Tehama County’s Hope Haven Farm
By Melissa Mendonca
Connect. Cultivate. Create. Est. 2015
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Alexis LeClair
Any number of animals might greet a visitor to Hope Haven Farm in the Richfield area of Tehama County. A tiny goat roams freely and cats scurry around the barn. Daisy Mae, a mini Jersey cow, might moo from a nearby field. The show stoppers, though, are three Silkie chickens with long white feathers that fan out and feel like silk or satin. One might be inclined to pet one, and indeed would be welcome.
The Silkies were specially selected for their friendly nature, a requirement of animal life at Hope Haven, as well as their stunning beauty. The chickens are calm and patient and seem to delight in being held and loved upon. They were chosen with intention after a foster child visited the farm and became enamored with the fowl. At the time, Hope Haven was populated with the more common Rhode Island Red breed, which wasn’t as amenable to a young child’s hugs. Seeing the need for a more docile breed, owners Mark and Barb Volstad brought in the Silkies. Now, a child may extend love and find it reciprocated and calming.
This is just the sort of experience Barb envisioned when she conceived the idea for Hope Haven Farm, a place for respite care for children in the foster system founded on Christmas Eve 2015. She maintains a goal of creating a
sanctuary for kids to connect with animals, cultivate growth through gardening and create dreams through art and music. She does so because the concepts worked for her as a child when circumstances removed her from her own parents.
“With all that I went through as a child, hope is what I had the least amount of,” says Barb, recalling the story of her mom’s decline into severe mental illness and her father’s death when she was only 11. She found solace in animals, horses especially, running off as often as possible to her best friend Cindy’s house to go on long trail rides.
When her father died, Barb and her sister moved from Redding to Dairyville in Tehama County to live with the Long family, longtime farmers in the area. “They told me the day after the funeral, when we had the garage sale,” relates Barb. “It was very hard for me because I had to leave Cindy and the horses.”
She did get to remain with her sister, though, and gained four other siblings in the Long clan. “When I was with the Longs, I had great experiences working on the farm, but we couldn’t have horses because of the orchards,” she says. Instead she would spend hours walking amongst the trees with the family dogs. “Those were just good times for me to process,” she adds.
Barb’s healing process has been long, buoyed by her husband Mark and their faith journey. The two met at the Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, N.Y., and agree it was love at first sight. Mark, a Norwegian born and raised in Chile, was eager to return to the country as a missionary. Barb had her sights on missionary work in Africa but changed directions after meeting Mark. They married, started a family and tended to Mark’s ministry, first in Chile and more recently in Chico at La Iglesia Cristo Salva.
At age 50, Barb made her bucket list trip to Uganda and began focusing on the next stage of her life. She’d always loved animals and had been a nanny to many children over the years. Her “a-ha” moment came when she realized she could combine the two in the form of a place like Hope Haven Farm. Once the decision was made, things fell into place swiftly. Their home in Chico sold to the first couple that saw it. The journey through the driveway of the Richfield property gave Barb shivers. She knew it would be meant to be. Daughter Lydia, a vet technician, found a litter of kittens in the barn and knew they’d found the perfect new home.
Not much later, gentle child-friendly horses were donated to the family.
“This is going to be my full-time job,” says Barb. “On this end, it all looks so ideal. But depending on how old they are, I can tell them my story. And they can feel it.”
At this, Mark’s eyes tear up and he says to her, “You’ve been with me all these years in ministry and now I want to support you in making your dreams come true.”
“It brings me so much joy because this is the childhood I would have loved to have,” says Barb. “Now I get to make it happen for someone else.”