Visiting Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, has been on my bucket list ever since I saw Gene Baur, the founder, speak at an animal rights conference in 2009.
Baur, with Lorri Houston, founded the organization in 1986, and it became the country’s first sanctuary for farmed animals. In addition to rescuing animals from various situations of abuse and neglect, Farm Sanctuary is also a powerful advocacy group, promoting legislation and lifestyles (insert veganism here) that protect farm animals.
After getting the chance to FINALLY visit Farm Sanctuary last weekend, here are my top 7 reasons you should visit too:
- Bond with the animal residents.
Every sanctuary resident here has a name and a story. Almost all of their stories started with suffering or cruelty, but that doesn’t stop many of the animals from completely trusting you the upon your first meeting with them. During the tour, you can meet Carlton, the sweet calf whose early days were spent chained by the neck and without adequate shelter or nutrition. A dairy calf, Carlton was intended to be used for meat, but was so unwell that the farmer who had him happily gave him up. You start to realize that every animal at Farm Sanctuary, so unique and individual, represent the countless, unnamed farm animals that are suffering at this very moment.
- Check out their new Tiny Houses.
Farm Sanctuary recently doubled the capacity of their accommodations with their new Tiny Houses. These compact homes are absolutely charming, and offer all the creature comforts you could want. Amenities include a fully-functional kitchenette, private bathroom, queen-sized bed, and more. Of course, no amenities come close to the joy of waking up to the views of deer roaming around the sanctuary grounds, and resident pigs rooting around in the grass in the morning sun.
- Have a glorious vegan breakfast in the morning.
One of the perks of staying on site is a complimentary vegan breakfast. Whenever I travel and have to navigate the standard continental buffet, I always fantasize about being somewhere with a full-vegan breakfast spread. When it was time for breakfast at the sanctuary, I had to do a double- and triple-take of all the vegan goodies around me. The sanctuary offered guests fresh waffles, bagels, pastries, cereal, and fruit. Of course, there was also extra-hot coffee with numerous non-dairy milk options.
- Meet likeminded people.
Being vegan means being in a lonely place a lot of the time. Food is such an integral part of life, so you’re faced with reminders of cruelty and suffering at almost every turn. It can be tiring to not fit in. Surrounding yourself with people who you know feel similar to you is liberating, and you deserve an emotional break every now and then.
- Appreciate that places like this exist in the world.
It’s comforting to know that no matter what you encounter day-to-day that brings you down, there are places on Earth that epitomize love and compassion. Even if places like Farm Sanctuary are few and far between, just knowing they exist is reassuring. Seeing and experiencing these places in person, if you’re able to, allows you to make a deeper connection with your compassionate self — one that you can rely on when you need it most.
- Get inspired.
There’s no shortage of inspiration at Farm Sanctuary. Whether it’s interacting with the farm or humanimals, or taking in all the beauty around you, visiting Farm Sanctuary breaks up your everyday routine to help you kickstart that thing you’ve been wanting to do. Maybe you’ll find yourself wanting to take the plunge to finally go vegan, or becoming more active in advocating for veganism, or finding other ways to live a more compassionate life.
- Take in the beauty of the area.
The city of Watkins Glen is located on the southern tip of one of New York’s glacial Finger Lakes, and boasts the 778-acre Watkins Glen State Park. If you visit during late September or October, you’ll see endless views of fiery-colored autumn leaves. There are numerous hiking trails that are easily accessible from the sanctuary. If you’re coming from a more urban setting like me, you’ll be even more susceptible to falling in love with the picturesque surroundings.
Farm Sanctuary has three shelter locations in New York and California. They offer shelter tours at all locations, as well as sanctuary accommodations at their New York location, which are open to their members May through October each year. Visit their website for more information.