Apifera Farm in Bremen is holding a “Misfit Love Day: on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine.
The event is an open farm /fundraiser for the nonprofit Apifera Farm in Bremen, which adopts elder/special needs animals but also shares them with elder people.
No pets allowed and no smoking; children must be chaperoned. The farm is located at 315 Waldoboro Rd., Bremen.
For the past year, Apifera Farm in Bremen has been quietly sharing their many animals with elder people in Midcoast. It had been a dream of Katherine Dunn, the owner of Apifera Farm along with her husband Martyn, since she began taking in elder/special needs goats, pigs, donkeys, llamas and more, which are lovingly referred to as The Misfits. While the couple had adopted and taken care of old and needy animals in their barnyard since 2004 when they lived in Oregon, it was when they moved to mid coast Maine in 2016 when Katherine knew she could make this part of her farm dream come true.
“When we got to Bremen, the location of our farm was perfect to get both my animals to elder care residences, but also bring the people to my animals...our Oregon location was very rural,” Dunn said.
She began by taking her little pygmy goat, Opie, to Wiscasset Green every couple of weeks. She found the intimate setting of a smaller residence was a good fit for her, and Opie. Within time, the residents really grew fond of the little goat, even giving him a birthday party with squash when he turned one, and he also writes them letters about his weekly shenanigans at the farm.
“The smiles on their faces, it was just so rewarding. I smile too, and Opie is a natural,” Dunn said. Dunn believes that the presence of animals are healing to all ages, and simply wants to share her animals to bring comfort and joy. Many facilities can not have animals, and she knows how sad that is for many people. She also has seen first hand how an animal of any kind can relax people, and stories and conversation begin. “Animals don’t judge, they size you up, and I find some of my animals instinctively know what person might need attention that day."
As they became more settled in Bremen, Katherine began reaching out to the other elder homes. Along with The Greens, she has participated in events at Inn Along the Way in Damariscotta whose vision she believes in (forming a community of residences for elders and caregivers amongst nature and community). They even took an hour and half drive down to The Vicarage by the Sea, a private home helping dementia residences and there are upcoming visits with Lincoln Home scheduled.
Late this summer, the farm also had the elder residences come to the farm to sit with the animals in an area where the menagerie of elder/crippled goats meander. She also brings in her little donkey, and her llama who is a huge hit for everyone that meets her. “We call her the Love Llama, when you meet her you will see why,” Dunn said. The area also boasts gardens created by Dunn’s husband, Martyn, a landscaper. “The setting is serene, and people can just sit, or some like to walk in and be with the animals, it really depends on their desire and mobility.” The area is groomed to be walker and wheelchair accessible, and in late fall a shade hut will also be erected. One guest had been a rider her entire life and really wanted to just sit with Boone, the horse. “It was so wonderful to watch, she got to put her face into his neck and smell horse again,” Dunn said.
Dunn still plans to keep visiting residences with Opie, and other creatures, but the on-site farm visits provide the elders with a fun outing, and they get to see a multitude of animals. She also welcomes private caretakers to contact her to see if a visits can work for them and their clients. She is also interested in working with the blind, and other special needs. “We are not a petting zoo, we aim to bring elders and animals together for intimate encounters-to heal and bring joy or peace."
Katherine does not charge for any of her work with elder people, or the farm visits. “My goal is to get the Midcoast region to see Apifera as a little oasis that helps animals, but also elders, in a very hands on, natural way, and support us if they can. I really want to keep the visits free of charge, I just want the people to pet a little goat, or get a llama kiss, and feel like it helped their day."
The Oct. 6 event is the first fundraiser they have had in the area. “I wanted to be here for awhile, and show the area that I am committed to our vision, so I have been a little…quiet…about tooting our horn.” Dunn is a nationally recognized artist/writer, and has been a freelancer for 22 years, accumulating a small national following. “I’m not a big fish, but I have a loyal following that has helped me get this far with my books, art, and the work I’ve been doing to help animals. Once I decided to bite the bullet and turn the farm into a 501(c)(3), many of my followers were on board to help if they could. We raised money last year to build a small addition on to our barn. I would love one more barn, you can’t have enough when you take in elders like this, especially with the winters.”
This fall the couple plans to add a small hut so elder guests can sit out of the sun, and even come if it is a bit drizzly out. Martyn Dunn is the guy with the hammer and does all the small shed projects. “He is integral to what we do here, he keeps the place from falling down, and knows how to do so much that is necessary on a farm setting, The man is my saint!” Dunn said. For much of the warmer seasons, Martyn works full time as a landscaper for Natural Concepts, and does double duty on the farm. He is creating beautiful perennial gardens in the front of the 1760 house, and also a private garden for visitors in the back. “He also vacuums, and cooks beautiful meals, so he is my rock,” Dunn says with a smile.
Money raised goes to help feed and maintain the animals and maintain fencing and site issues. It also covers basic vet care, but if special emergency needs arise, Katherine puts a call out for help-for example, the elder donkey needed emergency treatment and the money was raised quickly for the big vet bill. She has many plans for growing the nonprofit --- she would like to increase the pasture space which requires cutting some of the forest on their 30 acres, but would allow more cross pasturing and help bring on more animals as they arise. She would love to have more nature trails and possibly have donkey walks. She did drawing sessions amongst the animals and hopes to start that again next year. The farm is currently home to many small elder/crippled goats, elder cats, mini donkeys and one very old standard, a few pigs one of whom is known as The World’s Grumpiest But I’m Fine As I Am Pig, aka Rosie … and the Love Llama. Katherine refers to them as her Misfits and gravitates to all sorts of species, like the blind chicken that a friend asked her to take on, an abandoned rabbit and some Zebra finches that a man had to rehome when he lost his house. Last year, she took on three neglected elder/crippled goats from a state neglect case and is always open to helping such cases if she can. In her 15 years of helping elder animals, many come to her as hospice cases and she finds this part of her work very spiritual and affirming.
Katherine has always had a fondness for animals, farm and elders. “I don’t know why, but even as a child I gravitated to elders. They have stories and insights into life, and death.”
The farm is not open to the public accept by appointment.
You can see the animals, the farm and also see how you can help or donate at the blog http://www.apiferafarm.blogspot.com. If you have an animal that needs rehoming, or people that would benefit from animal therapy visits, please contact Katherine at email@example.com. Her art and books other work can be seen at http://www.katherinedunn.us.
Apifera (pronounced App-a-fair-a) became a 501(c)(3) in August of 2017.