Frequently Asked Questions
About the Program
Q: What is a Care Farm?
A: Care farming is a type of therapeutic programming that combines agricultural activities with care services for a diverse range of clients. People who might benefit from this type of intervention may be referred from healthcare, community and social services sectors or from family and friends. Typical clients are neurodivergent (i.e. they have different brains) and may be people with psychiatric conditions, addictions, mental health concerns, intellectual disabilities and differences, children with autism, and people with dementia.
In our case, Green Care Farms is the first program in Canada to focus specifically on providing a care farm for people with dementia on an operational farm.
Q: How do I know if I’m right for Green Care Farms? Is there eligibility criteria to become a member?
A: Although we would love to serve all kinds of people at Green Care Farms, at this stage we are seeking members who meet the following criteria:
Any age living with a cognitive impairment or neurocognitive disorder (e.g. dementia, Alzheimer’s, memory loss)
Physically mobile and can walk and sit/stand with a maximum of 1 person assist
Enjoys outdoor activities, spending time outdoors, and/or had a career working outdoors (e.g. farmers, gardeners, environmentalists)
Able to take any medication required independently (we can cue or remind)
Able to eat and drink independently
There are very few programs that support people with early onset dementia and we are committed to a program that is also inclusive of folks diagnosed at younger ages. There is a lot of physical activation and movement in the program so the biggest factor is mobility/physical function over age. Right now with the farm terrain it would be very tricky for wheels (i.e. wheelchairs/walkers). With that said, if a member would benefit from the program and has some mobility, please reach out to us!
Q: What happens during the Green Care Farms’ program?
A: At this stage, our program operates one day a week for five hours. Our programming during the day includes: coffee circle, planning tasks for the day, taking “look and listen” walks, enjoying a catered lunch and plenty of time spent in our half acre Sensory Garden. Please see Program Link for more details: https://www.carefarmscanada.com/our-programs
Q: How long does the Green Care Farms’ program run for?
A: At this stage, we are operating from May to the end of September 2022. We hope to be able to continue programming into an all-season opportunity with a greenhouse someday - more to come!
Q: Are there animals at the farm?
A: Andrews Farm does have several farm animals which include: sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, chickens and a very loud rooster! They live in pens on the farm and our members are welcome to check them out but there is no petting or direct access to their pens.
Q: Does a member with dementia need to have experience with gardening or farming to attend or benefit from the program?
A: Although members with gardening or farming backgrounds will be the most likely group to benefit from our program, the program would benefit anyone! The cognitive benefits of Green Care Farming come from being within a meaningful context of place and tasks, allowing members to engage in purposeful vocation that they would otherwise not have access to. We welcome people of all interests and backgrounds, and provide flexible space for active involvement in agricultural activities, quiet reflection, socialization, and other levels of engagement in healthy and purposeful activities on the farm.
Q: Is care farming for people with dementia an evidence based model?
A: The answer is an enthusiastic YES! There is research from all around the world that shows the benefits of care farming. This type of program supports participants to build cognitive resilience, keep people physically active and provides respite to care partners. Green Care Farms has gathered 47 citations overviewing the evidence which demonstrates benefits of green care farms. Check out more on the benefits of care farming for people with dementia here: https://www.carefarmscanada.com/research
Q: How do members get to the program? Do you provide transportation?
A: At this time, Green Care Farms does not provide transportation, so members and their care partners are responsible for organizing their own transportation to and from Andrew’s Farm Market and Winery. There are a number of special transit services in Halton Region for older adults with disabilities (which includes people with dementia) which you access here.
Q: What can you tell us about safety for members with dementia?
A: There is a level of risk when engaging in any outdoor-based activities where the terrain may be uneven or there are other risks present. Green Care Farms is no exception. We embrace a ‘risk tolerant’ perspective and prioritize quality of life and engagement in activities that provide joy to members. We are careful and ensure that members are supported with staff and completing tasks they are comfortable with. Even so, accidents happen, and members and care partners must be aware of the potential risks that may arise in participating in Green Care Farms programs.
To mitigate concerns for ‘wandering’ we have a staffing ratio of 3:1 and limit the number of daily participants to 12. This group will stick closely together throughout the day. The farm terrain is relatively flat and there is great visibility to see if a person has walked away from the program area. Farm staff know to redirect members back to the program should they be seen alone unaccompanied elsewhere on the farm.
About Equity and Inclusion
Q: How does Green Care Farms welcome people from equity-deserving backgrounds, such as Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, or people from the 2SLGBTQ+ community?
A: We work to support and welcome people from equity-deserving backgrounds by centring principles of social justice and equity in the work that we do. Our trained clinical and administrative staff create and follow personalized care plans for each member to help them get the most they can out of the program. We also closely align our services with the Provincial Home Care Bill of Rights.
Q: My loved one doesn’t speak much English. Will they still be able to be supported in the program?
A: Although staff will be communicating with members entirely in English, the therapeutic benefits of the program and time spent on the farm should be available to everyone. If a member does not speak English, staff will do their best to set up a communication plan that accommodates their needs and promotes program benefits.
About the Sensory Garden
Q: What happens to the produce (veggies, fruits and herbs) and flowers grown in the Sensory Garden?
A: Our members will receive a weekly share of vegetables, fruits and flowers that have been cultivated from the garden as they are ready to harvest. All other excess produce will be donated to the Food for Life local food bank.
Q: What is the Sensory Garden?
A: Our farm partner has generously provided us with a half acre plot that our members are invited to help to design, plant and harvest whatever they would like for the season. Daily tasks in the garden and otherwise on the farm, are suggested
About the Company
Q: Green Care Farms is a “social enterprise”; is that different from a business?
A: Green Care Farms is a social enterprise (social purpose) business. In Ontario, at this time, this type of incorporation is considered solely for profit. British Columbia is the only province in Canada to-date to recognize social enterprises with separate legal considerations. Read more here: What is a social enterprise? https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/053.nsf/eng/h_00006.html#s1
Q: Does Green Care Farms have partnerships with other organizations?
A: We are pleased to partner and collaborate with several groups and organizations in the community. To read more about our work with them please see Collaborators link: https://www.carefarmscanada.com/our-collaborators
Q: I think programs for people with dementia should be free, why does this program cost money for participants?
A: Green Care Farms is committed to providing a unique experience and specialized service for people with dementia. Rebekah, our Founder, was motivated to create a business that would support people in early and later stages of dementia progression when her family found there with minimal public support available for her grandparents. Our fee-for-service model enables us to get nature-based programming for people with dementia quickly. and we are proud to have a wonderful partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Brant, Haldimand Norfolk, Hamilton Halton (ASBHNHH) that provides subsidies for members who are unable to pay the entire fee.
Green Care Farms eagerly awaits progress on the exciting trends of social prescription that are gaining traction across Canada and are open to working with partners on shaping our service model to benefit our members.
While we do not have a formal subsidy process, if you know someone who would benefit from the program and cost is a barrier, please contact us!
Q: I am interested in volunteering with Green Care Farms, are there volunteering opportunities?
A: At this time, we are gathering interested volunteers to help us make the Sensory Garden beautiful! We seek to provide the best program possible for our members. We appreciate your interest and would love to sort out how we might include you.
Please connect with us and give us an idea of the type of skills you are thinking of using (or building) via Green Care Farms volunteer work. We would be happy to connect further to discuss what experience might be meaningful to you.
Q: I want to make a donation, can I donate to Green Care Farms?
A: As a social enterprise, Green Care Farms is not able to accept donations. Through our wonderful partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Brant, Haldimand Norfolk, Hamilton Halton (ASBHNHH) we have a donor-advised fund (i.e. memo: Green Care Farms).
Q: Green Care Farms’ vision says “A Green Care Farm for people with dementia in every community in Canada” and I only see one program site, will there be more?
A: In short, yes! Our first Green Care Farms location at Andrews Farm in Milton, Ontario launched in Summer 2022. We are looking forward to expanding into our vision in the near future. If you know of a farmer who would like to host a Green Care Farm program in Southwestern Ontario, please let us know!
Q: How can I connect with Green Care Farms about collaborations or partnership opportunities?
A: We are always interested in connecting with others who are doing work to support seniors. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to give us an idea of what you are interested in and we will take it from there!
Q: I still have more detailed questions, what should I do?
A: Get in touch with us! If you have someone in mind for the program, Green Care Farms usually begins with a consultation call with an interested person (or their family member) to determine if it is right for them. At the next stage in the process, we send each member a personalized Welcome Package.