By Mary Elizabeth O’Toole
Kim and Blair Davis initially began Ataraxy Farm in 2013 to help Blair deal with service-related PTSD. Ataraxy is defined as a state of calmness or peace of mind, a perfect name for a farm grounded in the therapeutic benefit of goats and equine animals. They started with two horses and now have 5 horses, 3 donkeys, 1 mule and 48 goats.
In a recent interview, Kim described how they started their farm. “We went to Alberta for a horse-therapy program for veterans where were introduced to Haflinger horse,” she said. “They are known as workhorses but they’re also wonderful therapy horses. We fell in love with their personality and temperament and started looking for one in Nova Scotia. We eventually found one in North Mountain that was originally purchased from Amish in Pennsylvania. We went to get one but ended up with two – then it built from there.”
They have chosen to grow the farm slowly. Kim told me about the next step. “We were having some coyote problems and were looking for a way to protect the horses. We were advised to get donkeys.” Blair added, “Donkey ears are very sensitive. They can hear predators much farther away than horses can. You see their ears perk up as they focus on the sound. If anything come too close, the donkeys will chase or attack with kicks.” Kim concluded, “Donkeys are very attentive and protective but also extremely gentle. Our mule is the same. They watch over the herd.”
Goats were another example of a somewhat spontaneous acquisition. “Our first goat, Fred, came when we were getting our horse, Annie,” Kim said. “The owner asked if we wanted to take the goat too because they grew up as stall mates. We took him, then figured he needed some friends, mainly so he would know he is a goat. We decided to go with dairy breeds for income potential. Most of our goats are Alpine and Toggenburgs.
Ataraxy does not slaughter its animals. To quote Kim, “If it lives here, it dies here, and gets buried here.” Their stock includes a few goats with a neurological disorder. Blair said, “Veterinarians don’t know much about it because usually goats that have it are immediately culled. Ours are two years old, so it’s a chance to learn more.”
Therapy remains the core work of the farm. Visitors have included injured veterans and members of organizations supporting mental health, like the Dartmouth Adult Services Centre (DASC)and the Eastern Shore Mental Health Association. “We started public tours a couple of months ago, and response has been really good,” Kim said. “Tours are always free. We schedule tours every weekend and can be open other times, but we limit numbers and require advance booking. Goats like routine and we don’t want to overwhelm them.”
Two years ago, Ataraxy introduced Tally’s Goats Milk Products, named after their first dairy goat – and still reigning queen of the herd. All the products are made on site with fresh, unpasteurized goat’s milk. There are no artificial colours or synthetic fragrances and are all biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
Ataraxy hopes to offer goat milk and cheese within the next year. Kim is also planning classes in milking and soap and cheese making. Watch for updates on facebook.com/ataraxyfarm
Ataraxy Farm is in Lawrencetown. Contact at 902-449-8109 or [email protected]. Products are available, online through local retailers, and onsite in their new shop. The website is https://www.ataraxyfarm.com