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Wellington County's first 'care farm' provides safe space for special needs adults

The Rosenglitter Care Farm in Arthur offers workshops involving animals, woodworking and gardening in a safe, supportive space

ARTHUR ‒ At Rosenglitter Care Farm, an alternative day centre for adults with special needs, owners Bart and Heather Rosegaar believe "a life outside is one filled with joy."

Spanning 150 acres of farmland, the Rosenglitter Care Farm currently offers skill-building workshops involving animals, woodworking and gardening activities to create a safe space for special needs adults in Wellington County. 

Inspired by Lindeboom, Bart's father's care farm in Holland, care farming is a European practice that uses farming as a therapeutic method for marginalized or vulnerable groups of people to reduce the use of institutions and recognize people with disabilities have a right to be active in society. 

"It takes a little bit of extra time and effort to train (special needs folk) but we have the love and time to train them to do these things and once we do, they're very good at it," said Heather. "So hopefully not only do we give them potential employment but also the self-worth of doing the fun farm things in a safe environment." 

Opening its doors to the public in 2020, Rosenglitter combines Bart's disability and farming skills with Heather's work as a full-time ICU nurse at Grand River Hospital. 

An advocate for farming's healing powers before he moved to Canada, Holland native Bart relearned how to walk and talk after a motorcycle accident left him in a coma and completely paralyzed on his left side in the early 2000's. 

Nine years later, Bart retired from the dairy industry after he was kicked in the head by a cow while milking but still craved the "magical sound" of the milking machines. 

"There are ways to do these things and keep them safe but also ways for them to still live their best," said Heather. "An old farmer sitting in a nursing home, who has started work at 5 a.m. his entire life doesn't want to do bingo. Do you know what he would love to do? Sit in the barn with some chickens. and chat Bart's ear off." 

However, Heather said Rosenglitter is paid for with overtime and love and their biggest barriers are funding and transportation.

Last spring, a couple with dementia wanted to attend farm programs weekly but were forced to cancel after the family was unable to coordinate a way to Arthur.

"The hard thing is the right people must make it here," said Heather. "We're doing our best but with just transportation does it help anyone for people to stay at home and live a sedentary lifestyle? They have the right to interact."

Working closely with Live & Learn in Guelph and  B.O.S.S Orangeville, the farm is also part of the passport program, a reimbursement program that helps adults with developmental disabilities in Ontario access services and support. 

There are currently two other care farms in Ontario: Fiddlehead Care Farm in Dufferin County and Green Care Farms in Milton. 

"The biggest thing is we just want people to visit and to show them what we're doing," said Heather. "I know right now everything is is expensive and it's hard to even think about taking care of anyone else outside your home but if we start working together, then the world will be a better place." 

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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