Vanderlaand the Barnyard Zoo hosts virtual field trip for a Gloucester Kindergarten class

Above, 4-year-old Blakeley enjoying her first ever virtual field trip courtesy of Vanderlaand the Barnyard Zoo, from the comfort of her own home on Friday. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

Kelsey Smith
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER SPRINGS —  A Gloucester Kindergarten class was surprised to see some cute furry, and feathery animals on their screens during their weekly web chat last Friday. 

Ruth Vanderlaan owner of Vanderlaan the Barnyard Zoo and some of her amazing creatures were welcomed guests as part of an online field trip. 

The Kindergarten class is currently learning about farm animals and would have been taking a field trip to a farm if it weren’t for Covid-19. With not being able to physically attend, this was the next best thing.

The children enjoyed looking at the animals, asking questions and trying to name the many varieties of critters.

Above, Blakeley looking at ‘the cute little rabbit’ who was being help and accompanied by Ruth Vanderlaan. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

Vanderlaan showed off her alpacas, chickens, rabbits, hedgehogs, pot-bellied pigs, goats, sheep, and so many others.

The hedgehog was a crowd favourite.

Above, Ruth Vanderlaan shows off her flock of chickens and rooster. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

This experience was not only beneficial to the kids but the free promotion was welcomed by Vanderlaan. The Winchester Springs-based business has been publicly struggling during the ongoing pandemic.

In a Facebook post on May 2, Vanderlaan expressed her concerns and gratitude for those who had reached out to her.

This Sunday would have been the opening day for Season 12 of the petting zoo. It’s sad but the reality is we can’t open. The farm will need to stay closed to continue social distancing. I have received calls, messages and emails from people who are concerned for our farm. It has been a strange time.”

“This is normally the time when I would be booking school groups ,events and tours and booking up mobile events for the summer. Now all I get is emails to let me know that an event is cancelled.” she continued. 

Their large family farm depends on the income that is brought in by the mobile version of their petting zoo, which can often be seen at many local fairs and other outdoor events.

Vanderlaan is trying to stay optimistic.

“I try to be a positive person and not worry about the unknown. The unknown is the hardest to deal with. Luckily I have the farm and chores that keep me busy everyday. There is something peaceful with the normalcy of my day to day chores.”

While she is not in dire straits yet, she hopes business is able to resume soon. 

“So far we are doing ok and I am hopeful we will be able to open and people will feel comfortable visiting the farm,” she said.

Above, Blakeley was engaged in the chickens during the virtual field trip. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

The animal lover plans to be open to the public more often, rather than just the usual weekly Sundays. 

“My plan is that I will open more days as I won’t be busy with mobile. Hopefully then I will have enough income to make it through the winter,” she explained. 

“It definitely is hard, our animals eat and have needs everyday of the year. My wish is when we are allowed to open, you, our fans, will visit often and bring your friends and family,” she continued. 

Vanderlaan asks the public to “please keep us in your thoughts” and insists that they “are doing well and can’t wait for your visits. It really is the most favourite time of the year for the animals when you visit.” 

Vanderlaand the Barnyard Zoo is a great place to learn, have fun, and play no matter your age. Admission is only $5 per person and is located at 11827 Oak Valley Road, Winchester Springs. 

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