Saturday, Oct. 6 is Misfit Love Day at Apifera Farm in Bremen, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. This will be an open farm event and fundraiser for the nonprofit farm. The farm adopts elder/special needs animals, but also shares them with elder people.
Misfit Love Day is the nonprofit farm’s first public event and fundraiser.
Money will go to help feed and maintain the elder/special needs creatures the farm takes in for life, but will also help with the outreach mission of sharing animals with elder homes.
Money raised helps feed/maintain the adopted elder/special needs creatures — goats, donkeys, pigs, cats, and a “love llama.”
No pets are allowed, there is no smoking, and children must be chaperoned.
Apifera Farm is located at 315 Waldoboro Road, Bremen, and online at apiferafarm.blogspot.com.
For the past year, Apifera Farm has been quietly sharing its many animals with elder people in the 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 Midcoast Maine in 2016 that Katherine Dunn knew she could make this a 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 1, 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 is healing to all ages, and simply wants to share her animals to bring comfort and joy. Many facilities cannot have animals, and she knows how sad that is for many people. She also has seen firsthand 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,” said Dunn.
As they became more settled in Bremen, Katherine and Martyn Dunn 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 among nature and community. They even took a 1 ½-hour drive down to the Vicarage by the Sea in Harpswell, a private home helping dementia residents, and there are upcoming visits with The Lincoln Home scheduled.
Late this summer, the farm also had the elder residents come to the farm to sit with the animals in an area where the menagerie of elder/crippled goats meander. Katherine Dunn 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 Katherine 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,” she said. 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 visit 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,” Dunn said.
Katherine Dunn does not charge for any of her work with elder people, or for 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 the farm has had in the area. “I wanted to be here for a while, and show the area that I am committed to our vision, so I have been a little quiet about tooting our horn,” said Katherine Dunn. She is a nationally recognized artist and 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,” Dunn said. “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 in 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 said 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 Dunn 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.
Katherine Dunn has many plans for growing the nonprofit. She would like to increase the pasture space, which requires cutting some of the forest on the 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 among 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 donkey, 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 Dunn 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 Dunn has always had a fondness for animals, farms, 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,” she said.
The farm is not open to the public except by appointment.
One can see the animals and the farm and also see how one can help or donate at the blog apiferafarm.blogspot.com.
Note: If you have an animal that needs rehoming, or people that would benefit from animal therapy visits, please contact Katherine Dunn at email@example.com. Her art and books other work can be seen at katherinedunn.us.
Apifera (pronounced “app-a-fair-a”) became a 501(c)(3) in August 2017.