A virtual farm walk spreads joy far and wide

A little project that started as a way for a family farm to communicate with friends and relatives has become a way to showcase agriculture to the world.

Charlotte Wasylik of Chatsworth Farm near Vermilion, made a livestream video tour of her family farm on Facebook Live near the end of March.

“We were originally doing it for friends and family who are in quarantine or who live far away,” she said.

People started tuning in to watch her virtual tours, which feature the farm’s cattle, sheep, ducks, poultry, grains and hay. Wasylik is now doing tours about twice a week, between her work schedule at a credit union in Vermilion.

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“Somehow it grew into this really amazing connection of people from all over,” said Wasylik who farms with her two brothers, Nicholas and Alexander, and parents Rick and Johanna.

“So we’ve had viewers from Texas, Ontario, New York and all across Alberta and Saskatchewan. They’re really lovely. Everyone has been so encouraging and very happy to see springtime, even though it’s been really snowy and it doesn’t look like spring outside.”

Still any time spent outdoors beats being cooped up inside, she said.

“The one thing that we’ve always noticed is that when we’re out and about with the cattle and the sheep, it just brightens our day so much,” she said. “We wanted to share that with others who may not have the opportunity to get outside as much as they normally would.

“We just wanted to spread some joy and fun with everybody else.”

Photo: Chatsworth Farm.

The tours take place on Chatsworth Farm’s Facebook page, and then the videos are uploaded to YouTube, so people who are not on social media can enjoy them too. (Wasylik is also active on @chatsworth_farm on Instagram.)

In the tours, Wasylik does things such as walk through the calving pen to show her audience the new calves. She talks about how the family raises its 200 head of cattle, and shows maternity pens. Her brothers have appeared in videos, spreading straw and feeding animals. In one video, a cow calved and had some troubles, so Wasylik recorded herself performing an assist.

The tours have proved to be an educational tool for children.

“Parents have sent in pictures of their kids watching the tour live,” said Wasylik. “They have the computer set up with kids on each side and we can see the animals in the background.”

To help parents out, Johanna created a list of websites and resources from groups such as Agriculture in the Classroom and Alberta Beef Producers and put them on the farm’s website.

“These are wonderful resources, lists and activity books that people can use to teach about agriculture in an understandable and fun way.”

People have been asking questions during the live videos, or emailing Wasylik, to learn more about farming.

Wasylik loves photographing livestock, but it was a new challenge for her to jump in front of the camera and talk.

“I’m not the type of person who does a lot of selfies and live videos,” she said. “But I just wanted to let people come onto our farm and enjoy that with us. Calving, lambing and springtime are just a welcome distraction from the things that life can throw at you, especially now.

“It’s important to get that refreshing look at new life, and you can step away from everything that is happening, and it gives you something to look forward to.”

The virtual tours are increasing in popularity.

“We’ve got our repeat and constant supporters, and new people who join in,” said Wasylik. “That’s been really exciting. I’ve been getting people to comment where they are watching from, so we can see the spread of everybody who is watching.

“At this time, everybody has been told to distance and stay safe, but we have this opportunity to share so much, and everybody is able to connect.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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