Out Here Magazine – July/August 2009

Farmtown Canada in the News

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Out Here Magazine – July/August 2009
[Original Article – PDF]

Animals that can teach

Through their interaction with animals, kids at the Funny Farm camp learn such things as patience, respect, self-esteem, self-control, conflict resolution, responsibility and that there are consequences to their actions.


When animals talk at the Funny Farm, kids listen and learn. “Animals can teach kids better than adults because the learning doesn’t involve speech; it’s something they can understand that’s right in front of them,” Kelly Franklin says.
Franklin, together with her husband George, established Funny Farm Ministries Inc. at their Elgin County property along the Mapleton Line just south wof Belmont in 2006. Last year, 1,200 children, aged four to 14, participated. Upwards of 1,500 are expected in 2009.
Through their interaction with animals, kids at the camp learn such things as patience, respect, self-esteem, self-control, conflict resolution, responsibility and that there are consequences to their actions.
For example, the Haflinger horses and other equines at the Funny Farm respond favourably to the right human approach and let the people around them know it.
In contrast, a horse with its ears pulled back is telling you to back off.
The kids want to be near the animals and so they make an effort. Not only do they learn to act responsibly themselves, the process requires them to communicate and cooperate with others.
“We’re trying to empower people to make good choices about themselves,” Kelly says.
The experienced pastor and social worker says there are three main programs offered at Funny Farm Ministries – weeklong summer day camps, small-group programs held over the course of several weeknights or weekends focusing on such topics as bullying and racism, and individual family counseling. Everyone’s welcome. Kids from all walks of life participate, including children raised under difficult circumstances. Some may have physical, mental or emotional challenges.
While the focus relates to moral values and getting along in life, the children have a fun experience and pick up some basic husbandry skills, especially through the day camps. George, a former pork producer, says the children also learn about farming and why many farm animals are not named. “Every animal here, even the miniatures, can be related to a commercial farm setting,” George says. Kelly and George’s Christianity is an integral part of their lives and work. They share their beliefs by building relationships but are not in the business of proselytizing.
Funny Farm Ministries is a registered charity that works with a variety of community partners including the YMCA and Family and Children’s Services. They’re listed with the Elgin Country Federation of Agriculture.
Special guests are often featured part of the program such as OPP officers and representatives the Catfish Conservation Authority.
The programs are funded through a number of sources including government, donations from businesses and individuals and George’s job at Cami Automotive.
While volunteers are involved, including those providing in-kind contributions, there are paid staff members, including students from King’s College and Fanshawe College.
“We need funding – that’s something I’ve learn to say,” Kelly says.
“When we started this we knew we’d have to give up our retirement money and money from Cami to make this happen.”
As for the animals at Funny Farm, they’re blissfully unaware of cash-flow concerns but do seem to miss the kids at summer’s end when there’s a break before fall programs start up.
“After the kids leave, it’s almost like they’re grieving – they moo, whinny, baa and snort for the kids when they notice the buses are no longer driving up the lane,” Kelly says.
To learn more, visit Funny Farm’s website at www.farmtown.com or call 519-773- 2292.
Visitors are welcome at the farm on September 5 from noon to 6 p.m. for the annual Farmfest. The rain date is September 6.
There will be live music featuring Guelph resident Danny Brooks, a barbecue at 2:30 p.m. and lots of fun stuff. Admission is just $5 or $20 for a family of five or more.