Zoom meetings have become part and parcel of everyday life during the pandemic.
In lieu of face-to-face contact, millions have turned to video conferencing platforms to host virtual meet-ups – with Joe Public, MPs and even Royal Family members communicating via video link.
But Zoom sessions – regardless of whether they’re for work meetings or social catchups – tend to follow a predictable pattern.
At least one person is impatiently urged to take themselves off mute. Other participants verbally bump into one another at deafening volume. And some bits of the conversation are permanently lost in a garbled, pixelated, blurry vortex.
Sometimes there’s a quiz, too.
It’s the same thing day in, day out. So it’s no wonder, then, that one farm’s attempts to change the Zoom status quo have gone down so well.
Cronkshaw Fold in Rossendale – around 40 minutes north of Manchester city centre – is home to sheep, chickens and dogs, but it’s their resident goats who have catapulted the farm into the news headlines.
The farm has been hiring out their goats for Zoom meetings right around the UK – offering some refreshing comic relief from video conferencing cliches in the process.
It all started back in April 2020.
Farmer Dot McCarthy decided to pop a message on the website that confirmed Cronkshaw Fold’s goats would be happy to get involved in any video calls moving ahead.
If anyone wanted to invite a goat onto their next Zoom call, they could pay £5 and staff would make it happen.
But Dot didn’t actually expect people to get in touch.
“It was a joke!” she tells The Manc.
“Bored mates stuck doing home-working had shared stories about the mundanity of video calls so I said they should add a goat and see what their boss does.
“And now, yeah, it’s got a bit out of hand!”
It definitely has – but in the best possible way.
Cronkshaw Fold’s goats have proven so camera-friendly that they’ve netted the farm over £50,000 – a vital lifeline at a time when doors have been shut to visitors.
The first two members of staff were hired just before the pandemic began, and whilst things looked bleak initially, the Goat Zoom service has successfully kept the duo in work.
Any extra money beyond the payroll will be put towards making the farm more eco-friendly – switching to renewable energy, electric vehicles and greener farming practices for the lowest carbon food production.
Almost one year on from launching, Zoom Goats is still a wild success – with people from all walks of life requesting the company of these furry farm animals for all kinds of reasons; from family breakfasts to butting in on marketing meetings.
“The pranksters are the best!” says Dot.
“Anyone sneaking a goat in without any pre-explanation. The confusion and mild panic – ‘Is it a troll? No it’s a goat!’ – that ensues is hilarious.
“We’ve had all sorts; stag dos, toddler birthdays, family catch-ups – Gran and Grandad’s reactions are golden.
“We’ve even had meetings where there’s so many people the goat can go unseen… until it bleats in the middle of a speaker’s presentation.”
Anyone hoping to get themselves an interrupting goat can also take their pick from the different personalities on the farm – with a webpage packed with info dedicated to each individual animal.
“Obviously this service is completely ridiculous, but that’s kind of the point,” says Dot.
“It’s funny because it is so mind-bendingly daft.”
Cronkshaw Fold has also grabbed headlines for running other innovative services involving its animals since lockdown – including virtual farm tours and bee adoption services.
Staff have also run Goat Yoga sessions in the past – where participants can “snuggle some goats at a safe distance from other humans”.
Naturally, with the current rules in place, this service is paused right now. But the farm is looking at potentially bringing back the exercise classes when restrictions are loosened a little later in the year.
For now at least, Cronkshaw Fold Farm is focused on connecting people with animals via camera.
They’ve introduced bleating to meetings. And it’s tickled Britain pink.
Learn more about Cronkshaw Fold Farm’s Goats on Zoom service on their website.