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Edith Barabash, co-founder and executive director of Farmhouse Garden Animal Home takes part on a fundraising campaign Zoom call with Buckwheat, a 15 year old donkey (who previously guarded cattle on the farm) on Sept. 24 2020.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Edith Barabash

The pitch: Raising $10,000 and climbing for the Farmhouse Garden Animal Home

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, the Farmhouse Garden Animal Home had to come up with a new way of operating and raising money.

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Farmhouse Garden launched four years ago when farmer Mike Lanigan decided he could no longer send animals to slaughter. He switched to organic vegetable farming and converted part of his land near Uxbridge, Ont., east of Toronto, into a shelter for farm animals. “We really want to connect people with animals,” said Edith Barabash, a York University law student who has worked on the farm for years and co-founded Farmhouse. “We have 28 cows, chickens and ducks, a horse and a donkey.”

The shelter, which is volunteer-run, hasn’t been able to welcome as many visitors and it has had to come up with novel fundraising activities. One of the best ideas involved Buckwheat, Farmhouse’s very sociable donkey. For a small donation, Buckwheat would make a sudden appearance during online meetings. “People give us Zoom meeting links and in middle of meeting she would pop up,” Ms. Barabash said. The gimmick proved popular, and so far Buckwheat has raised $10,000 for the shelter. “It really helped us get through a few of the difficult months,” Ms. Barabash said.

Ms. Barabash is now organizing a virtual run from October 9-11. Participants can walk or run five to 10 kilometres in their favourite park and all of the money raised will help feed and house the animals. The top fundraisers will also be invited to a private tour of the shelter. She’s not sure how much the event will raise, but she’s hoping to build on it for next year when it can be held in person near Farmhouse. “We’ll be happy with anything because it’s a foundation for future years. We hope we learn from this,” she said.

Ms. Barabash, who lives in Toronto, is finishing her final year of law school, but she plans to stay involved with farm. “I think it’s always going to be a part of my life. I care about the animals and this is kind of my baby.”

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