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Meet Karen Snook of Kindred Spirits Care Farm in San Fernando Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Snook.

It all started long long ago in a faraway place called Los Altos, California. A skinny little blonde girl was not athletic or pretty and preferred to spend her time watching bugs and butterflies rather than playing with other children.

Fast forward a few decades. Along the way, there was school, a science degree from UCLA, an MBA from Pepperdine, and far too much time spent in corporate offices for a girl whose only ambition was to continue watching butterflies and squirrels and bats and any other natural creature.

In 2008, she decided to leave corporate America and help the animals she loved so dearly. She got a job as Executive Director of an animal advocacy organization and from that experience, she figured out what she really wanted to do. Its called running a care farm. Care farms are places that help people heal from traumas and troubles through working with animals and gardens.

So, in 2013 she and a couple of friends started Kindred Spirits Care Farm. Our first project was a 1-acre farm on the grounds of a high school for at-risk kids. It was the perfect place for our first care farm because we had no money, no land and no animals of our own. We could help the school with their farm and the at-risk kids were our perfect introduction into how to benefit people by putting them in touch with gardens, plants and animals.

Our goal is to help more schools establish sustainable care farms at their schools and learn permaculture principles in the process. In our 7 years at the school, we have learned a lot including that schools can be difficult, a principal can end your program at any time and you have no recourse. So we bought a ranch in Chatsworth to ensure that all our animals would always have a safe place to go if/when a school program closed and the animals had to leave.

The ranch is wonderful. 7-acres of trees and peace. It adds a whole new dimension to our ability to promote compassion, cooperation and connection with the earth, animals and each other through sustainable care farming.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Smooth road?? Hah! I could probably write a book on our struggles with school administrators, corrupt non-profits, animal abandonment issues, veterinary bills, finding vets who will perform brain surgery on a chicken, or orthopedic surgery on an alpaca.

But in this book, I would also have to write about the amazing students I have had the honor to work with, the volunteers who have saved the day over and over and over. I would have to try to capture the magic that happens when someone’s heart opens because some animal has touched their heart in a way that never happened before. It is that magic that gets me going every morning.

Please tell us about Kindred Spirits Care Farm.
Kindred Spirits Care Farm is the dream of a better world. When we look around, we see people who are overwhelmed, hurt, isolated and lost. Even with all the technology we have, and maybe because of all the technology we have, we have lost our connection to the earth, animals and each other. We have become our emojis and our online avatars and that is heartbreaking to a girl who has always revered the earth and the magic of natural beauty and how it feeds our soul.

Kindred Spirits Care Farm was created to try to bring that connection back to people and help them heal from whatever hurts them by connecting them back to the real world, to the miracles of nature, plants, animals and true interaction with others. We don’t claim to be healers. We don’t have to be. All we have to do is create the opportunity for the magic to happen and the animals and the earth do the rest. And it works. As a matter of fact, there are hundreds of care farms of various types in Western Europe, and they have done studies that prove they work to soothe and heal the human spirit.

But we are the only sustainable, urban, care farm I’ve ever heard of. We are the only organization I know of that works with schools to promote the healing that animals and gardens can bring. Lots of organizations do school gardens but we do rescue farms. The animals are healers and ambassadors, never products.

We started at a school, and we will continue with schools, but we are an organization that establishes and promotes sustainable care farming. We can work anywhere there is space and willingness to do the work. We now have a ranch and are open to helping establish sustainable care farms anywhere they are needed.

We are also a non-profit organization that runs entirely on donations and are always on the look out for compassionate people who would like to join us on our journey.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory from childhood would have to be hiking alone in the mountains behind my parent’s cabin in the Sierras. Nothing better in the whole world than putting a book, some grapes and a pencil in my backpack and heading up the mountain for the day. I love to just sit on a big rock and become invisible so the real world would unfold in front of my eyes. The world without human input was magical and amazing. I could never get enough.

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