Lifestyle

Fall City farm making a positive difference in children's, horses' lives

A young visitor enjoys a peaceful minute with miniature horse Shadow at Madison Grove Farm.  - Courtesy Photo
A young visitor enjoys a peaceful minute with miniature horse Shadow at Madison Grove Farm.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Fall City’s Madison Grove Farm is on a mission to provide a safe place for disadvantaged children and abused and neglected horses to help each other heal.

Marla and Darin McNary, the farm’s owners, are not your typical farmers. Instead of wheat, corn, or livestock, they produce a bumper crop of compassion, and they use it to help horses and the children who ride them blossom.

Many of the farm’s horses come from situations where they did not get the time, care or attention required to keep them physically and emotionally healthy. As a result, issues with nutrition, behavior and trust are commonplace. Children who come to Madison Grove have much in common with the horses.

Six-year-old Bell carries the emotional scars of a broken family and the recent death of a beloved relative. When she began acting out in school, her father, who was referred to Madison Grove by a neighboring farmer, brought her to meet the McNarys. Bell took to the animals instantly. She helped with the chickens and bunnies and learned to care for and eventually ride the horses. She made friends with other children on the farm.

“It was like a light turned on inside that little girl,” said Marla. “And after coming here week after week, loving and hugging these horses, you know what she did? She turned around and hugged her father for the first time in a very long time. Have you ever seen a grown man cry?”

Then there’s Cody. At 15 years old, he’s now living in his thirteenth foster home. Luckily for him, his foster grandparents happen to live less than a mile from Madison Grove. Like all the children who come here, Cody takes his responsibilities at the farm seriously, accomplishing even the smallest task with enormous pride. Madison Grove offers him a chance to practice taking responsibility for himself and others. He’s learning to take initiative and be accountable for his actions. Madison Grove gives him consistency—something he was sorely lacking in his young life. Wherever the foster care system takes Cody, he knows he will always have a home at the farm.

Madison Grove Farm is a non-profit organization that provides services free of charge due to donations of land and supplies, and a hardworking team of volunteers. In addition to helping Marla teach natural horsemanship, volunteers do everything from working with animals to cleaning up after them. They do behind-the-scenes work such as writing grants and planning events. They come because they love and support the farm’s mission, or because they want to see what it feels like to be a farmer. The strong base of volunteers speaks to the fact that Madison Grove is more than a farm, but a community working toward a common goal.

When Darcy started coming to Madison Grove, she was 13 and showing signs of depression brought on by the break-up of her family. Now a successful high-schooler, Darcy recently confided to Marla that she has plans for the future—she wants to go to college and become an equine veterinarian.

These days, Darcy volunteers as a youth mentor teaching younger children, whose boots she was in just a few years ago, how to work with horses. Riding at Madison Grove was instrumental to Darcy’s healing. And who knows? Perhaps she’ll be back after vet school to take care of the very same horses that helped her discover her path.

• Madison Grove Farm is located at 3807 324th Ave. S.E., Fall City. To learn more, visit www.madisongrovefarm.com.

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