own food through the farm's 102-plot community garden program.

The farm also offers farming and beekeeper incubator programs, where budding farmers and apiarists learn and hone their skills; an internship program; and classes for people looking to turn their thumbs green. A small paid staff are aided by volunteers with day-to-day chores.

Josh George, operations manager at the United Natural Food plant in Conewago Township, said some company employees volunteer at the farm twice a year — once during the spring and again in the fall — as part of the company's philosophy of helping out in the community.

On Tuesday, George was helping Darby set the foundation for a new greenhouse.

"We do the best we can to volunteer as much as possible," George said.

Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

Horn Farm plant sale

The Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education will hold its yearly plant sale early next month.

The plant sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, at the 4945 Horn Road farm in Hellam Township.

The greenhouse-grown heirloom plants were grown at the farm, either by farmers in the incubator program or by staff members. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the farm.

For more information about farm or programs it offers go to hornfarmcenter.org, or call (717) 757-6441.

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