(Robine Bots petting Pig Floyd | Photo Courtesy of Harmony Farms)
Bringing Animals & Humans Together
Nestled behind a wooded neighborhood in Sisters, Harmony Farm Sanctuary houses animals who were once abused, abandoned and about to be slaughtered. Roaming the ten-acre farm freely, the rescued animals are happy to greet their guests and caregivers, sometimes coming right up to the fence to say hello.
Robine Bots, director of Harmony Farm Sanctuary, who came to Central Oregon in 2005 and holds a masters degree in clinical psychology with many years training in animal assisted therapy studies is responsible for bringing all the animal love together. Her idea for the sanctuary was a long time coming.
After purchasing a “mini pig” several years ago then realizing that almost 98 percent of these pigs that people think they want as pets end up in shelters all over the country. Bots quickly rescued another pig, named it Zoey and put her dreams into motion of opening a sanctuary where rescued animals could be rehabilitated and live in peace.
“In 2014, my dad was planning on building a metal shed for his motor home. I told him about my dream to build a farm sanctuary and to do mental health therapy at a farm full of rescued animals. He agreed and had the barn built that has now become the home of Harmony Farm Sanctuary,” Bots says.
They began building and Bots reports, “If you build it, they will come….” The sure did come. The sanctuary now has over eighty rescued farm animals and conducts over a thousand therapy hours at the farm each year. Rehabilitating a formerly abused animal requires patience and realistic expectations.
Harmony Farm provides a stable and calm environment where therapy providers reduce fear triggers with different techniques so that the animal can build back it’s confidence. They get requests to take in new animals from several various channels including other rescue organizations, emails, phone calls, social media and locals in the Sisters community.
Bots gets several requests to take relinquished animals or help in rescues every week, however, unfortunately, she has to say no more than yes as funds and room for the animals would quickly run out.
With a smoky summer this year, the focus has been to pay extra care to the current residents.
This year’s smoke has taken a toll on the animals. “The poor animals get no reprieve from [the smoke]and it breaks my heart. I notice them acting more lethargic and engaging in very little play or running around. I have also heard the goats and cow coughing a lot lately,” says Bots.
Focus on Therapy & Fundraising
Harmony Farm Sanctuary makes animal assisted therapy a priority and fundraising is the main focus to keep these programs going. The farm opens the barn to the community by hosting special education classes weekly, putting on monthly open barn events, holding family therapy days for at-risk youth and have adults and youth complete their community service hours. By running these programs, Bots and her volunteers hope to educate and connect humans and animals in a very unique setting.
Sandra Hayes has been with Harmony Farm for over a year and a half. She started as the volunteer coordinator and now runs the special fundraising events. Her function is vital as the farm runs completely on donations.
“We currently have a selection of our farm animal greeting cards available for sale at Sisters Cascade and at our monthly Open Barn. I’m also currently working on a clothing line with our farm animal faces adorning the attire, with proceeds going to the farm,” Hayes says.
Other ways of fundraising include the monthly Open Barn (except for winter) for visitors to come and meet the animals, the Beer and Bonfire events and occasionally a crowd funding event for a special rescue or project such.
“We have recently been chosen, thanks to Sandra, to have a donation flier at local Shibui Spa and have seen some funds come in from that,” Bots adds.
Wherever the funds come from whether a t-shirt sale, a private donation or a fundraiser, all of it’s very important to help continue the mission of bringing humans and animals together for a truly amazing farm experience.