SITUATED just outside New Norfolk, Henden Ryse farm offers a taste of country life to many people who may otherwise not easily get to experience it.
The farm is open to groups for activity-based programs and farm tours, specifically catering for visitors with special needs and assistance groups.
Owned and operated by Kim Wilson and her son Henry Wilson-Haffenden (Hen-den), the 9ha property offers day tours to small special needs groups, encouraging an interactive and purposeful experience in a safe environment.
At just 13 months of age, Henry was diagnosed with a type of leukodystrophy that affects the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves and he requires full-time care.
Ms Wilson saw a need for him to have an outlet for independence, where he could have responsibilities of his own.
This first led them to their rural property in Magra, just outside New Norfolk.
Although Henry’s condition keeps him in a mobilised wheelchair, it doesn’t keep him from getting among the dirt, feeding and raising the animals – at least when, according to his mother, he isn’t busy doing doughnuts in the dirt.
“We’ve had the property for about eight years now and we’ve now been running the programs for about two years, I only do it very slowly,” Ms Wilson said.
“The idea of running the programs just started when were out on the farm one day, feeding the animals and I said to Henry, we could share this place.”
“To offer a purposeful activity program, one that will give encouragement, empowerment, a sense of achievement and accomplishment, that’s what we aim to provide.”
The programs ran by Henden Ryse are tailored for each group or individual and include time with the farm’s horses to encourage problem solving, patience, empathy, motor skills and communication, or general farm activities like feeding and caring for the animals.
The programs were originally tailored for Henry and Ms Wilson who are sharing the experiences they have on the farm with others who could benefit from them as much as they have.
The roster at Henden Ryse has expanded from three cattle to include horses, alpacas, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens and donkeys as well as two dogs, Noddy and Jasper.
For Ms Wilson and Henry, the future of Henden Ryse is in expanding its scope and to get the most out of their property and their animals and provide the best experience for their programs.
Ms Wilson is eager to add wool spinning into her programs using fleece from her sheep, goats and alpacas.
She is also keen to expand the operation to bring in a revenue stream beyond the programs, but the Henden Ryse operators are cautious of overworking themselves.
“Having a farm, having a son who needs 24-hour care, running the farm on my own and running the programs, I have to be careful I don’t overdo it.”
She is incredibly thankful for the support she receives through her friends and the C3 Church, which has built a lot of the infrastructure around the farm.
She gives special credit to Daryl and Sue Crawford, who have known her for more than two decades and lent a helping hand – literally, helping to build shelters and fences along the property as well as donating to Henden Ryse.
The couple also run the Deyrah Dexters cattle stud. Their small, dual-purpose Dexter cattle have a gentle temperament that made them the perfect first animals at the beginning of Henden Ryse.
Ms Crawford is eager to see the story of Ms Wilson’s farming journey spread further.
“She is the kindest hearted person I know, she never complains, she works so hard, and she runs such a program that is so important to the community, we love to support her how we can,” Ms Crawford said.
Ms Wilson charges $20 per person for visits to her property but has floated the idea of opening Henden Ryse for volunteer days in the future to assist her in the maintenance and and to help her and Henry take the program to a larger audience.
“I would like to approach the Cancer Council Foundation, to reach out to the kids that are in hospital who have been radiation treatment for weeks and weeks. If they need a break they could come here, be around the animals and have a glorious day,” she said.