The Farm at Natchez Trace
The Franklin-based luxury pet resort celebrates its 10th anniversary
BY HEATHER DOWDY
On February 13, the management and staff of The Farm at Natchez Trace commemorated the day when, ten years ago, founder Linda Burnsed opened the doors to a new dream: a luxury pet resort focused on the happiness of its pet guests. Not content with just creating a safe, healthy and comfortable environment, The Farm set a goal that each pet would enjoy being there and would be happy to return. In the ensuing decade, The Farm has largely fulfilled its mission. In addition to setting new standards in pet lodging, daycare, grooming, training and a service-oriented pet boutique, the Farm’s philanthropic focus has continued to broaden and includes a wide variety of animal-related organizations and causes, education and community projects.
Not surprisingly, it was Linda’s beloved dog, Bengal, who inspired the journey. A typical fun-loving Boxer, Bengal nonetheless became depressed and anxious when boarded. Realizing that food, water and shelter simply wasn’t enough for some pets, Linda dove headfirst into researching what would make for the ideal pet boarding experience—one where Bengal and other pets would feel safe, loved, healthy and happy. “My goal was to create an environment where dogs like Bengal would not have to endure our time apart, but where she would instead truly enjoy her own vacation. I wanted every dog to return home well-balanced and happy for having been here.”
Since then, The Farm has built its success on a long roster of Tennesseans who would never consider leaving their pets anywhere else. This otherwise diverse group of people join in citing the large playfields, quiet suites, and the services of a dedicated Pet Concierge as being their favorite aspects of The Farm. “I can only enjoy my trip if I know my pets are going to be in good care!” says Sharon Langford, a client since 2004. “I confess that I sometimes give in to the urge to call and check on them, but I never worry about them.”
Linda cites The Farm’s hands-on, highly individualized care as the foundation of its success. “We built the Lodge and the Cat Cottage after consulting with behaviorists, so their design is uniquely suited to our goals, but that’s just the environment. It is our people who are everything. Without the passion, the compassion and the training of our caregivers (up to 70 of them when we’re in a holiday period!) those other aspects wouldn’t be enough to give pets the experience they deserve. Our pets are emotional beings. In order to thrive, they have to know that they are loved and cared for by someone. Not so different from us.”
Dog & Cat Friendly Features
Aside from their stellar staff, The Farm’s key features include staffing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and a Pet Concierge whose sole responsibility it is to know and meet the needs of every guest. Special focus is on senior dogs and cats and others who need extra special attention. Taking pet lodging a leap forward, The Farm offers only brick-and-mortar, sound-insulated suites so that every pet truly has a room of his or her own.
Linda explains, “Research has established that the barking from other unknown dogs disrupts your pet’s normal sleeping patterns and increases anxiety. In addition, open-air kennels allow for the passage of airborne diseases. By constructing ‘real’ lodging rooms and installing a 100% fresh air system with no recirculation between suites, we are able to provide the highest level of comfort and protection from the two main causes of unsatisfactory boarding experiences.”
“But if our dogs could talk,” points out Assistant Manager for Guest Services, Vickie Diestelkamp, “they’d tell you about the nature trail and how much fun the creek is in summer! They’d probably have strong opinions about the big grassy fields and the barnyard space too! Having 18 acres is huge.”
But don’t think that The Farm has gone only to the dogs. Their beautiful, self-contained Cat Cottage was designed by experts in feline care to provide a spacious, comfortable environment for every kitty in their care. The Cottage offers 25 individual condos as well as a playroom with a Kitty Jungle Gym and more.
Giving Back to the Community
Linda views The Farm’s success as a way to give back to the community, and she does it in a big way. Aside from sponsoring this magazine’s mission and many of our events, The Farm funds a variety of vital causes, from spay/neuter programs and local rescue groups to Habitat for Humanity and Waves. The facility hosts fundraisers, pet adoption days, ARC Therapy screenings and, from April to September, a “Pet Matters” Seminar series on a variety of pet-related topics, free and open to the public.
And it’s just Getting Started…
To celebrate their 10th anniversary, and the success implicit in that achievement, the Farm has great plans for 2014. Major among them is a brand-new building primarily to accommodate the growing number of daycare guests who come to take advantage of the unique Woof Club daycare program. Linda points out that while some dog daycares can be like a free-for-all at the dog park, her focus is on careful structure and positive learning. “There are child care centers where your kid learns to throw food, and there are ones where your child learns what he or she needs in preparation for school. We strive to be the latter in the pet daycare world,” she says. “We want our Woof Club members to benefit from group interaction in positive ways, including better social skills, healthy stimulation and exercise and increased confidence.” The building will have a large indoor space and open-air playgrounds. It is designed to be multi-purpose and, with their “sky’s the limit” attitude to pet care and community involvement, it will be interesting to see what further progress The Farm will make in their next decade.
Linda has plans and ideas galore for The Farm and for the philanthropic projects in which she is wholly invested. Her philosophy is simple: “In our view, if we continue to fulfill our mission with respect to the pets entrusted to our care and the families who love them, then we will continue to put ourselves in a position to pay it forward. In this way, we all, as a community, benefit together.”
Be sure to see The Farm’s sponsored pet adoption ad on page 18 of our April/May 2014 issue!
The Farm at Natchez Trace
9479 Highway 96 West
Franklin, TN 37064