Make No Bones About It…
Dogs and biscuits are truly a thing – a $37.55 billion industry “thing,” according to a recent market analysis report, with growth expected to surpass $89 billion by 2030. Without a doubt, commercially available dog treats have become very popular and, according to 2019 report published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, biscuits are a common part of the pet’s diet, with 83% of pet owners treat their dogs regularly, “mainly to reward their dog’s behavior or during training-sports activities.” The survey also reports that the most common treat is biscuits and dental care sticks, and usually one to five pieces a day.
And sure, there are sooo many choices for treatos. Just go to any pet supply store or shop online and you will see a multitude of biscuits and treats available. But what if you could purchase healthy, wholesome, all-natural yummy biscuits locally for your dog and support young adults with intellectual and developmental differences learn occupational skills and participate in the community?
Well, we know of a place in Jacksonville, and we think their biscuits are awesome. (If you’ve come to one of our Pup-up Pet Event Portrait fundraisers, you’ve undoubtedly taken a sample for your pup.)
The Story Behind Barkin’ Biscuits
The North Florida School of Special Education NFSSE) is a school for students, ages 6-22, with intellectual and developmental differences. What many don’t know is that the school also has a program for young adults, ages 22-40. NFSSE’s postgraduate programs include a place for vocational training, internships, life skills, and more. For example, Berry Good Farms, an urban farm that promotes job training and healthy lifestyles through organic farming and culinary arts, is part of NFSSE’s postgraduate program.
And so is Barkin’ Biscuits.
Nearly a decade ago, Gail Wickenden had an idea. Her daughter, Elizabeth, had just graduated from NFSSE in Jacksonville, Florida. “We found that there were very few ways for her to stay connected with peers or continue growing her work experience,” relates Wickenden. “As we thought about it, it seemed like making dog biscuits was just the right speed for her, and it probably was for a lot of her friends, too.”
So, Wickenden, along with a couple of families, tried out the concept. “After a lot of experiments on recipes, and lots of time at weekend events, we worked out the program.”
In 2014, Barkin’ Biscuits joined the postgraduate training program offered by NFSSE. “We provide vocational training, but we also provide a focal point and community for many of our participants,” explains Wickenden, manager of the Barkin’ Biscuit Program. “This gets participants out of the house and doing something constructive, and everyone benefits.” And, she adds, “some of our students are paid employees with our program.”
Busy, busy, busy!
Barkin’ Biscuits produces more than 5,000 biscuits a day on most days. “We stay very busy every day, but we have a lot of fun, too,” says Wickenden, adding that “if you stop in you might find a little dance or a game going on. It’s never dull. We work together as a team, following routine guidelines, recipes, and all heath standards to make sure that our fur friends get nothing but the best.”
Barkin’ Biscuits, as a micro-enterprise of NFSSE’s Berry Good Farms, uses fresh ingredients, such as carrots, mint, and sweet potatoes in their biscuits from the school’s garden. “Our treats are healthy and all-natural, “ Wickenden explains, noting that the recipes are simple with no additives or extra proteins.
Where to buy?
If you are interested in purchasing some of Barkin’ Biscuits products (peanut butter, carrot sweet potato or apple mint molasses biscuits), they are available for sale from the school boutique as well online here: https://www.berrygoodfarms.org/shop/
If you’d like a custom order (they’ve created themed biscuits for weddings, “Bark mitzvahs,” Blessing of the Pets, area resorts, a PGA Pet Adoption Event, etc.), or if you have a business and you’d like to purchase biscuits packaged for marketing events, contact the Barkin’ Biscuits pet bakery at 904-724-8323 or email: email@example.com.
And, of course, if you’d like to personally volunteer to assist in the Barkin’ Biscuits kitchen, contact Wickenden. You will have a wonderful time and you will make some very special, wonderful new friends.
- About the Author
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Author of more than 28 dog and dog training books, writer of hundreds of dogcentric magazine articles, and internationally awarded pet photographer of more than 1000 canines, Joan H. Walker relates that her life has literally gone to the dogs.
When she’s not photographing or writing about dogs, she is, you guessed it, spending time with her dogs. Walker is currently owned by four Havanese and is the chief pawtographer at Jacksonville, Florida’s Joan H. Walker PAWtography.