We had the good fortune of connecting with Cecilia Fernandez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cecilia, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am originally from Argentina, but I grew up in New Jersey. My upbringing definitely impacted who I am today. My parents instilled in us a sense of social responsibility first and foremost. While we were encouraged to be independent and work to better ourselves as individuals, we were always taught to “leave the world a little better than how you found it”-this has been a constant in my life. My three siblings and I were taught to think of others, to speak up for the voiceless and the oppressed, even when you are the only one doing so. We were taught to have a “servant’s heart” toward our fellow humans and non-humans-to serve others because it is our duty as humans. I grew up thinking that because my love for animals was so passionate, that logically I would become a veterinarian. However, while I worked at an animal hospital through college, I realized that some aspects of veterinary medicine such as having to euthanize animals were impossible for me to practice-I was not strong enough. So my logical choice was to follow my other passion-teaching children with special needs, and hoping to someday combine both. My dream became to run a farm animal rescue/sanctuary, and offer animal-assisted therapy for children with special needs as well as including typically developing children.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Running a nonprofit farm animal rescue/sanctuary is my dream come true. Being able to teach and run the sanctuary at the same time has been challenging, but with the help of my family and volunteers, it is my dream come true. Being able to offer therapeutic horseback riding with animals that were rescued and had to overcome difficulties themselves adds a beautiful element to the relationship that the children form with them; they relate. Everyone who visits the farm shares very similar impressions: “It’s so peaceful!” “All of the animals are so friendly, and they get along!” or “I want to have a rescue farm when I grow up, Ms.Cecilia!” (my favorite)…. I think that the love and passion that we put into our work is reflected in our animals and the farm itself. This is our purpose and calling-we feel fortunate to live it and share it.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well….first they’d have to stop at Best Friends Farm, of course! 🙂 Then, they would need to visit the beautiful, time-honored campus of Oxford College of Emory University here in Oxford-where the renowned Emory University started! They offer amazing music concerts, plays, world-renowned speakers, and the campus is gorgeous! For all “Walking Dead” fans….you MUST visit “Mystic Grill”, located about 10 minutes from Best Friends Farm in downtown Covington, our neighbor city. You can eat and drink there, and then head off to one of the quaint ice cream shops (Scoops is a classic) or coffee shops (Bread and Butter is a popular one). Then you might want to head over to the iconic Conyers International Horse Park (about 20 minutes from Best Friends Farm!)-If you are lucky enough, you might attend a horse show there, or simply go for a hike across the road, at the beautiful Horse Park Trails. You can walk, ride your bike OR horse there! While in Conyers, you will not want to miss visiting the Monastery of the Holy Spirit-a destination for the whole family! The monks welcome you to enjoy the grounds in their natural beauty, relax, rest, and escape and surround yourself in peace. The visitor center will guide you in all you can do in a day trip!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Well, I would not be where I am today without the strong foundation that my parents provided for me;they believed in me and that made me grow up believing that my dream of having a farm animal rescue COULD come true. Additionally, I would not have been able to make my dream come true without the unwavering support, love and tireless help of my best friend and partner, my husband Roberto Botello. He knew that this was my dream since we met 24 years ago. He was onboard since day one, and told me that “If this was my dream, then it became his dream as well”. He put his own dreams and plans aside to help me realize mine-ours first. He has happily taken the roles of “farm handyman”, “hay buying/carrying man”, “fence installer”, “chicken coop builder”, and so many more roles, all with a smile on his face, and despite his terrible allergies to hay (ironically) and cats (We have 10!), he is the proud “spokesperson” for Best Friends Farm everywhere we go-he believes in us! Our children, Sophie (16) and Daniel (12) are integral to the work that we do, and they put their hearts into helping us live our dream. They often thank us for “teaching us to love animals” and their dedication and selfless actions are priceless. We are also grateful to the Oxford College of Emory University, whose campus is down the road from us. We became “Community Partners” about a year ago, and their amazing volunteers have completed countless hours of labor and love at Best Friends Farm-we could not do this without them!

Website: http://bestfriendsfarmoxf.wixsite.com/website OR http://bestfriendsfarmoxford.com/
Instagram: @bestfriend.s.farm
Facebook: Best Friends Farm

Image Credits
Sophie Botello