Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Local Farm animal sanctuary offering virtual tours, Mother's Day event

May 08, 2020 | Local News
Courtesy photo – Good Life Refuge’s “welcoming committee” eagerly awaits the return of guests to the farm when its onsite open house tours resume.

By Katie Harris

The Surveyor

Two months ago, a pair of dubious alpacas and a trio of inquisitive goats served as welcoming committee to hundreds of eager guests as they arrived to tour Good Life Refuge Farm Animal Sanctuary. But things have become eerily quiet since that day for the farm’s rag-tag bunch of animal residents.

Just six months after receiving its nonprofit status the sanctuary was shuttered thanks to the Covid outbreak, leaving founder and president Nicole Brecht wondering how she’d fill the 50 hungry bellies of her animal residents.

“We had to come up with a way to engage the public and not lose momentum, because we were just starting to bloom when this happened,” said Brecht. “We had good events with good turn out in January and February, and then suddenly we were stopped cold in our tracks.”

The five-acre sanctuary, located just minutes outside of Berthoud in northwest Longmont, is home to cows, alpacas, goats, pigs, turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens, most of whom came from hoarding or neglect cases, or were abandoned.

Brecht, who volunteered at local rescues for over a decade before opening her own in 2018, opened the sanctuary to provide a cruelty-free environment for at-risk farm animals to live out the remainder of their lives.

In order to care for the 50 animals currently living on the farm, and to continue to take in animals in need, Brecht and her crew of over 20 volunteers depend on revenue from open house events and tours.

“Our once-a-month open houses, which include guided tours, animal stories, food vendors and arts and crafts, were bringing in about 200 guests before we had to close,” said Director of Operations Michael Ekegren. “Those events brought in about half of our income, with the other half coming from Facebook donations.”

With close to $28,000 in expenses each year, including medical costs, feed, bedding and shelter, Brecht knew the sanctuary couldn’t last long without a replacement source of revenue. After canceling one open house due to the closure last month, she and Ekegren put their heads together to come up with a plan to keep the farm operating.

“We knew we were going to have to cancel our Mother’s Day event, so we decided to replace it with a virtual live tour on the Zoom platform,” said Ekegren. “We’re asking for donations of $5 per person or $10 per family, just as if it were on-site.”

The Mother’s Day tour will take place Saturday, May 9 at 2 p.m. and last approximately one hour. Those interested in attending can register by visiting the sanctuary’s website at www.goodliferefuge.org and clicking on the “visit us” tab, then scrolling down to “events calendar.”

“[Brecht] will go around with a handheld and offer an overview of the farm and some of our more charismatic animal ambassadors with their backstories,” said Ekegren. “We’ll also build in a little bit of education on things like animal cognition and emotions.”

In addition to the Mother’s Day event, the sanctuary is offering four more options for personalized virtual tours through its website, including corporate, friends and family, happy hour and schools. The “virtual tours” tab at www.goodliferefuge.org offers information on maximum number of guests and suggested donations for each option. Guests are able to sign on from multiple locations with their Zoom meeting IDs, and each group will receive their very own personalized tour, including a Q & A session with Brecht.

“The goal is to do some fundraising but with something in exchange,” said Ekegren. “This is all a big experiment for us, but we think it will be a pretty awesome tour.”

The duo decided to offer the school tour free of charge for schools in Boulder and Larimer counties, in the hopes of educating children and connecting them with animals. The other three tour options range from $125-$250 per group, all of which will go directly to the animals.

From O.B., the highly arthritic and immunocompromised goat in need of constant medical attention; to Sofia, the 700-pound pig who suffered from severe depression and refused to eat after being surrendered by her owner; to Ankara the turkey, a former Berthoud stray whom Brecht saved from becoming Thanksgiving dinner; the animals at Good Life Refuge are depending on the generosity of the public now more than ever.

In addition to signing up for one of the virtual events, anyone interested in supporting Good Life Refuge can do so by making a one-time or recurring monetary donation or by sponsoring an animal at www.goodliferefuge.org/donate; by signing up to be a volunteer once the sanctuary’s doors reopen; or by donating an item from the organization’s Amazon Wishlist, found at www.goodliferefuge.org/otherways.

“Before Covid, we were just getting ready to open up more pasture space, make a bigger area for the birds, and get electrical to the barn,” said Brecht. “Now we’re at the point of not having any income coming in on a regular basis. The hardest part is the uncertainty; not knowing what the future will look like. We’re hoping the virtual events will help to minimize that.”

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