PUBLIC PROFILE: Megan Flowers, Executive Director, Sanctuary One
Rogue Valley Messenger: Sanctuary One takes care of cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and even alpacas. What is the oddest animal you have been requested to take care of?
Megan Flowers: We bring in companion and farm animals, but recently someone asked us to take in a buffalo. Unfortunately, we weren’t a great fit for him, but he found a lovely home in Northern Oregon, so it all worked out for the best.
RVM: What is the most common reason that animals end up in your care?
MF: Animals come to Sanctuary One through our partnerships with animal rescue agencies, like county shelters, humane societies, and animal sanctuaries, as well as through law enforcement neglect and abuse cases. We act as a resource for law enforcement, who have few resources for rescuing farm animals, and a release valve for other animal agencies. In 2017, we took in 28 alpacas from one of our nonprofit partners in Washington. In one abuse case alone she took in 30 alpacas. She tells us that without us to help her find homes for her rescues, she wouldn’t be able to continue her work.
RVM: But the space isn’t just about taking care of animals. There is a healing component for people as well, correct?
MF: Providing a refuge for animals is only a third of our mission. As a care farm we’re about finding opportunities for mutual healing for both animals and people. Care farms are amazing non-clinical therapy sites. In Europe you can actually get prescriptions to go work on a care farm. Working on the farm has both mental and physical health benefits. Even volunteers have told us the farm has become a sanctuary for them too. Whether it’s through our service learning, field trips, Farm Flow yoga retreats, internships or other programs, Sanctuary One is a care farm dedicated to healing.
RVM: Sanctuary One is a massive garden. What is grown there? Is all the food grown there consumed by the animals?
MF: If you mean consumed by squirrels, we definitely have that happening! We do give some of our produce to our farm animals for enrichment, but the majority of what we grow in our learning garden is donated to the ACCESS food bank system. Between our volunteers and service learning partners (Maslow Project and veterans at the VA to name just two) we were able to donate nearly 500 pounds of food last year. Our garden is the third piece of our mission: earth care. It provides the stage for our horticultural therapy. We strive to connect people to the earth through our organic and permaculture-inspired farming practices. Together our three mission parts, people, animals, and the earth, make up our care farm.
RVM: What does an alpaca eat?
MF: Hay for the most part, and sometimes vitamin and mineral supplement pellets. They’re fantastic pasture pets to adopt.
RVM: Sanctuary One was the country’s first “care farm.” That was more than a decade ago. Have more opened since then? And, how have attitudes towards or about “care farms” changed since then?
MF: Over the years we’ve had several groups come to Sanctuary One to study our care farm model. They’ve gone on and created their own care farm that uniquely speak to their communities’ needs. It’s really fantastic. The Sanctuary One founders hoped to motivate visitors and, ultimately, inspire more Americans to start up care farms in their communities, which is exactly what’s happened.
RVM: Did you have an animal that was important to you in your childhood?
MF: Dogs have been in my life before I could walk. In middle school we moved to the country and we added rabbits, cats, turkeys, geese, and chickens to the family. They each had such unique personalities. There’s something truly special about animals in our youth. They shape who we become. They are our keeper of secrets and co-adventurers. My childhood pets hold a dear place in my heart.
RVM: What is your favorite event at Sanctuary One?
MF: Without a doubt Volunteer Week is my favorite annual event. This is our third year and we love seeing people come back each year. Each April (the 7-13 this year) we have folks come out for a day and help with projects around the farm. It’s a big work party. We host lunch, have event t-shirts and people get to meet animals and make a positive impact. At the end of the week each year I’m utterly drained, and completely pumped up at the same time. We have an amazing community here in the Rogue Valley and I’m always grateful of how much support we receive.