It’s hard not to break into a smile during a virtual visit to Frederick Farm Goat Rescue and Sanctuary in Napanoch. It’s equally challenging during an in-person visit, but we’ll take what we can get during the COVID-19 crisis.
In fact, it was the challenge of the pandemic that prompted Ulster County farm owner Meagan Frederick to convert her Airbnb rescue goat experience in the Catskills into a virtual one. She’d been a member of the platform since fall 2019, and an Airbnb home host a year before that, so the lack of in-person visits resulted in a significant hit to her business off the bat.
“It was a major financial blow, but one we knew was best for our community and public health,” Frederick notes of Airbnb’s suspension of in-person experiences in March. So, when the hosting platform launched its virtual experiences option in April, she was quick to hop aboard. Although structuring and technology were challenges at first, she soon got into the swing of things – and Remote Rescue Goats took off.
“Within days, I was fully booking groups and couldn’t add groups fast enough,” she admits. “This new format has allowed me to connect with people from around the world, which, in itself, is amazing. I have also helped people celebrate birthdays with friends who are far apart, connected three generations of families who are separated due to COVID-19, celebrated Mother’s Day with mothers and their children who can’t see each other in person, and helped fellow animal lovers get up close and personal with animals they aren’t able to experience in real life right now.”
During the virtual visits, Frederick begins by introducing attendees to each goat. After sharing rescue stories and backgrounds, she gives viewers the change to meet and greet with the animals, witness their personalities and quirks, and spend time giving them virtual love.
For the Hudson Valley native (Frederick grew up in Westchester County), the reward of connecting people with animals and one another is a somewhat unexpected, yet welcome boon of animal rescue. When she and her husband first moved to Ulster County full-time in 2008, they never imagined they’d own the 16 goats (eight large breed and eight small breed) that call Frederick Farm home. Yet when a goat and a sheep wandered up their driveway one fateful day in 2013, the animal lovers couldn’t turn them away.
“Local rumor was that they were released into the wild by a nearby summer camp that was too inconvenienced to find them a home for the winter months,” she says. “Lucky for them, I have a hard time saying no to any rescue, so we made an instant home for Marvin [the goat] and Mabel [the sheep], and the herd has grown from there.”
Since launching their Airbnb Experience, Frederick and her husband have been able to welcome five additional goats to their herd, which also includes three dogs and more than a dozen chickens. On their nine-acre farm, which plays host to two Airbnb rentals, marked trails, and a vegetable garden, the family looks forward to continuing their virtual experiences while eventually reincorporating in-person visits to the mix.
“Although I think that people are craving time to be back out in the world and experiencing things firsthand, I also think that we, as a whole, have stumbled upon the power of technology to keep us connected,” Frederick says, adding that, regardless of the format, the chance to meet and bond with the goats is a meaningful way to unwind and find joy. “I think [goats] remind us to be a little silly sometimes, and perhaps we all need moments of silliness, especially in our world right now. I love being able to share that with people and bring them a laugh, a smile, a corny goat joke, an interesting fun fact, or an escape from the world for a brief while.”