I’ve been meaning to post this from day 1 of this blog but it’s taken me forever to edit all of the pictures I took while at the sanctuary. Now, you may be wondering to yourself, “Self, why is this mildly attractive, but poor excuse for a writer, writing about a farm? That has nothing to do with being vegan or broke.” And I’d say to you, “MILDLY attractive? …Good point.” But why write about Woodstock Farm Sanctuary? Because, if you care at all about animals in general or farm animals that are subjected to routine abuse, torture, and murder specifically, then you need to know about Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. If you went vegetarian or vegan for animal welfare reasons, then you need to know about Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.
If you don’t know about the important work that Woodstock Farm Sanctuary does, then you really need to get caught up! Jenny Brown and her husband, Doug Abel, started the sanctuary, just a bit outside of the main town center (yes – that Woodstock), roughly a decade ago. Let me tell you from personal experience that the scenery is wonderful. I had a hard time picturing a farm sanctuary in New York for some reason. Perhaps that’s because when I think of NY, I can only picture New York City. I just assume the whole state is the city. Kidding. Kind of.
Jenny, Doug, and their interns and staff go about caring for and rescuing – when possible – almost any farm animal they can take in. These are animals that come from a whole host of heartbreaking conditions such as being rescued from factory farms or from religious ceremonies that require animal sacrifice. The animals on their farm – who would otherwise meet a grim and nightmarish end – get to live out the rest of their lives in peace and surrounded by love (given in huge heaps by both the staff and visitors).
The farm is spread out on a lovely piece of land with mountains rising in the background and surrounded by trees. Besides their own home on the premises, they have a handful of barns, a small animal hospital, a guest B&B, and a visitor center.
|"Hey, I'm walkin' here!" Typical New Yorker!|
They first began rescuing chickens and a rooster but grew into a sanctuary that also includes goats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows, ducks, and even a mule named Diane (rescued from a long life being forced to work at the Grand Canyon). Sure, a mule might not be a typical ‘farm’ animal but once you meet her, you are glad she’s there. There is also the odd cat and dog roaming the land and love to say hello when you visit.
|Pogo the cat searching for attention|
My wife and I first visited Woodstock Farm Sanctuary last September when we went on an anniversary road trip through Toronto, Montreal, and New York. We weren’t originally going to make Woodstock a stop but I knew my wife really loved the work they were doing there and enjoyed Jenny Brown’s book, so I figured we’d make a detour home through NY state. I really hadn’t had much experience or knowledge about the farm or those running it other than what my wife had told me about Jenny and her book (The Lucky Ones – check it out!) that she had received on her birthday. Jenny’s story alone is amazing and worth reading about! Basically, I knew what they did but it wasn’t like I was following everything they did. FYI, I have since changed my ways.
Before we even stopped at Woodstock, we actually met Doug at the Toronto Vegetarian Fest just a week or so prior. After chatting with him, we were even more pumped to visit the farm.
They are only open on Saturdays and Sundays for visitors and so we arrived bright and early on Saturday. We wanted to get their right when they opened up so we could avoid any large crowds that might show up. We did have the place to ourselves for the first few minutes besides a small family, which was perfect. Plus, we wanted to make sure we had enough time to say hello to all of the animals living on the farm. It was a brisk fall day on the farm, which was slightly frustrating because I would go from being too warm with a hoodie on to being too cold without one. Otherwise, with the sun out we really couldn’t complain.
|Tim the turkey - who seems to seek out cameras!|
Upon entering the main sanctuary area we were greeted almost immediately with the local residents. We saw a cute and friendly turkey walking around without a care in the world. After we made our way to the visitor center to pay for admission to the farm (which included the tour for free), we were able to walk around the area until the tour started. We walked around the main barn just next to the visitor center and spent time saying hello to Diane the mule and a few of the goats that were chilling just outside the barn.
|Diane the mule and totally friendly! She enjoys a good back scratch.|
Soon after we arrived, our tour guide showed up to lead several of us around the grounds. What I wasn’t expecting was Jenny Brown herself to be leading the tour – a totally cool surprise! Throughout the walk, Jenny talked to us about the various animals living on the farm and the stories of how they came to be there. You can really tell the love she has for each and every one of those animals and it’s really quite infectious. If you told me I’d have an emotional bond to chickens ten years ago, I probably would’ve scoffed. But you can’t help but think about what it would be like if you were in the situations many of those animals had been in and on a lot of those animals, you see the physical scars left by their former captive lives.
|I was quite jealous this guy was getting a nap.|
With each stop on the tour, besides getting to pet and sometimes feed the animals, Jenny also talked about the typical conditions each type of animal would face on normal farms. It was sobering and just helped to reinforce our decision to go vegan. If you aren’t vegetarian or vegan before going in, by the time you leave, you might be heavily leaning that way (at the VERY least). Otherwise, I don’t know what else would convince you that going meat-free is the way to be.
Along the way we were able to rub the bellies of pigs as they napped, fed a few adorable cows fruit (nothing quite like getting saliva all over your hand!), and watched Scott Sticker, the shelter’s manager, get swarmed and playfully knocked back as he attempted to feed the goats.
|"You gonna feed me or what?"|
|Dylan the cow munching on some fruit.|
|The second attempt, after Scott, for snacks.|
It seemed as if every stop introduced a cuter animal than the last.
|Maribeth - the cutest calf you'll ever meet!|
Once the tour was sadly over, we were able to chat with Jenny and other tour group members by the visitor center. Despite being busy she still gave time to talk to those interested in carrying on the conversation; although, I’m sure she really needed to refuel after that tour! After we gushed about how much we loved the farm and the work they did, she smiled and gave a friendly, “Well, come on back and volunteer!”
|Jenny Brown & me|
Oh, trust us, we will! We saw her about a month later at the Chicago Vegan Mania and anyone who can get a chance to hear her talk, go do so! The work they’re doing to help the lives of farm animals is important and needs more support. If you get the chance, I highly urge you to volunteer some time at the farm. Not only would you be having fun getting to work with such sweet and amazing beings but you’ll also get the satisfaction in knowing that you’re actively doing something to benefit animals that had only previously known pain and fear. Or, at the very least, stay at the wonderful B&B and get a great vegan breakfast after listening to the farm (and wild) animals throughout the night and into the morning. While the sanctuary is only open on the weekends for most visitors, the B&B is open year-round. Also, since the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary is funded not only through their on-site visitor store and the admission fees but also donations online, I would also ask that if you can afford even a dollar to give they’re worthy of your hard-earned cash. The money not only goes toward the animals and their care, which can include food, medicine, and shelter, but also toward trying to rescue and find homes for other animals in need.
|I believe what he's trying to say is, "Come on by and visit!"|
I also realize that the title of my blog is titled the broke vegan and a trip to New York may not seem like something a broke person might do. That may be true but if you get the chance, I strongly urge you to visit. It’s an experience that will stick with you and it really helped refuel our vegan activism batteries, so to speak. We saved up for our trip and made it happen and the detour didn’t add much to the cost of our vacation. The stop in Woodstock itself was relatively affordable (including food, lodging, gas, and souvenirs). If two broke vegans can do it, you can, too!
Words cannot do the fun we had justice. We had an amazing time on our vacation and saw a lot of phenomenal things but Woodstock Farm Sanctuary was probably the most fun I had on the whole trip. I am definitely going to go back! What about you all? Has anyone been there? What are your thoughts? Any memorable moments that stood out for you?
Until next time, keep calm and vegan on!
|Dylan is totally keeping calm and vegan on!|
EDIT UPDATE: The story about Diane's past was apparently incorrect. Woodstock has informed me that she was actually a plow mule for a bit of time in Idaho and came eastward to New York through several horse traders before finding a home at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.