Nathalie and Jean-Claude Duguay are giving Timmins residents an opportunity to experience farm life.
The couple and their family have opened Heaven’s Harmony Farm Visits, east of the city just past the turn to Hoyle and Connaught on Highway 101.
Well stocked with farm animals, visitors have an opportunity to interact with their favourites. Children especially enjoy time spent with the animals.
“It’s every child’s dream to be on a farm and caring for animals,” Nathalie said. “They just come for a visit and they want to volunteer and work here.”
Jean-Claude worked on a dairy farm as a teenager, while Nathalie grew up as part of a large family on a farm. The couple purchased the property four years ago. In addition to their own children, the Duguays are foster parents.
“We saw this little building. When we purchased it, the kids said it’s too small for a house,” she explained. “We are foster parents too, and had nine children (total at the time). So our idea was to turn this into a dining hall.”
This was followed by the decision to create a farm space that everyone could enjoy.
“We do birthday parties and group visits,” Nathalie said. “We include pony rides for the children under 80 pounds.”
Guests are greeted at the gate and escorted to the dining hall. The property is wheelchair accessible. After going through the rules of the farms and signing waivers, visitors get to experience farm life.
“We head out to the barn and they grab their little feeding buckets,” she said. “They get to feed the animals, brush the animals, and pet them. It’s a chance to disconnect from the stress of life and technology. It’s a different way of life. It’s a nice way to enjoy the outdoors.”
The animals are the star attraction and enjoy their role. The friendly lineup includes Coco the donkey, Princess the pony, Dixie the quarter horse and Jersey the bull. There are also ducks, chickens, small pigs, quail, rabbits and sheep, including a blind sheep that gets along very well.
Visits can also include a meal in the dining hall, if arranged in advance. Heaven’s Harmony can also host birthday parties in the spacious hall. Parties also include time with the animals.
Recently, Heaven’s Harmony hosted a group visit from Schumacher Public School. The event received rave reviews on social media.
While the business is still a work in progress, the family hopes to offer a series of week-long farm camps next summer.
“If all goes well, we want to build seven little cabins here,” Nathalie said. “We already have a canteen building here.
“Up in the barn, we want to do activities. Put wool from sheep on a spinning wheel (to make yarn), make butter the old fashioned way. And we have a couple of teepees going up and an elder from the Aboriginal culture who is going to teach kids how to make bannock and moccasins, fillet fish.
“So we have big plans, but it’s a matter of time right now. We have other people bringing us ideas too.”
She said even just a brief experience of farm life can be therapeutic.
“Sometimes you can have a lot of pain,” she said. “People that visit, you don’t know their life story and you don’t need to know, but any pain that you carry you forget about it when you start petting animals. The animals, if you don’t like your hair that day, they don’t say anything. It’s very good therapy for the children and the adults.”
The Duguays have a strong faith and believe they have been led on this path to help others.
“When we see the children and they say this is the best day of their life, we know why God gave us this farm,” Nathalie said. “We all have a purpose in life. When you are in the right place where God called you to be, that’s when you have peace and joy.
“The name Heaven’s Harmony, we want to try to be in harmony with God’s creation, people and everything around us.”
All visits must be arranged ahead of time. For a complete schedule and more information, visit their Facebook page or phone 705-235-HOPE. Heaven’s Harmony Farm Visits is located at 11275 Hwy. 101 in Timmins.