By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Humans aren't the only ones whose lives have been altered by the coronavirus.
While many shelters and humane societies are trying to adapt amid the COVID-19 crisis, Sherborn’s Unity Farm Sanctuary has had to find the best way to operate without their volunteers and some of their usually scheduled programming. With 60 mammals and almost 200 birds under the watch of the farm, it’s a challenge - but nothing their dedicated staff can’t handle.
With a stay-at-home advisory in place, volunteers are staying connected on social media and email to check in on the sanctuary and their favorite animals. "We are blessed here at Unity with our small core crew of employed staff, and our farm manager, Tyla Doolin of Holliston. This has been profoundly important to ensure that vital staff remains healthy," explains co-founder Kathy Halamka. Along with limiting the staff members coming to and from the sanctuary each day, the staff has been supplied with sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
While humans are loading up on food in case of a shutdown, Unity Farm has done its best to prepare in case their usual food sources are disrupted. They have also continued to welcome a steady flow of donations coming in from their usual sources. “We made sure to order extra hay and grains in case supply chains were disrupted, so we dipped into savings for that right at the beginning of the crisis,” says Halamka.
While this may not seem like a big deal, the reality is that the longer this stay-at-home order stays in place, the longer it will take for Unity Farm to access its normal sources of income to run the sanctuary. “Like many farm animal sanctuaries and other non-profits that rely on public donations, we can’t have our public tours or any group event fundraisers, so our budgeting has been derailed,” explains Halamka. “We dipped into savings to fund paying for extra staffing hours, since our volunteers who help so very much are unable to come. We also cannot hold workshops, classes or any humane education events - also effectively decimating our on-site event income.”
While the farm itself has had to adapt to a new working order, some of the programs usually hosted by the farm have had to find a new virtual home for the time being. “Unity Farm Sanctuary was founded to both rescue and protect farm animal rescues for forever homes, but to also provide a community gathering place for health and well-being. Closing the sanctuary to outside visitors and volunteers was an extremely difficult decision. To balance the loss of our programming, we have set up a Zoom virtual meeting every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. for our free drop-in meditation group, and will be participating in other local Zoom efforts to work on humane education programs in the virtual world while we wait for the stay-at-home advisory to be lifted."
No one knows when the world will return to working order, but staff at Unity Farm Sanctuary is determined to keep their animals as happy as they can, making sure they are in good health and high spirits when their favorite volunteers and visitors once again return.