My desire to volunteer with rescued farm animals evolved in the Spring of 2010, when my friend Valerie and I visited Animal Place Sanctuary and Education Center near Vacaville, CA and learned about the awful treatment of animals as food and for trade. Founded in 1989, Animal Place outgrew their original location and moved to a larger space in Grass Valley in July 2010; Valerie and I attended the Barn Warming, featuring visits with the animals, live music, vegan treats and animal-friendly vendors. Since Animal Place was still securing permits and thus unable to accept volunteers, a friend suggested I visit Farm Sanctuary in Orland, CA.
On my first visit to Farm Sanctuary in August 2010, I instantly fell in love with the animals and longed to be a part of their world, or at least give more than just a monetary donation (a.k.a buying everything in the store). One white calf, Elliott, was especially sweet; since our group was very small, our tour guide – Education Coordinator, Sophia Rivers – let us in to get up close and personal with him. (Years later, Elliott is now a happy, healthy cow, much too big for hand-suckling!) I left that day wondering how I might give back to this amazing organization, as well as learn more about their mission and history.
In Novemeber 2010, Sacramento Vegetarian Society hosted a potluck with Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur as the guest speaker. Having read his wonderful book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, only a few weeks before, I was eager to hear from this dedicated, intelligent man. Just like the animals for whom he advocates, Gene is warm and engaging, ready to chat about everything from political debates to the cafés in upstate New York. For nearly 2 hours, I listened to realistic and humbling information on the triumphs and challenges for animals, agriculture and our planet, with the evening ending in celebration as Gene signed copies of his book and posed for photos.
In April 2011, I began dedicating one Saturday a month to Farm Sanctuary, attending my first-ever Volunteer Work Party, where I cleaned the turkey barn, raked hay, washed down the pig stalls and brushed goats. Not the most glamourous work, but as I drove home as the sun set – tired, achy and very dirty – my heart overflowed with happiness. I became a regular volunteer with the Orland location, returning monthly and on special occasions for the next year.
The highlights of my volunteer time with Farm Sanctuary include the California Country Hoedown, an annual, weekend-long event featuring product demonstrations, book signings and commentary from “vegan celebrities.” I volunteered during the 25th Anniversary Celebration, where guest included author and chef Colleen Patrick-Goudreu and Vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke. Another special event, The Celebration For the Turkeys, warmed my heart as a Thanksgiving of opposites, where the turkeys are fed watermelon, squash and “pie.” If you’ve never seen and heard a turkey celebrate, you are missing out.
Farm Sanctuary’s touching and commendable 25th Anniversary Year in Review video:
Even after I moved to México in 2012, I continued to receive the monthly email announcing the date of the next Volunteer Work Party, and information such as where you can get involved, work on the farm or donate items on the ever-growing “wish list.”
Dedicating your time to a special cause works wonders for the soul. I encourage anyone near Sacramento, Orland or Santa Rosa to visit Farm Sanctuary* and see for yourself how warm your heart can be.
*If you can’t make it to Farm Sanctuary, try another animal rescue near you. Here are some others in California: