A Care Farm in Every Community in Canada

Empowering people with dementia to get outside.

A group of people standing under a greenhouse frame

Green Care Farms is Canada’s first care farm dedicated to people living with dementia. Located on a half-acre plot on Andrews Farm Market and Winery in Milton, Ontario, the program engages participants in a variety of purpose-driven therapeutic outdoor activities like planting, watering, and harvesting fresh produce.

The Care Farm Model

Care farming is a type of therapeutic programming that combines horticultural and agricultural activities with care services. Research has shown many benefits for people with dementia, such as increased physical activity, enhanced social interaction and a renewed sense of purpose. The concept of care farming originates in Europe and is widespread there yet care farming related to dementia remains relatively new and unknown in Canada.

At Green Care Farms, members can reap the rewards of their work by taking home a bounty of fresh produce each week. Members can also feel good about making a positive contribution to their community as the surplus produce is donated to the local food bank.

By providing our members with fun and purposeful activity and their family members with respite, we are reducing healthcare provider burden and maintaining higher quality of life at home.

–Rebekah Churchyard, CEO & Founder of Green Care Farms

The program also offers a day of respite to care partners and families, something that Rebekah Churchyard, the CEO and Founder of Green Care Farms, personally knows is so important. Respite programs support busy caregivers by enabling them to spend time away from providing care to their loved one and to focus on themselves, even for just a few hours. Respite programs reduce caregiver burnout as well as the number of nonemergency hospital visits. “By providing our members with fun and purposeful activity and their family members with respite, we are reducing healthcare provider burden and maintaining higher quality of life at home,” says Churchyard. This type of support can help people with dementia live longer supported at home.

People standing outside

Rebekah smiling with members on the farm.

Photo: Green Care Farms

First in Canada

Churchyard, a Social Worker and Psychotherapist specializing in geriatrics and dementia care, was inspired to start Green Care Farms after her grandfather Ron, a Christmas tree farmer, was diagnosed with early-onset frontotemporal dementia. She witnessed the challenges her family faced to find support and outdoor programs for him to safely continue to do the meaningful work he loved. As his dementia progressed, opportunities for him to be safely outside decreased. Without stimulation and adequate support at home, people with dementia deteriorate more quickly, and caregivers’ health and mental health is often also significantly impacted. “The caregiving demand on my grandmother became unbearable, and no one was happy with him being locked inside all day,” Churchyard shared. “My grandparents lived in a rural area and I witnessed their struggle to find support and appropriate programming.”

Other than Green Care Farms, there are no targeted programs for people with dementia to be active outdoors in Canada, and waitlists for adult day programs in Ontario can be years long. This is especially challenging for people whose lives and careers revolved around the outdoors before their dementia diagnosis, and for their caregivers who need regular support and respite that can be hard to find due to healthcare system capacities and shortages.

man in garden

Frank, a member, choosing herbs for planting and harvesting strawberries.

Photo: Green Care Farms

Join In Our Ambitious Vision

At Green Care Farms our vision is “A care farm in every community in Canada”. We want people with dementia across Canada to be able to access a Green Care Farm locally which is why we will soon be offering a series of workshops on how to start your own care farm.

We aim to inform, help, and inspire other passionate individuals to replicate our model in their community. The workshop will be free of charge and we will capture feedback from the participants to inform our future Green Care Farms services.

We hope you will join us to learn more about creating farm experiences rooted in purpose and belonging that empower people living with dementia all across Canada.

GET MORE INFORMATION

Want to learn more?  Email hello@carefarmscanada.com to join in the upcoming workshop series about starting your own care farm.

This virtual workshop is ideal for community groups, farmers and local professionals supporting older adults including people with dementia such as Activationists, Horticultural Therapists, Nurses, Personal Support Workers, Recreation Therapists, Social Workers etc.

Green Care Farms

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Green Care Farms serves people of any age living with a cognitive impairment who would enjoy working on a farm.

This year, the program operates on Mondays from 9:00/10:00am-2:00/3:00pm from May 13 to September 30 2024. There are a variety of membership options, ranging from 3-day passes to seasonal memberships, which are priced at half the cost of traditional home care services. This year we will also be supporting group outings for retirement and long-term care homes as well as congregate living settings.

For more information visit: www.carefarmscanada.com

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