If you have small children, chances are you’ve spent a bit (or a lot) of time at the Flag Animal Farm in Sheffield. If you have, there is a strong likelihood that you will have bumped into the woman behind it all … owner and mother of two, Genevieve Chisholm.
Very few people in this world are as dedicated to and passionate about animals as Gen. Not only is she a mom to her two daughters, Chelsea and Emma, but she is also mom to the more than 1200 animals that call the Flag Animal Farm their home.
From tiny chicks and baby goats to giant pythons, cows, horses and even wolves, Gen and her family pour their hearts into caring for these animals day in and day out.
But it is her own mother, Gen says, who inspires her to do the work she does – and the two of them are a formidable force both behind the scenes and on the ground at the farm. A true family-run business, Gen and her mom work hand-in-hand with Gen’s husband Cameron and the rest of their staff to ensure every animal is cared for, fed and loved.
A born and bred and very proud North Coast farm girl, Gen grew up on a sugar cane farm with her family in Umhlali. Her mother, Odile Foster-Greenwood who is of Mauritian descent, also grew up on the North Coast. Having always been an ‘animal mad’ family, Gen says buying Flag Farm 19 years ago and then building it up to help change lives has been her greatest dream come true. “As a family we have poured our hearts and souls into making this the biggest domestic animal rescue centre – and you can feel the love from our animals. They are family to us,” says Gen.
While Gen handles the front-of-house, facilitating welfare, marketing and managing ‘team Flag’, Gen says Odile plays a vital role behind the scenes. “I love being out and about with all the awesome animals and families and teaching children about animals is my passion. My mom does the important work of handling all the paperwork and accounts.”
Asked what the secret is to mom and daughter successfully working together, Gen says, “we have learnt to forgive quickly and love enormously. You have to love each other through all the ups and the downs. My mom and I share some incredibly special moments and I miss her when I don’t see her for even a day.”
The next generation of Flag Farm women are Gen’s two daughters Emma and Chelsea. The girls have literally grown up on the farm and this, Gen says has had a profound impact and influence on the young people they have become.
“I remember once when Em was around 3-years-old and we collected some rescued chicks. Driving to Flag I noticed she had taken one out the box and was warming it. I asked her why she chose that one and her reply was, ‘mum it’s the weakest one and I’m saving its life.’ I knew then that she had the same dreams and goals as we did and my heart sang.”
Emma is now 9 and Chelsea 6 and they absolutely love the farm. “They are so confident with and knowledgeable about the animals. They share many responsibilities with the rest of the family and through animal rescue they have learned humility, kindness and wisdom. Their joy is Flag.”
Gen hopes that one day the girls will take over the farm. “I would love them to take over one day if it’s what their hearts desire. They have been a part of it since they were born. Em says she wants to be a farmer at Flag like her mum and Chelsea wants to … (take over the world with her sparkle!) it changes every day but I pray that one of them will become a veterinarian – that would be a massive help!”
Details: Flag Animal Farm
Text: Leah Shone | Photograph: Chris Allan