There are many people with a genuine passion for animals, but for Zorra Township resident Jill Parkhill, her love for animals is at an altogether different level.
Jill and her family operate Touchstone Farm near Embro and it is the fruition of a years long dream. “I’m from Mississauga and my husband grew up in Princeton, so he’s a farm boy. We actually met at Fleming College in Lindsay and it has been our goal to have this life since we met.” The farm features a number of different animals available for events such as birthday parties, including a unicorn-themed offering.
Many of the animals are rescues and Jill said she is more than happy to give them a temporary or permanent home. “We work with a rescue organization now so some of them have arrived that way. We also do foster care to give horses a safe place until they can be adopted. There have been a few of those we have failed miserably at, now they are here forever because we just couldn’t let them go.” She added the support of her family has been critical in growing the farm. “I have loved horses my entire life. I have a very patient husband and a daughter who loves horses too. When we got our first couple of rescues, we saw how amazing they are. We thought this could be kind of fun. So, it started off as something small, but in seeing how much fun the kids have and how much the horses enjoy it, we just thought okay we can do this.”
COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns have brought some financial challenges to the operation but making a profit isn’t a priority. “Our goal is to have the animals pay for themselves. We literally make no money off the events we do here and that’s fine, I am happy to work for them. This (lockdown) makes it more of a challenge, but we have made the commitment to these animals regardless of COVID, to keep them fed, happy, and safe. We make sacrifices as a family to make sure the animals don’t suffer,” said Jill. She added that she retooled in order to do events at the farm and keep better control over health and safety. “I’m hoping again this time we can continue to do that,” she added.
Some of the animals have also felt the negative effects of the pandemic. “One of our ponies became really depressed during the first COVID-19 lockdown because she didn’t have any visitors. We decided to dress her up like a unicorn and parade her up and down the road. The neighbours came out and waved and cheered for her and she was much happier after that,” said Jill who added that one pony can’t wait to get into uniform. “Just last weekend before the shutdown, we had a little girl come out for a unicorn ride. We took out the gear, including a tutu, and we put it over the fence, so we were prepared once she came. Kisses, one of our unicorns, went right over to it and she stood there and waited until we got her dressed and that little girl came.”
Touchstone Farm features miniature horses, ponies, large horses, miniature sheep and they just had two baby lambs born on Easter Sunday. “We have a couple of goats, and two miniature goats who were bottle fed after being rejected by their mother so they’re really just like big dogs,” said Jill.
For more information on what the farm has to offer, click here.