The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced Arion Therapeutic Farm’s owner to make a difficult decision, but Heather Henderson said they’re looking at this as a new opportunity.
Henderson said the pandemic cut their revenue by more than 50 per cent and it has become harder to make ends meet. She said the farm barely breaks even in a good year but as long as they were able to provide a safe space for both people and animals, that was all that mattered.
But she wanted to do the right thing by the animals and by the people, so she decided relocating would be the best move instead of worrying about being able to afford the cost of the property or worse — closing.
“We’re not a responsible social enterprise if we struggle, drowning in the red,” she said.
“Some of our largest overheads are feeding our animals, so if there was a location that had a hayfield attached to it in an area that is less costly, that would be ideal.”
The animal sanctuary is now on the market for a new site, with hopes of moving before winter comes and snow sets in.
Summers are usually busy at Arion but as people sheltered in place, the farm saw revenues drop. The farm also operates a bed and breakfast but was unable to open it this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Physical distancing, while easy at an acreage, became a disadvantage as the farm’s therapy clients stopped coming for fear of close proximity to therapy instructors.
Henderson said relocating has made staff and volunteers sad, as they have all made memories at the current site.
“There are a lot of memories, and a lot of lives impacted too. Thousands and thousands of people have had their lives touched here.”
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t make new memories or touch more lives in a new location.”
Long-time volunteer Lyn Demchuk said she hopes to tag along when the farm relocates so she can see the story continue.
“It’s hard to put into words what (volunteering here) has brought me because it has brought me so much on so many levels,” she said.
“I still want to help out because if I don’t, I really will miss helping out here. COVID really was the last straw for Arion, and we’re just hoping people keep supporting us.”