Chickens going to elementary school helped lead to a book called Forever Farm.
When Jamie Bentley, a Salmon Arm Secondary Grade 12 student, describes what prompted her to write a book, she speaks of her early love for animals.
She explains how the presence of animals helped calm her extreme anxiety when she was a little girl. How, with the approval of her early teachers, her mom would bring a few young chickens along when she took Jamie to North Shuswap Elementary. The chickens would visit the classroom for the first 10 or 15 minutes of class, giving Jamie and other kids a chance to hold or pet them. They might stay for a story or some other chicken-friendly activity.
The chickens would also accompany her mom when she picked up Jamie after school. This all helped ease Jamie’s anxiety for the first couple of years of school, and the feathered guests clucked their way into the hearts of other students too.
As Jamie got older, the number and variety of rescue animals her family acquired on their nearly 200-acre farm in Celista grew. Goats, pigs, cows, horses and more.
When she was about eight or nine, she and her siblings saw an ad on television for Earth Rangers, who were raising money for animals threatened with extinction. The children decided to raise money for Earth Rangers as well as the SPCA.
They had a little red barn built on a trailer, their ‘Mobile Barn,’ which they would take every week to the Celista Farmers Market with three goats and five or six chickens.
“It was pretty comical; every time we’d show up, we’d have the three goats on our laps – they didn’t want to sit on the mobile barn,” she laughs.
Jamie and her siblings would teach kids who came by how to hold and pet the animals properly. They had a donation jar nearby to support their two causes.
“The market really brought joy and happiness to others, kids out of town or tourists who had never seen how friendly animals could be. Especially roosters, as roosters are known for being vicious,” she said.
After three summers, with their goats much bigger, they decided to stop going to the market and instead provide tours of their farm with its horses, cows, pigs, bunnies, chickens, goats and llamas.
Jamie continued to spend lots of time with the animals, even playing her ukulele for them.
“It was a really happy place. I decided I wanted to start fundraising for our animals.”
She said people would drop off chickens in their driveway and drive away. Once someone walked a horse over to their house and asked if they would take her. They did.
Jamie started writing stories about the animals for her online English class. Her English teacher began reading them and he loved them, she said.
Then she had to choose a Capstone, a “passion project,” before Grade 12 graduation. She decided to create a book with stories from the animals’ point of view. Although she had written several already, she needed a few more.
Jamie started this past summer and her book, Forever Farm, Our Story, was published in early October. She has sold all 50 copies printed, so she has ordered another printing, which should be available within a week.
Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of the book is asked to email Jamie at email@example.com.
Proceeds will go to help pay for all the animals her family now supports. She says it costs about $10,000 per year to pay for feed and vet bills. While she says her parents are supportive of the animals and really love them, it is difficult financially. Future plans include renovating a cabin on the land and offering ‘farm stays.’
Jamie does a quick count off the top of her head. The farm is home to about 70 chickens, 27 cows, four horses, two llamas, three pigs, three goats, four cats, one dog and a pet mouse name Bo Jingles – named from the Green Mile movie.
In fact, 90 per cent of the animals have names. Some of her chicken favourites include Dixie Chick – she’s grey and gold with fluffy cheeks, Inspector – an old rooster and Tyrant – a grumpy looking hen.
Jamie hopes to make a Part 2 of the book as she has many more stories. Her plan is also to become an occupational therapist, where she can include animals in her work.
Although Jamie still struggles with anxiety, it eases when she takes care of the animals.
“One thing I really like to emphasize is animals are part of a family, especially on our farm… They’ve got feelings and they’re special. They can be a big part of other people’s lives if they learn how to love them and care for them.”
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