Chanute native raises therapy rescue animals
A former Chanute resident is rescuing donkeys to become therapy animals, supported by sales of organic fruit and vegetable juices in the Kansas City area.
During the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Kate Barker is also supplying her energy drinks to health care providers and other workers on the frontlines.
Barker, the daughter of Robert and Gay Barker, has five donkeys and two horses with her organization Zen Donkey Farms. She is trying to rescue the animals and also raise awareness about the trade in donkey hides and other products. She said her purpose is not the same as other large animal rescues that have large herds.
“Our approach is a little different,” she said.
She trains the animals to be emotional and psychological therapy animals for children, the elderly, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Barker grew up in Chanute and graduated from Chanute High School in 2006 before attending Colorado College, a small liberal-arts college separate from Colorado University, which is also located in Colorado Springs.
Barker said she spent 20 years working with horses in equine-assisted therapy. While horseback riding provides physical therapy, Barker is working towards how clients can interact with the animals for emotional support.
She said the training is a long-term project and there are no governing bodies in the field.
“We have to basically write the entire curriculum,” Barker said. “It’s going to be a long road.”
She said they are in the testing phase and have had some children and adults at the farm.
She began the project in the summer of 2018. Shortly before, she began to grow organic vegetables and produce for her family to adopt a vegan diet, which she said was incredibly healing.
She supports Zen Donkey Farm with cold-pressed juices ordered online and delivered three days a week in the Kansas City area.
The flavors include celery, Bray of Sunshine, made with yellow squash, golden beet, apple and lemon, Earl’s Elixer, made with cucumber and beet, and Donkey Dreams, made with carrot and zucchini.
Barker said she produces from 200 to 500 bottles a day in small batches and 500 to 1,000 bottles a week. She has sold at farmers markets, which have been delayed this year, and would love to offer them in Chanute. She is currently serving several hundred households in Olathe, Shawnee and the Kansas City area from her base in Lee’s Summit.
Through donations from as far away as Minnesota and New York, she has provided some 400 of her Healer Shots energy drinks, made with pineapple, turmeric, ginger and black pepper, to health care workers at five facilities.
Barker said she needs to find more real estate for the donkeys and would love to double the size of her herd, but that depends on the juice sales. Her first two rescues were Olive and Pickles, both three-year-olds. She rescued another three-year-old, Elliot, from a breeder in Iowa. Others were rescued from petting zoos.
“We will be their forever home,” she said. “They will have jobs providing comfort to humans.”
Barker works with the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue organization in Texas to rescue animals from Mexico, where the hides are shipped to China. She has also rehomed other animals that did not have the potential as therapy animals.
People can order drinks or donate on the webpage zendonkeyfarms.com or follow on Facebook and Instagram.