Update on Windreach Farm's Operations due to COVID-19. MORE INFO

A Message from the Executive Director – August 2020

It’s hard to believe that another 3 months have flown by! 2020 sure has been a different year for all of us. However, despite all of the obvious drawbacks of having to deal with the effects of a global pandemic, there have been some silver linings. I, personally, have noticed that people seem to be more caring, compassionate and patient with each other. Many people have found a slower, healthier pace of life. And it seems that everyone is spending a great deal more time outdoors. We have been forced to be nimble and creative and that has allowed us to discover new ways to interact with our stakeholders, such as the drive-thru experiences we have been offering at the Farm in recent months.

As we reach the halfway point of the summer, we are excited to announce that we are easing back most of our programs. The therapeutic riding program has already welcomed back a handful of riders, and will be opening up further for the Fall session in September. The Community Participation program has seen some of its participants return and is ready to accommodate more. The Learning for Life program has been connecting with participants virtually, but will be bringing back small in-person groups beginning the week of August 10th. Our day visit program is now welcoming groups of up to 20 individuals to come up to the Farm for scheduled visits. Our horticultural therapy program is once again booking in-person sessions. Our mobile outreach program, Beyond the Farm Gate is available to book for outdoor visits to your facility. We are also entertaining requests for small, outdoor facility rentals. We are evaluating each on a case-by-case basis, so cannot guarantee that we will move forward with all requests, but please get in touch with us by emailing information@windreachfarm.org if you are looking for an outdoor venue for your event.

Woven into the return of all of these programs are some new health and safety protocols. We have developed a set of hygiene procedures that must be followed by all staff, volunteers, and visitors in order to ensure everyone’s safety. These procedures include the need to wear masks when indoors (unless exempt under one of the conditions recognized by the Region), and the need for every visitor to the Farm to complete a series of screening questions each day before they leave their home to come to the Farm.

The programs and services that we are not bringing back yet include the overnight visitor program and open house events. Gatherings with the volume of individuals that attend open house events are still considered too risky at this point, and the immersive nature of the overnight visitor program, and the associated cleaning procedures, are something we are choosing to hold off on until a later date. We will be sure to keep you apprised as more restrictions are lifted and our programs start to expand again.

It is refreshing to feel like we are turning a corner on COVID-19 and getting back to changing lives and delivering on our mission. However, as we do so, we need to keep the lessons we have learned throughout these past few months close at hand and proceed with caution for the health and safety of all of our stakeholders. With that in mind, I would like to publicly recognize the resiliency, hard work and positivity of the WindReach staff and volunteers in helping to keep the Farm running and providing service to our participants throughout these trying times.

Ross Ste-Croix
Executive Director
WindReach Farm

A Message from the Executive Director – May 2020

Well…here we are. It’s a rather unprecedented time in all of our lives. Like many other businesses, not-for-profits and charities in our province, country, and the world, the Farm had to temporarily close its doors, or rather our gates, in response to COVID-19. Our new reality is holing up at home, washing our hands constantly, and walking our dogs seven times a day. With everything going on, it is easy to focus on the negatives: fearing the disease, and wondering how the economy will bounce back, and when we can visit and hold our loved ones again. While all of those are very real concerns, you can just as easily focus on the positives. Never before have we been so aware of the heroes that walk amongst us every day; the doctors, nurses, and front-line workers of all kinds that put the rest of us first every day to ensure that we can live the lives we are all missing right now.

WindReach Farm is a place that was founded to provide hope and to change lives for the better. We take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, focusing on life’s simple pleasures and the difference that a little kindness and compassion can make in someone’s life. We are now six weeks into the closure at the Farm and while I miss the banging of drums from the Learning for Life program, the chatter and laughter of our participants, and the smiling faces of our 300+ volunteers, I have been touched by the positive attitude and selfless gestures of our WindReach family every day.

Despite our limited ability to offer traditional programming right now, our staff have been finding creative ways to stay in touch with our stakeholders. Our horticultural therapist has been offering remote sessions to some of the groups she typically works with; our cleaner has been volunteering his time to feed and care for the animals; our Learning for Life staff have found time to offer virtual sessions with our adult day program participants; and our Beyond the Farm Gate Coordinator has been managing our social media accounts and incubating eggs laid at the Farm.

All of the animals here are doing well and the staff and volunteers that are here throughout the closure are working hard to keep the Farm just the way you know and love it so we can welcome everyone back soon. We can, and will, get back to what we do best, but we could definitely use your help to do so. We have been very fortunate to receive support during this time from some of our most dedicated partners: Ontario Power Generation, the Honda Canada Foundation, TD, and the Pickering Mayor’s Gala. If you are able to support the Farm in any way, please click on the Donate button on this site. Every little bit helps to keep caring for the animals and keep the Farm in a ready state to return stronger than ever.

As we continue to navigate back to “normal”, there will be days where you may feel anxious, or scared, or down. In those times, I would encourage you to think about what it is that you enjoy so much about WindReach Farm. Everyone that comes to the Farm believes in what is possible, and finds peace and happiness in the simple pleasures in life. Focus on those simple pleasures and do what you can to change others’ lives for the better. Call your families, enjoy the extra time with the loved ones you live with, and take the time to learn a new language, cook, whatever you’ve always wanted to do and never had the time. The animals and people that you miss at WindReach will be here to welcome you back soon.

Ross Ste-Croix
Executive Director
WindReach Farm

A Message from the Executive Director – February 2020

It’s hard to believe that we are already a full month into 2020! Last year we celebrated our first 30 years. This year we begin to shape the next 30. We completed a strategic planning process last year and now have a plan in place for 2020-22 that will guide our decisions and priorities over the next 3 years. The most important element of that plan is to put the supports in place to ensure the sustainability of the Farm long into the future. That means program growth and establishing partnerships with strong community partners. It means getting a better sense of where in the Region there are folks that could benefit from our programs and services and connecting with them. It also means assessing the work that we do to ensure that we can measure progress made by our program participants.

In 2020, we will be hosting our usual compliment of special events, including Founder’s Day, which will have a forestry theme and feature a lumberjack show. Dates and more details for these events will be shared throughout the year. We will also be examining our approach to special events and conceptualizing a multi-year event plan for the years to come. If you have any ideas for new events or new approaches to existing events, please share them with us. We value your input!

We want to put more of a focus on recognition in 2020 and, as such, Kelly Taylor, our Volunteer and Operations Manager has added a Volunteer Spotlight feature on our website. Check out the volunteer page of the site for the first two installments, and check back at the start of every month to learn about someone new!

We will also be launching a new website later this year, so stay tuned for that! The plan is for the new site to be more modern, interactive, accessible, and user-friendly, allowing our stakeholders to get to the information they are looking for in a more efficient manner. An announcement will be circulated in conjunction with the launch.

The Canada Summer Jobs grant has just opened again and we will be applying for a variety of summer positions. If you, or someone you know, will be between the ages of 15 and 30 this summer and are interested in a job at the Farm, let us know! Applications can be sent to info@windreachfarm.org.

As part of our sustainability strategy, we want to make better use of the land at our fingertips on evenings and weekends. If you have a special event coming up and are looking for an idyllic space to host it, please contact us at information@windreachfarm.org or 905.655.5827 x228 to discuss hosting your event at the Farm.

Finally, if you work for an organization that gives back to the community in any way, please let us know. We are always looking for new partners, grant opportunities and chances to bring companies out for a Corporate Work Day at the Farm. For more information on Corporate Work Days, please contact kelly.taylor@windreachfarm.org or 905.655.5827 x225.

I look forward to updating you on the progress of our plans in the Spring. In the meantime, throw on some warm clothes and come on out and see how beautiful the Farm is in the wintertime!

Ross Ste-Croix
Executive Director
WindReach Farm

A Message from the Executive Director – November 2019

As the days grow shorter and we near the end of our 30th year, I would like to take a moment to thank not only everyone that has contributed to the Farm this year, but everyone who has supported the Farm over the past 30 years to help us inspire, empower and change thousands of lives.

We celebrated our 30th anniversary in style this past June, hosting 1,900 people at the farm for our biggest open house of the year, highlighted by three performances by the President’s Choice SuperDogs. We also welcomed 200+ visitors to the Farm for our annual Swing into Spring event in April and another 300 this past month for the Halloween Spooktacular. We hope to see even more folks on Saturday, December 7th at the Holly Jolly Jubilee.

It was a banner year for participation at the Farm, with many of our programs setting new attendance records. Over four seasons, we had 132 participants in our Community Participation Program; we eclipsed 50 participants/week in the Learning for Life program; we taught lessons to 424 riders in the therapeutic riding program; and, at last count, we have 337 active volunteers!

As we prepare to embark upon the next 30 years, we are taking the opportunity to check in on what we are doing well and where we have room for improvement. We sent out a survey to all of our stakeholders that closed on October 31st that will help us to see where we can be better at meeting our participants’ needs and setting up our staff and volunteers for success. We are also in the midst of completing a new strategic plan for 2020-22. While not yet finished, major themes of the plan will be greater financial sustainability; an improved marketing and communications strategy; and program optimization through a better understanding of our capacity, resources needed, and feedback accumulated through program assessments.

As we prepare to close the book on 2019 and put pen to paper on the first chapter of the next 30 years, it will be imperative that we all continue to communicate and work together. WindReach Farm has become the supportive, life-enriching place that it is because of the heart and dedication of all the staff and volunteers and the ever-amazing participants we serve that make us all want to do better every day. Please keep your ideas coming and let’s continue to support each other as we strive to ensure that WindReach Farm is still here 30 years from now.

Ross Ste-Croix
Executive Director
WindReach Farm