Alocal farm is giving people of all abilities the opportunity to use goats and other farm animals as a form of sensory therapy.
Megan Nimchuk, her husband Shawn Kisling, and their two sons, Oliver, 5, and Arlo, 10 months, own 748 Kisling Farms, just west of Strathmore.
The interactive farm is meant for people of all mental and psychical abilities to come and enjoy the opportunity to spend time and play with goats, chickens, pigs and a llama.
“I’ve always wanted to create a space for individuals where they feel safe and where they can be who they truly are,” Nimchuk said in an interview on Sept. 17.
She named her business Organic Abilities because she believes, when something is truly organic, it is in a complete, natural form. That is what they are trying to encourage at their farm.
‘Abilities’ comes from their farm being welcoming and accessible to everyone, including adults, children, people in wheelchairs, and people with autism or mental health issues. All are welcome and accepted.
The farm offers a special and unique program called Make me a Farmer, an intimate class meant for one to five people.
The program is meant for individuals of all abilities to go at whatever pace they may need. It covers farm chores and care. It’s all about the farm experience.
Using goats as therapy animals can be a stepping stone to horse therapy, as goats are calm natured, have their own unique personality, and will even cuddle.
Nimchuk and her family also rescue special needs goats that would have been put down. They give these goats a life and a purpose as they are used to help people for sensory therapy, and even participate in goat yoga classes.
Gladys the goat was born with deformed legs and Nimchuk rescued her as a baby. She has a warm presence about her and is the first goat to run up and greet everyone.
Gladys is really helpful for children with anxiety. Kids are drawn to her and after a few minutes of petting and playing with her, the kids are able to relax.
“Animals have an incredible ability to soak up whatever is going on in your life and truly help. They are non-judgmental,” Nimchuk said.
She was inspired to start her business because of the work she did for more than 10 years.
Nimchuk worked with a woman named Louise who grew up in Michener Centre, the Red Deer care facility for people with developmental difficulties. When Louise was released fro the centre, she wanted to be independent as possible.
“Louise taught me so much about individual rights and equality and advocating for people of all abilities to live their best lives and how quality of life is so important,” Nimchuk said.
One of the main programs offered at the farm is goat yoga. Nimchuk describes yoga as “20 per cent yoga and 80 per cent goats.”
The purpose of goat yoga is to give people a reason to laugh and smile, and use the goats as a way to forget about everyday woes. The goats will climb on the back of participants and run around during the class.
In the future, Nimchuk wants to broaden her business and work with people who have disabilities to create things they can sell from the farm like goat milk soap, and flower boxes.
“People with disabilities often have depression because they do not have a lot of access to things, so giving them the opportunity to create something that they made gives them purpose,” Nimchuk said
She also hopes one day to be able to bring the goats to places such as seniors’ homes, schools and hospitals, for people to play with the the animals, relax and forget about their stress for a while.