Lynda Koenders is fighting to keep the farm.
The owner and operator of Beacon Hill Children’s Farm says the beloved petting zoo and community farm is up against a dire financial situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s totally impacted us,” said Koenders in an interview with Victoria Buzz. “Our donations and everything was non-existent.”
Normally, the farm is open from early March to early October. This year, they have opened for just six days.
After opening on March 6, Koenders and her team made the decision to close on March 12 after seeing the situation in Europe.
Since then, the farm has been relying on donations to make their way through the most challenging year Koenders has seen in 35 years of business.
“Plus this last winter, we did like $55,000 of improvements in the farm — we re-roofed a bunch of our farms, and finished off our fencing,” she said.
“If we’d known we wouldn’t have been opening this year we would have held off on doing those improvements.”
But Koenders isn’t giving up. She and her staff have launched a new sponsorship challenge, where members of the public can sponsor various animals on the farm.
The sponsorships range in price from $25 for small animals like guinea pigs or cats, to $50 for larger animals like goats and miniature donkeys.
“You can choose the animal, breed of animal that you’re wanting, and you get a photo of the animal and a certificate that says whoever’s sponsored the animals,” says Koenders.
“It’s a great thing people can put on the fridge, put it in the kid’s bedrooms. It’s a nice card stock.”
Donors can also sponsor “hay for a day” for $75, providing feed, or veterinary care for $150.
Those who are interested in contributing other amounts to the farm can also check out the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm “GoatFundMe,” a play on GoFundMe and the farm’s famous four-legged critters.
The GoFundMe has a goal of $72,000, which Koenders says will keep them afloat until their next operating year. As of Monday afternoon, they had received just over $64,000 in donations.
Between that funding and the $6,000 the farm has already received in animal sponsorships, they are close to meeting their goal, but Koenders says all this hard work could be undone by another year of closure.
“It was already hard enough this year, to go two years, I don’t know what I’d be doing,” she said.
That threat and the other challenges COVID-19 has placed on Beacon Hill Children’s Farm’s operations has been a difficult strain.
Koenders says that the federal government’s wage subsidy has been a tremendous help, and she believes the municipality is doing what it can, too. Unfortunately, the very nature of the pandemic is a hit against the farm’s operations.
“I don’t think the petting area will be able to be open…we can’t wash the animals every time somebody has touched them,” Koenders said.
“Hopefully we can get this vaccination going.”
Right now though, she’s focused on raising the money she needs to be ready for opening next spring.
“It means everything,” said Koenders.
“The joy that we have brought to so many people, and generations. Grandparents are coming in with their grandkids, who used to come in with their kids. It’s a huge part of the community.”