(NEW YORK) — BY: SHANNON MCLELLAN
Moo-ve over funny Zoom backgrounds — an animal sanctuary in California is offering the chance to include some of their favorite farm friends on your next Zoom call.
Sweet Farm in Half Moon Bay, California, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a compassionate and sustainable world. Among their many initiatives: rescuing and rehabilitating farm animals.
The sanctuary sits on 12 1/2 acres of land and houses 125 animals which include seven goats, four sheep, three bovine, seven pigs, five turkeys, a stallion and a llama.
The animals are brought to Sweet Farm for a variety of reasons. Some have escaped factory farms and have been brought to the farm by Animal Control, others come from abuse cases and many have been requests for help from individual families that raised them as part of a project and can no longer care for them.
“All of these animals they’ve come out of bad situations,” Sweet Farm co-founder and executive director Nate Salpeter told “Good Morning America.”
“We work with them regardless of their temperament and whatnot. It involved a lot of patience and individualized care.”
Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sweet Farm would invite corporate groups to their farm to teach them about their mission and to see the animals. These trips are how they fund their animal care as well fund field trips for schools to learn more about their sustainability mission.
Went California began to shelter in place, Sweet Farm had to rethink the way they executed their mission. One of their board members suggested the start an initiative called a “Goat 2 Meeting” — where companies could pay a fee for a farm animal to “crash” their Zoom meeting and make employees smile. The service is also offered to schools for free, thanks to the funding provided by the corporate customers.
The animal sanctuary already has over 3,000 bookings and hundreds of schools on their list. Because of the number of requests, they’ve reached out to their network over of 30 different animal sanctuaries to start similar programs.
“We now have an affiliate network of sanctuaries so people can feel confident that the animals coming to their meetings are not being exploited for entertainment and profit,” Salpeter said. “All of the animals are coming from organizations similar to Sweet Farm.”
Salpeter says the ability for technology to connect groups of people to the animals is a unique experience that allows groups to witness the animals in their natural state.
“They’re able to connect with people through a phone and not realize that there are 600 people there,” Salpeter said. “They do things and behave in their natural state that you would never get to see if there was a whole group of people around.”
Corporate events and classrooms aren’t the only places the animals have virtually traveled, Salpeter joked a couple got married “in the eyes of the llama” and the animals even got to call out trivia questions for one group.
Salpeter says Sweet Farm will continue to make virtual meetings a priority even after the pandemic.
“It’s a great way for people to connect in a truly accessible way,” Salpeter said.
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