We Are Friends of Farm Animals: Our Trip to Orland's Farm Sanctuary

Below, enjoy a guest post by Steve about our trip to Farm Sanctuary last weekend for their annual Hoe Down Celebration.

As we drive north on 5, our ride is both sobering and ironic.   We pass by herds of cows grazing out on the open land and rolling hills, seemingly content in their daily practice.   Relaxed, munching grass, and barely drawing their eyes up to the cars passing them on the highway, they remain undisturbed – they are doing as they wish.  Of course, this is just the fa├žade to the whole picture which reveals itself a little more clearly further down the road.  A darker portrait of cows, lined up side by side, fenced into small compartments, standing on the brown dirt and feces-laden ground.  Maybe feeding on some grain or corn in a trough in front of them.  Waiting.  Just standing and waiting.

A veal calf in a transport truck, much like the one we saw.
 We pass several transport trucks on our right, metallic and concealing their contents, an almost impenetrable presence.  The calves inside these small steel boxes make themselves seen by pressing up against the tiny holds – their eyes peek out, deep and sullen, tragically speaking to us.  Asking the question we constantly face as we pass by each feedlot, dairy, or open pasture of the grass-fed, seemingly “happy cows.”  These cows may spend their first six months in this disguised paradise, but they will inevitably spend the rest of their lives in quite the opposite – the dark and dirty feedlot, the enclosed, disempowering dairy, and, eventually, show up on someone’s plate in the form of a steak or burger (many of whom will have provided their motherly milk for those three unnecessary glasses a day).  The rest of these cows’ lives will consist of pain, torment, abuse, and death.  And, if they are not cut short already, they may wish for a shorter existence in place of the tragedy that’s to come.   The question is: Why?  Just why.

With Whitaker, who was rescued as a calf. (Photo © Connie Pugh)
What makes this eight hour drive from Los Angeles to Orland, CA so sobering and ironic?  Well, because Lindsay and I are heading to the true paradise for these bovine beauties.  We are heading to Farm Sanctuary for their Hoe-Down, a two-day festival of fun, food, dance, and the exchange of stories and presentations by and to a like-minded crowd of compassionately-oriented people.  And, of course, time to spend and play with the turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, and, our aforementioned friends, the cows.  These cows, and other farmed folks, live their lives out naturally, freely, and without the potential future of becoming a steak, hot dog, coat, foie gras, nugget, or Thanksgiving feast.  This is that true paradise – this is that place of rescue – this is the full life retirement home from the antiquated, unwritten law that these animals are meant to become the food on our plate or are ours to do with what we wish.  When we arrive at Farm Sanctuary for this amazing event: to celebrate their 25th anniversary and receive the  “Friend of Farm Animals” award with which Lindsay and KMIV are being presented, we, like the animals, know there’s no “why?” here.  There just is.  We’re all where we’re meant to be.  Home.

Steve sharing a moment with Farm Sanctuary resident Madeleine.
This is the home to hundreds of farmed animals that have found rescue from an early and tragic life and end that unfortunately is the status quo, just the way things are.  We pull into the grassy parking lot, welcomed by a smiling volunteer who directs us to “The People Barn.”  All of the living creatures, both human and non-human, are equals here.  We all have space to live, breathe, eat – we all have room to walk, run, play, dance, and sleep.  There are already tents set up in the knoll by the entrance; these visitors cross their fingers for the opening of the nighttime clouds that settle above us at the moment, a chance to see the bright stars after a day filled with love, connection, and hope.

Food is awaiting our hungry bellies – eight hours is a long time and snacks can only hold us over so much – so we fill our plates and join the crowd under the great gazebo where Leanne Cronquist,  the CA Shelter Director, shows slides of the furry, feathered, snouted, horned and gentle giant friends that live at the Sanctuary.  She tells stories of a few, something silly they recently did or a delicate bond between a pair.  We hook up with Sarah Lux, the Donor Relations Manager, and a group of generous donors/sponsors to go on a special VIP tour.  Giddily, we begin our first (and not our last) journey through the Orland Farm Sanctuary.  Last year, Lindsay and I organized two special events called “Rock It Out!: A Night for Farm Animals,” featuring musicians, food, bake sales, raffles, artists, speakers and a loving crowd – ready to have fun and learn more about both the plight of farm animals and what can be done to help them.  We had a truly inspiring turnout and were able to raise a good chunk of money which we donated to our two favorite east coast sanctuaries: the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Farm Sanctuary, located in Watkins Glen, NY, and the original sanctuary created by Gene Baur and Lorrie Houston.   Months later, and along with a new home on the other side of the country, Lindsay was contacted to receive this humbling award.
Our "Friend of Farm Animals" Award Plaque.  
As “Friends to the Farm Animals,” this tour joins the ranks of our favorite times spent with animals: we’re introduced to Cupid, Harrison, Edward, and other loveable beastly bovines; we enjoy cuddle time with sleepy piggies Blossom, Lucas, and watch Fergus bury himself under a mound of hay for a midday siesta; we play in the romper room with new toddler Madeleine the goat, the cutest kid since…well, just the cutest kid, period; we connect intimately with the five gentlest male turkeys, as they call and answer to our dialogue with a unison of gobbles here and there, as if responding to what we’re saying; we say hi to the rest of our friends, some of which include Melvin the goat and Clementine the chicken, and walk the 300 acre grounds happily, knowing they are happy. 

We meet other new friends and engage in lengthy conversation about their experiences volunteering or visiting the sanctuary, our jobs, where we live, passions and goals and dreams.   Afternoon brings us inspiring and educational talks by social psychologist Melanie Joy (Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, The Carnism Network), vegan bodybuilding pioneer Robert Cheeke (Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness), and Rae Sikora (Plant Peace Daily, VegFund), animal activist and spokesperson extraordinaire.  Feeling all revved up and ready to make a difference, Gene Baur then presents Lindsay with an award that means the world to her.  Already emotional from the up close and personal time with the animals, the uplifting and enlightening speeches, this is the most delicious icing on the cake.  It is truly affirming of the positive spirit and work dedicated to the animals who deserve as happy and healthy of a life as we do. 

Gene's "Just Eats" Tour Bus
Gene shares his experience of traveling around the country with the Just Eats tour, sharing compassionate and cruelty-free eating and dining with others state-to-state, while we enjoy our compassionate and cruelty-free feast.  We finishing gorging ourselves with tasty vegan cuisine and ready ourselves for some fun, lively square dancing.  This is a Hoe-Down, remember!  The night winds down, and we head back to the Orland Inn to rest our weary, but fulfilled, heads and bodies on the three hours of sleep, eight hours of driving, and almost twelve hours of fun we had at the sanctuary.  Day two brings us back for a yummy breakfast, speakers’ Q&A, and an activism discussion and group breakout – focusing on everything and anything we can do to make a difference for the animals.  The volleying and spreading of ideas is infectious, grounding, and motivating – the almost 200 people at the sanctuary for this event are here for the same reasons and excited to get back to their respective homes to educate and connect others to the common mission.

After a final mini-photoshoot with Gene, Melanie, Rae and the cows, we gather our things to head out, before heading back into the crowd for pow-wows with photographer Connie Pugh, Robert Cheeke, and one final photo op with Josh Hooten, of Herbivore Clothing, wife Michelle, daughter Ruby and numerous animal friends.  (Note: If you’ve been to a sanctuary before, you know the hardest part is leaving.  Too much adorability, too much love.  If you’ve never been before, go.  You’ll see.)

Naptime with Fergus the pig. (Photo © Connie Pugh)
We do have to leave though (do we though…do we?), as do the almost 200 people who came from all over the country to celebrate life and compassion at this beautiful shelter.  One more look at the picturesque landscape, the brown barns, the cows roaming and resting on the high hills.  These are the lucky ones, unlike the many we passed on the way here and will inevitably pass again on our return home.  These are the lucky ones, who, like us and any other living creature should, get to live our the remainder of their long, long lives in peace. 

Good-bye Farm Sanctuary.  For now.   We’ll see you again soon.  And, in the meantime, whenever thoughts of despair arise or hope seems weakened, we’ll think of you and all that you do, all that you provide, and the bright future.

To learn more about Farm Sanctuary's kiss-worthy work to help farmed animals everywhere, or to donate to this amazing organization, visit www.farmsanctuary.org.


KMIV Family:

Steve is currently in the running for Gene Baur/Farm Sanctuary's "Just Eats" Vegan Recipe Contest, but he has some stiff competition! 

Please take a few moments to vote for his original recipe, 
BST (BlackBeanSweetPotatoTempeh) Burgers
by going here: 


Thank you for all that you do for the animals!


CurlyLocks said…
So heart-warming! Congratulations to Lindsay on the Friend of Farm Animals award!
Myra Wolf said…
Steve...how beautiful the weekend story you just wrote. You moved me so much with your words and the way you wrote this heartwarming story. I was moved (tears again), by the truth behind every word. I am over the moon proud of Lindsay getting this wonderful award and of you for being one of her biggest gifts.
Casey May said…
Hi Lindsay!

I'm in Australia and I really like your blog! I would love it if you would check out mine and follow it if you like it:)

Keep up the amazing work!
We are all activists :)

jana said…
excellent. i am looking forward to my first trip to Farm Sanctuary (NY) over the 4th of July weekend. I can't wait! Thank you for your work, and for sharing your experiences with us.
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