At first it might not seem logical to connect a passion for nutrition and raw juices with a love for donkeys. Yet Kate Barker has done just that through her company, Zen Donkey Farms.
After going through some stressful times in the corporate world, Kate needed to make some lifestyle and nutritional changes. As a result, she and her partner Andy began growing organic veggies and juicing the extras for their own health. They simultaneously began to rescue a small herd of donkeys after learning about the donkey hide trade.
“Nutrition has always been a cornerstone of my life,” Barker says.
Since beginning to grow veggies and make juices, she’s transitioned to a totally vegan and organic lifestyle and says it’s the best health decision she’s made. The juices were a big part of successfully adopting a plant-based lifestyle, and it got the entrepreneurial wheels in her head turning.
“It changed my perspective on how we as humans interact with food,” she says. “The juice itself as a product transformed our lives as a family, so we started sharing it.”
Donkeys particularly captured Barker’s interest as she has worked as a volunteer in horse-assisted therapy for more than 20 years, and she has a passion to help people heal. She began to see possibilities for donkeys as therapy animals.
“We were enamored and immediately drawn to their kind spirit,” she says. “They are incredible beings. No one really sees how intelligent and versatile donkeys are, and we believe they can be powerful therapy and wellness facilitators.”
They also quickly developed a passion to spread awareness about the donkey skin trade. Donkey skins are being used in various parts of the world for a skin cream or for medicinal purposes. The cream is widely available online, and donkeys are being slaughtered all over the world for their skins with demand for nearly five million donkeys each year.
Now they have a vision to use the proceeds from their juice business to create more opportunities for donkey-assisted therapy and to stop the killing of donkeys for their skins.
A Big Vision
“It’s a pretty big vision, and it’s going to take a lot of time and funding to execute,” she says. “There is currently no governing body for donkey-assisted therapy in the United States. That’s what we want to create.”
They currently have five rescue donkeys—Pickle, Olive, Elliot, Earl and Pico—and all donkeys that come into their program in the future will also be rescues.
In terms of their juice business, they will be launching a new website with new products soon, and they are about to launch a plant-based vegan milk line. The company just had its one-year anniversary, and all their profits go to the donkeys and the mission of creating a unique wellness and therapy program.
“I would love to create a holistic health experience that incorporates wellness in mind, body, spirit and heart with a focus on plant-based nourishment and donkey-facilitated activities,” Barker says.
All Zen Donkey Farm juices are raw and completely organic. They grow much of their produce supply themselves and use world-class hydraulic cold-press equipment. Barker says this production process helps the juice last longer and preserves more live enzymes. They use reusable glass bottles and have a no-waste policy.
Zen Donkey Farms is based in Greenwood and sells their products online with delivery around the Kanas City area. Additionally, their juices are available in some local coffee shops, gyms and yoga studios.