Harmony Farm Sanctuary offers hope and help in Sisters
Last updated 9/20/2022 at Noon
At Harmony Farm Sanctuary, rescued animals enjoy each other’s company. They eat good food and receive loving care from human beings.
As with people, the effects of neglect and abuse can be profound among non-human animals. Acts of kindness and generosity show profound results. Walking among the rehabilitated or recovering animals inspires a special kind of joy.
Harmony Farm used to be located a few blocks from Sisters Elementary—fairly close to Fir Street Park. That’s where the sanctuary will have a booth this Sunday, during the Fur on Fir event at Sisters Farmers Market.
“I feel excited to be part of the event with the other nonprofits,” said Harmony Farm founder Robine Bots.
Fur on Fir takes place Sunday, September 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (See related story, page 3.)
Bots moved the farm to a larger location early in the COVID era.
“We are over off of Fryrear now,” she explained. “It’s big and beautiful and it’s well organized. I feel like we’ve got a really great team.”
The organization is 100 percent volunteer based. Bots donates her time, and describes the board of directors as “amazing.” Harmony Farm runs on the dedication of many volunteers, currently estimated at about sixty.
Bots works full-time as a therapist for people. Though she takes care to keep her therapy job separate from the nonprofit, her background helps animals and humans alike.
Animal-based therapy and skills development are popular in Central Oregon, and Harmony Farm Sanctuary is part of the movement. “We partner with the Life Skills and Transitions programs in Sisters schools,” said Bots.
Other partners include parks and recreation programs, residential therapeutic boarding schools, Friends of the Children, and Central Oregon Partnerships for Youth.
“We’ve also got some young people that work here, with a program that helps vulnerable, transitional-age youth,” she elaborated. The organization, Youth Rising, enables paid internships through its YouthForce workforce development program. It operates in several primarily rural counties in Oregon.
Running a sanctuary for horses, pigs, rabbits, and more requires great dedication of energy and time. What inspires Bots?
“I would say I do it for the animals,” she said. “It’s helping give a voice to animals that can’t speak.”
She gets phone calls five or six times a week, asking the farm to “take in animals that are abused or neglected or no longer wanted.”
In addition to taking in many animals, Bots also works behind the scenes to find homes for unwanted animals that never set foot on the property.
“We can’t take in more animals than we can afford to properly take care of,” she said. She tries to match them with individuals and with other sanctuaries; Bots estimates that at least 30 new sanctuaries have popped up around the Northwest in the last few years.
Harmony Farm gets many requests for pigs and roosters. People buy piglets advertised as “teacup pigs,” not realizing that they will grow into large, intelligent, and socially complex mammals.
Many pet pigs end up neglected or abused. Bots estimates that 98 percent of people who buy pigs as pets end up re-homing them within two years.
Roosters come as a casualty of raising chickens on hobby farms or in the city limits. Some city regulations and homeowners associations specifically allow hens but not roosters, which tend to be very loud.
“Especially during COVID, people were breeding chicks at home,” Bots explained. “A lot of time people dump [the males] in the woods, where people think they’re going to be a meal for a coyote.”
The roosters often survive for months, slowly starving.
“One summer I picked up like 17 roosters out of the woods,” said Bots.
Harmony Farm Sanctuary rescues a wide variety of animals, creating a small herd of therapy horses and friendly pigs, among others.
Private farm tours and merchandise sales help raise funds for the animals’ care and feeding.
“If people love animals and want to come see animals living their best lives, we invite them to come out and visit,” said Bots. “And we’re always looking for volunteers — animal lovers.”
More information is available at harmonyfarmsanctuary.com, or come to Sisters Farmers Market this Sunday to meet Bots in person.