SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – Last year, Pasture Pals showcased a cow’s birthday party, a pumpkin carving contest, and one very curious alpaca. Participants and their parents visited VINE Sanctuary in Springfield and learned about the animals’ unique lives, all while getting to meet them up close and personal. Bucky the goat stole snacks and tried to eat pens, Shadow the sheep demanded ear scratches, and everyone went home with dirt smudges and a smile on their face. While VINE can’t welcome children and their families onsite this year, we can still bring all the fun of Pasture Pals to your living room.
VINE is a farmed animal sanctuary that offers refuge to approximately 700 animals. Home to cows, chickens, goats, sheep, turkeys, and many more, VINE also hosts potlucks in the community, sponsors a seed library at the Springfield Town Library, and welcomes the public at quarterly volunteer days. Pasture Pals is one of the free, humane education programs the sanctuary offers to the public.
Typically, Pasture Pals sessions are held in and around the front barn at VINE, allowing children to interact and observe the unique community in action. Due to COVID-19, the sanctuary cannot yet open its gates to the public, but youngsters can still meet the VINE crew.
Utilizing live video, each session of Pasture Pals will focus on a topic related to empathy and equality, taught in the barn and pasture. Sanctuary residents are a curious bunch, and many don’t shy away from the camera. Even though the experience is digital, you never know when a chicken will decide it’s time for the close up, Domino the alpaca will want to kiss the camera, or if Revere the muscovy duck will try to untie the camera operator’s shoes!
Even though it’s moved online, the goal of Pasture Pals is the same – to introduce children to the animals as a way of learning important life lessons about friendship, compassion, and respect for differences.
“One of my favorite parts of Pasture Pals is watching a kiddo realize they share something with an animal,” Anna Boarini, humane education coordinator, said. “Last year, a little girl was intimidated by some of the larger mammals, but she connected with Syrah, an elder sheep. When she realized that Syrah needs her apples sliced because her teeth aren’t as strong – just as she needed her own apples sliced since she was missing teeth – it all clicked. It was a fast friendship.”
Pasture Pals welcomes children of all ages, and accommodations are available for different ages and learning levels. All that is needed is a Zoom account, some paper, writing utensils, and a willingness to learn.
Pasture Pals sessions are July 20, July 27, and Aug. 3. Advance registration is required. Participants can register at www.tinyurl.com/zoompasturepals or by emailing Anna Boarini at firstname.lastname@example.org.