Karl Schoenrock of Kismet Creek Farm in Steinbach started his petting zoo and sanctuary over five years ago.
The animals that he takes in, he keeps for their entire lives. His goal is to educate the community about farm animals and provide an opportunity to get “up close and personal with them.”
Schoenrock especially believes in the importance of providing youth with an experience with animals.
“Every little local farm, small farm, grandma and grandpa's farm, they're disappearing. They're getting bought up, they're getting moved. Kids don't have that resource where they can get up close and personal with the animals and learn about them,”
Aside from learning all about animals, a calming experience comes as well.
“Anybody who does come down to the farm, they immediately feel relaxed. You go in with my sheep, goats, alpacas, llama, and miniature horse, and you just calm right down because they're not aggressive. People think they might be because they have horns or something like that,” Schoenrock says, “Once you get in there with the animals, you'll actually see them coming up to you because they want your attention. As soon as you give it to them, I've seen it thousands of times on people's faces, light up and they enjoy the experience. They just make everybody feel great every time they do come,”
Schoenrock explains that the pandemic and rising costs impacted them negatively. On top of that, the cold weather is their “slowest part of the year.” He has struggled to keep the non-profit farm open and had to let go of an important memory.
“It has been tough, so I recently had to sell my dad's last tractor. I've been selling stuff over the years, just not needing it. This old tractor I wanted to restore and my dad bought it brand new for our dairy farm. When the farm got sold, I wanted to keep it. I had the engine restored. I wanted this to be a little showpiece, a little memory of my dad, but the farm itself in a hole is more important,” Schoenrock says. “I want this farm to continue on, so if I have to lose a piece of my memories that I see every day, I will let it go because I think it is more important that kids have access to these farm animals and learn about them. They are our food, but we can learn about them, we can understand them, give an unbiased approach, and people can make up their own mind,”
After the community heard about the farm’s struggles, Schoenrock was “blown away” by the response he received.
“Donations coming in, and people coming even last Sunday when the wind was blowing and it was cold. That was one of my best days so far and it is fantastic seeing that support, seeing some of the familiar faces that come there. I want this to be the local farm people can go to, bring your kids down, let them play. I want to be around for as long as possible,” Schoenrock says.
For those who want to get involved, Schoenrock adds that he is seeking volunteers. He hopes that donations, grants and visits from the community will allow him to keep the farm available for many years to come.
With files from Corny Rempel.