Skip to content

Animal sanctuary introduces nature programs to young adults in recovery

Wantage. Everyone’s invited to Patchwork Pastures in Wantage, where you can snuggle with a turkey, goat, pig or alpaca.

| 15 Mar 2021 | 02:54

Have you ever had a turkey sit on your lap and beg you to pet it until it fell asleep? Or, had a goat ask you to scratch its ear? Or had a gaggle of guinea hens come running to greet you when you pull into the yard?

Fill your heart with animal magic at Patchwork Pastures in Wantage. Incorporated in 2019, Patchwork Pastures is home to approximately 150 surrendered and rescued animals, including mini pigs, alpaca, turkeys, goats, chickens, ducks, quail, a peahen, parrots, and hedgehogs. Last month the organization rescued an additional 16 mini pigs, several of whom are expecting.

It is also the home of the exclusive Green Care Project Initiative, which is designed to give a second chance to young adults, ages 18 to 28, who are in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, incarceration, or mental illness.

“We’re bringing back the concept of a working farm while promoting recovery, reducing recidivism, increasing employability and quality of life,” said Rachel Helt, the Patchwork Pastures co-founder and CEO .

Green Care is an established international concept in which people interact with animals, plants, and nature in health-promoting activities.

“Under the Green Care concept, we foster the connection between the animals we rescue, the participant in recovery, and recovery supports, building the foundation for successful outcomes,” said Helt. “Program participants learn how to interact with each animal, providing a symbiotic level of care and support that benefits both animal and human alike.”

Preventing relapses

Helt is a certified Nurtured Heart Approach trainer and coach with more than 30 years combined experience in medical, human services, sales and marketing, and nonprofit business operations. She is the mother of three children in long term recovery from mental illness and opioid addiction, and she had a vision. She has seen the positive progression of service options and programs available for families dealing with similar issues. But did you know that once a child turns 18, they age out of these programs, and they often relapse or commit crimes to support their habit?

In 2016, Helt met Alan McCullough, who graduated from the Royal Forestry College with masters degrees in arboriculture and horticulture. With 35 years of expertise and experience in the green industry, he now serves as co-founder and program director at Patchwork Pastures.

Patchwork Pastures has formed partnerships with local green organizations, companies and professionals who will act as a “patch” — a mentor and off-site host. The organization is registered as a Sussex County Probation Community Service site for general community service.

Applications for a spring 2021 Green Care Project Initiative launch are available on the organization’s website at . Participants can simply apply for the program online. There is no cost for the program, but donations are appreciated along with a dedicated commitment to follow-through.

Patchwork Pastures is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization registered in the State of New Jersey and is solely reliant on public donations, corporate sponsorships and in-kind donations.

The organization has set up a Go Fund Me page to meet the needs of their growing sanctuary (

“Come visit the farm,” says Helt. “You can give, and get a snuggle from a turkey, goat, pig or alpaca. And you will leave with a full heart.”

“Under the Green Care concept, we foster the connection between the animals we rescue, the participant in recovery, and recovery supports, building the foundation for successful outcomes.” Rachel Helt