Goats, yoga, and concerts — coping with COVID at Awbury
The Farm at Awbury Arboretum (formerly known as the Agricultural Village) is usually humming with activity: most of our partners, including the Philly Goat Project, the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP), the Awbury Community Garden, Weavers Way Co-op’s Mort Brooks Farm, the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild, and the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers, are located there, and many of them sponsor tours, events, and volunteer opportunities. This year, however, COVID-19 struck, and all events were canceled as the city went into lockdown.
As we moved into the yellow phase of pandemic restrictions, however, we began to see possibilities opening up for socially distanced, outdoor activities. As spring turned into summer, Awbury turned from canceling events to scheduling them. As our Deputy Executive Director Heather Zimmerman wrote in our fall newsletter, “NO began to turn to YES: ….YES to walking in the woods; YES to sitting on the porch in the sunshine; YES to petting goats and tramping through the AdventureWoods once again. Awbury, with its 56 acres of lovely landscape, is able to safely say yes to so many engagements.”
And nowhere was this YES more tangible than on The Farm: in partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Harvest 2020 program, we cultivated some of our land to provide fresh, organic produce for local food shares and the Germantown Supply Hub Mutual Aid and Protest Support, which grew out of the twin scourges of the pandemic and police brutality against Black people. We put an Awbury Ambassador at The Farm to orient visitors, provide them with maps and walking tours, and to alert them to all our programs. We began offering free (donation-based) fitness classes there during the week, led by a group of volunteer yoga and dance instructors that came together to form the Awbury Wellness Team.
And finally, in partnership with Philly Goat Project, we began offering Sunday Fun Days at the Farm, a mix of fun with goats and chickens, nature scavenger hunts, socially distanced dance parties, family yoga. On our last Sunday Fun Day on Nov. 8 neo-soul singer/composer Joy Ike held a free concert, sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Sundays on Stage program and the PCI Board of Managers. While she sang and played songs of hope, love, and possibility, people lounged on the grass, children danced and played with goats, and chickens strutted about in the unseasonal warmth. It was a joyous, sunny, harmonious, hopeful end to warm-weather days on The Farm.