Julie Casey MSW, RSW

Wellness Care Farm

Nourishing Hearts

Wellness Care Farm

Care farms are part of a growing 'ecotherapy' movement that utilizes use therapeutic farming practices. Care farms provide health, social or educational care services for a range of people and provides farming-related activities. 

Services are provided for:

Children and Youth in Search

Children with Complex Health Care 
Adults and Children with Different-Abilities
Adults and Children with Mental Health Challenges

Seniors and Elderly Living with Dementia

Nourishing Hearts Wellness Care Farm 

Nourishing Hearts is a place where people of all ages and abilities come together to reconnect to the earth, animals, nature and themselves.  Plants and animals live in harmony with nature. All our farmed animals are rescues who have been socialized as therapy animals and will get to live natural lives and to express their natural behaviors.

Care farms are very popular in Europe.  There are literally thousands of them in Western Europe, but there are very few in Canada and as far as we know, we are one of the first in Southwestern Ontario.  We welcome people to come and heal by participating in farm activities in whatever way they can.  The very act of participating, being included, being in nature, and having a meaningful task to accomplish can be incredibly healing.  We want to offer this to children, youth, seniors, and people of all ages recovering from physical illness, mental health concerns and many other challenges.

Potential therapeutic benefits of participation in Care Farms include:
Written By:Eilon Caspi Ph.D. (Adapted)

1. Being outdoors and maintaining connections with nature

  • Natural sunlight can help regulate sleep awake cycle and production of Vitamin D
  • Enhancement of emotional well-being and restoration
  • Opportunities to decompress
  • Simply enjoying the flowers, birds, sun, and wind; physical relaxation
  • Improved mood and alleviation of depressive feelings

2. Working on a Care Farms offers many opportunities for naturally occurring physical activities

  • Walking to the barn
  • Doing animal meal preparations
  • Raking the leaves
  • Crafts 
  • Gardening
  • Planting
  • Harvesting fruits and vegetables
  • Taking care of farm animals 

3. Multi-sensory Stimulation is provided through the inherent characteristics of farms and the wide variety of activities offered. Enabling people to use all their senses. Being in nature offers frequent spontaneous (“organic”) opportunities for using these senses.

  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch
  • Hearing
  • Sight

4. Doing the different chores on the Care Farm can give people the feeling that they are needed, useful, and contributing members of society.

  • Feeling productive and helpful to others
  • Breaks down the vicious cycle of boredom some people may experience 
  • Having true purpose and meaning in real life experiences and activities (without artificial situations commonly created)
  • Having a good reason to wake up in the morning!

5. Plenty of opportunities for learning and personal and occupational growth. Enhanced learning through:

  • Repetition
  • Practice
  • Clear and consistent routine/structure
  • Especially when they are interested in and care about what they are doing and when the conditions for success, gentle guidance, and attentive cueing are provided 

The broad and diverse range of activities and chores done on a Care Farms can promote choice, personalization, stronger sense of autonomy and identity, and varied opportunities for learning and growth when adapted to the person’s current preferences and cognitive abilities and disabilities.

6. Working closely together with the farmer/therapist and peers may provide natural opportunities for socialization and friendships (with the farmer/therapist and with peers).

  • Alleviate social isolation and feelings of loneliness
  • In addition, multi-function Care Farms serving different populations simultaneously offer unique opportunities for intergenerational connections
  • Farms serve mixed client groups such as young people (even children) with a variety of disabilities (e.g., learning or intellectual disabilities, autism, down syndrome, mental illness) along with older adults in general and those with dementia

7. The unique, personal, and humane approach of the care farmer/therapist toward people with disabilities is considered a big part of the success of Care Farms.

  • Relating to all people as equals despite their cognitive and/or other disabilities empowers people in a time of their lives when they struggle to maintain their self-esteem and confidence in the face of an avalanche of losses.
  • Genuinely appreciating their contributions to the farm could encourage participants to take on added responsibilities, which in turn may strengthen their sense of independence.
  • Close trusting relationships is by far the single most important asset we can have when working with and caring for people with disabilities.
  • Working together with the same farmer/therapist over time can strengthen these relationships, reinforce a sense of reciprocity, and mutual appreciation.

To be successful in building these relationships, the farmer/therapist has high-quality training in areas such as:

  • What it means to live with a disability
  • Effective communication techniques and approaches
  • Principles for engagement in meaningful activities
  • Psychosocial strategies for preventing and de-escalating various behavioral expressions 
  • Knowledge of and ways to implement various features of inclusive and disability-friendly physical environment

8. When planned and delivered well, engagement of people with disabilities in the different activities and chores on Care Farms could help reduce various forms of behavioral expressions and promote positive emotional states.

It could lead to reduction in feelings of anxiety and “aggressive” behaviors and use of psychotropic medications (which are mostly ineffective, have many adverse and risky side effects, and are expensive)

9. Care Farms offer natural opportunities to meet the spiritual needs of people with disabilities (such as through simply being, regular connections with nature, caring for animals, working in the fields, and growing and harvesting vegetables and fruits).

While the spiritual needs of people with disabilities are critical, this integral aspect of their psychological well-being is often overlooked 

10. The combination of strength-based and empowerment-oriented approach along with the “normal life” characteristics.

The informal non-medical atmosphere of Care Farms are dedicated to people with disabilities to assist in reducing the widely-held and harmful stigma experienced by many people living with the disease

11. Respite for Family Care Partners

  • Regular participation in Care Farms can provide sorely needed “time off” for family members
  • Many of whom desperately need a break from the exhausting tasks of caring for and/or supervising their loved ones
  • While their relatives participate on Care Farms, family members can use these times to rest, recharge, run errands, meet friends, exercise, and engage in their favorable leisure activities
  • This, in turn could alleviate feelings of isolation and burnout commonly experienced by family care partners, which could strengthen their ability to provide more effective care to these individuals

Come and Participate. Learn New Skills.

Relax and Belong. Experience a Nourished Heart!