In the New Life Program at Harvest Farm, men often find healing through caring for animals. It was through a special bond with a calf named Bolt that Ron learned to trust again, set and achieve goals and find purpose in helping others.

You see it all the time in movies— Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Toto and Dorothy, Mushu and Mulan, Lassie and Timmy. There’s a special bond that takes place between humans and animals, not only in movies, but at our very own Harvest Farm.

For New Life Program participant, Ron, the Farm is where his relationship with Bolt, a young calf, began.

After coming down with pneumonia, Bolt was given a five percent chance of survival. “He couldn’t walk, or even stand up by himself. We had to call a vet to help who told us some steps we could take to attempt to save him,” Darrol Telck, livestock coordinator, explained. “Ron stepped up big time and fed Bolt five times a day with milk replacement and electrolytes and stayed in the barn with him every second he could.”

Program participant, Ron

Ron would check on Bolt in the middle of the night, and within a few weeks, Bolt was getting better. He found a sense of purpose in taking care of Bolt, but when another cold snap hit the area, Bolt sadly passed away. Although difficult to process, Ron is grateful for the bond he built with Bolt and credits him for restoring his trust in people.

“I feel like the animals are the ones that saved my life,” Ron shared. “When I took care of Bolt when he was sick, all he needed was somebody to love him, give him attention and talk to him. It taught me how to let people in, to love people again and give people chances.”

Donkey from Harvest Farm
Goat from Harvest Farm
Pig from Harvest Farm

Cows, goats, pigs, chickens, donkeys, and more—the staff at Harvest Farm know how beneficial animals can be to recovery. Counselor Christopher Kaplan explained, “There’s an endless amount of things that you could derive from developing a relationship with an animal. Now we don’t want it to end there. It needs to be a stepping stone back into healthy relationships with other people. But it certainly is a profoundly useful, therapeutic tool that helps reengage with human beings, grow and trust again and learn how to set boundaries.”

Darrol added, “The animals play the most pivotal part in their healing—allowing them to be themselves and not be judged for anything in the past, because the animals only care that you are consistently there to take care of them.”

For Ron, losing five of his best friends in high school set him on a spiral with alcohol abuse and losing the trust of those he loved. “My family and friends, I’ve lost everybody’s trust,” he said. “But gaining the trust of the animals has helped me a lot. I just needed something to trust me to help push me forward.”

Program participant, Ron, and cow from Harvest Farm

Not only has Ron gained the animals’ trust, but he has learned to trust the staff at the Farm, and even encourages newer participants of the program to open up and connect with staff and others in the program.

“I’m surrounded by a lot of good people who have faith in me and who I can come and talk to,” he shared. “When I’m not thinking straight, or if I need advice on something, I go to them.”

New Life Program


While in the program Ron set and achieved several goals—he got his driver’s license, passed a food management license test and completed his GED. Now his goals include repairing his credit as well as helping others.

“That’s what I try to tell these guys here, to set a few achievable goals and work for it. It gives you accomplishment—even if it’s the slightest goal—it gives you strength and courage to make another one,” Ron said. “I think that’s my calling, to help others. That’s when I’m happiest.”

Cows from Harvest Farm

Bids for Connection

Goat from Harvest Farm
Christopher Kaplan, Harvest Farm Counselor

Ron graduated from the program in April and looks back on his time at the Farm, his time with Bolt, as a time of transformation.

He credits the New Life Program with helping him feel calmer and less angry. “I just feel more at peace with myself. It brings pride to know that I’ve made it this far,” he shared. “I know I can connect with people because I was homeless for five years and I know the struggles they go through. If they see me doing the right thing and doing good, I’m hoping I can touch them to do better.”

Cow from Harvest Farm and Livestock Coordinator

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