Saturday, September 5, 2009

Woodstock Farm

We’re back, and the second leg of our great adventure is off to an amazing start!

My sister and I were fortunate to come across an article a while back about a “farm animal” sanctuary in Woodstock, New York. After researching their website and gaining a greater understanding of Jenny Brown, the owner, we decided to call and set up a visit to volunteer.

We arrived at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (“WFAS”) ready to “love up” some animals. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains on the outskirts of the cute hippie town (yes, I know, the actual concert was held in the nearby town of Bethel), the WFAS houses an assortment of farm animals. Jenny and her husband, Doug, bought the property in 2004 and opened to the public in 2006. Around that time, two farm animal sanctuaries were closing down and were in search of a new home for their animals. Enter WFAS, a non-profit, vegan establishment capable of housing steers, goats, pigs, hens, roosters, turkeys, sheep, and ducks.

There were a few firsts for us at this stop. To begin with, one of the full-time staff members -- Amber (who is awesome) -- was petting a turkey when we were first introduced. (My sister and I both turned to each other and mouthed, “Really? You can pet a turkey?")

Walking up to greet us was another first -- a 12-year old gentle goat who is battling Lymphoma. Although skinny and clearly older, she approached us like a dog and wanted some serious attention.

Our initial job was a first, too! We were asked to clean out the “broiler” hen’s coop. Broiler hens are female chickens that are raised for their meat. They tend to be pumped with hormones so they grow faster for slaughter. When we began cleaning out their home, a few came up to us. One even laid an egg in front of us. Unfortunately, due to hormone injections, these hens do not lay eggs regularly and do not tend to their eggs. But they do like attention, and allow you to pet them once they have gained your trust. By the end of our three days at WFAS, we were petting machines -- goats, turkeys, sheep, the bellies of pigs and, of course, chickens!

We learned some facts about the animal “factories” that support the food industry that we would like to share (not for the weak of stomach):
- When we asked Amber why the turkey’s were missing parts of
their beaks and feet, she told us that most turkeys are killed at a
young age and the factories that breed them remove their toes and
beaks so they won’t cause as much “trouble”.
- The massive steers on site were saved from a dairy farm that would usually use these babies of the mama dairy cows for veal. Most of these young cows are not allowed to move much so their meat is more “tender” and are also of deprived of iron so their meat is a lighter color.
- The holding/feeding pens where the pigs are kept while they are fattened for slaughter are so small that the pigs cannot even turn around or lie down (there is a picture of us standing next to the crate).

While volunteering, we were able to get to know all different types of farm animals, including one that my sister and I fell in love with. His
name is Andy -- about 1200 pounds of pure, handsome pig! (He's the healthy pink pig with the crimped ears in the photo) If you go to their website, you can sponsor a farm animal, just like we did. Andy is now family!!!!

We were stunned and humbled by how much work goes into maintaining a farm with so many animals. We shoveled out pine shavings, shoveled more poop than one can even imagine -- including “cow pies” in the pasture -- and fed pigs the most beautiful produce (they eat well).

At the end of the day, however, there is always more to be done. But it’s worth it when you see how happy these animals are to be alive, and well cared for, and treated with the dignity any creature deserves. There is a respect here for ALL animals that is so admirable. Dog, cat, pig, horse, cow, goat -- you get it.

So what can you do? First, get to know where your food comes from. Get informed. There is ample literature, books, and even documentaries like Food Inc. (a very enlightening film). That’s the first step. Then step back and ask yourself some questions.

Additionally, you can also support places like WFAS through donations and/or on-site help.

We can’t wait to go back in October for an early ThanksLiving feast!

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