A Day at the Animal Sanctuary!
I don’t even know where to begin with my weekend! I want to write about the incredible Be Well brunch that I attended (hosted by my friend Arielle), about my glorious day at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, about the ridiculously good 5-ingredient green smoothie that I created (actually tastes like cake batter), about finally finding some balance with my food choices, catching up with friends who are in town and more.
I don’t want to bombard you with everything at once, and we both know I could make this post a mile long with my ramblings, and that just ain’t proper blog etiquette. (Or is it? We make our own rules around here!)
Today I’m going to write about my experience at Woodstock. I went yesterday so its fresh in my mind, and it was a mind-blowingly lovely day so I’ve just gotta share.
First, some of you may be thinking… has Jordan gone all animal rights advocate on us? I thought she was vegan for health reasons and was nonjudgmental and open to all styles of eating…! Well, you’re still right. I have in no way changed my belief that people should eat in a way that works best for them and their body… regardless of what that entails.
I do believe that for most of us, a whole foods, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat and also (duh) the most ethical. I wouldn’t be comfortable eating in any way other than that, especially after living this way for a year and a half and being exposed to the harsh realities of animal cruelty on factory farms, and not to mention the freaky GMOs and hormones that run rampant in everyday American “food.”
I think it is nearly impossible not to adopt a “vegan for ethical reasons” perspective at some point throughout one’s vegan journey, and I knew I was reaching that point but yesterday’s trip to the animal sanctuary definitely solidified it for me.
Disclaimer: you don’t have to be vegan to support ethical treatment of animals. If you’re a diehard carnivore, make sure you know where your meat comes from – local, organic, sustainable farms are the way to go. Don’t support factory farms and the booming meat and dairy industry as we know it… it sucks, and it’s hurting our health just as much as it’s hurting the animals.
Here I am posing with Doug Abel, one of the two founders of the sanctuary. He lead our tour and did an amazing job educating us about the ins and outs of the farm, the animals’ rescue stories and each of their individual and unique personalities.
I’m not sure I can choose a favorite animal on the farm because so many of them were so sweet and loving. I adored the pigs (I am a sucker for an adorable piglet!), especially when I found out that pigs dream, enjoy music, and have their own language – mothers are known to “sing” to their young!
They were playing together and rolling around in the mud, and trying to envision them on a factory farm jammed into a tiny crate, unable to grow, with 10 other of their piggy friends made me sick to my stomach.
I also loved the sheep and the goats! I grew up across the street from a sheep farm (yes, in the middle of suburban Sacramento… funny, right?) and have always been impressed by how friendly and sweet sheep can be. All of the sheep at Woodstock were cracking me up, because their personalities are so distinct and they love being surrounded by people.
One sheep in particular, Sparky, melted my heart into a puddle on the floor because he was such a sweetheart. He is an older sheep with bad arthritis, and he was struggling to stay standing on all four legs. We were feeding the sheep and while some were pushing their way to the front of the crowd, he was staying behind and patiently waiting his turn. I wanted to take him home with me and snuggle him and give him a warm bath to ease his joints.
I also loved Dylan, the cow who was brought to the farm when he was so little that Doug could hold him in his hand! I was shocked to see how huge Dylan was – you forget how large cows are until you’re standing right in front of them. It’s actually unbearable for me to think about the way cows are treated in factory farms, and even more unbearable to think about eating the meat that comes from their bodies. Dylan was more than willing to pose with me 😉
There was also a blind horse that I fell in love with, a pond of ducks, a couple of bunnies, a cat, and a whole bunch of chickens. The chickens were separated by size – some were used to lay eggs in factory farms while others were being bulked up to be used as meat. The egg-laying chickens were still pretty beat up from their previous conditions, and that was hard to see.
The mission of Woodstock is beautiful, and the grounds are so serene and tranquil I could have stayed all weekend. They have a bed & breakfast and I would like to go back sometime in the near future and stay there! Everyone who worked on the farm was extremely nice and helpful, and you can tell how passionate they all are about what they do – one of the most inspiring parts of the whole experience.
And don’t even get me started on the town of Woodstock! After our experience at the farm, my friend Clare and I headed into town for lunch and to walk around and check it out. (Remember when I wrote an LA Yoga article for the Jane Fonda movie based in Woodstock a few summers ago?! Really cool for me to see the town the film took place in.)
We ate lunch at an adorable spot called The Garden Café, recommended to us by Doug, where we ran into him and his wife Jenny (the other founder of the sanctuary!). I ordered the Macro Plate, which was a delicious combo of black beans, hijiki, brown rice, steamed kale and tahini. I was basically in heaven.
Outside the annual drum festival was going on, so we got to listen to some cool music while we dined. Then we walked around town and popped into the most adorable juice bar called The Little Apple (I would seriously be there every day if I lived in Woodstock), a super charming bookstore (of course I bought a book – Goodbye to All That, cannot wait to read it), an awesome photography center and some other cool shops.
It was a lovely day and I enjoyed every second of it. If you’re interested in Woodstock, you must check out their website and see how you can get involved. You can become a member and you can even sponsor an individual animal – all of their names and personalities are listed on the site! (This is not a promotion or partnership at all – I’m sharing this information because I truly believe in the sanctuary and its mission.)
Overall, the BEST end to my weekend. Sometimes it is unbelievably refreshing to get out of the city for a day… and being able to breathe in the fresh air, see the gorgeous Catskills and countryside, and hang with some animals and awesome people was the greatest way to do that.
I feel very lucky. And I feel prouder than ever to be a vegan.
And guess what?! Clare, my college roomie and one of my very best friends for life, came with me to the farm yesterday and… drum roll please… she has officially made the decision to go vegan! She has dabbled in it for months, and has always been one of my #1 supporters in my own lifestyle change. The experience at the sanctuary yesterday was the tipping point for her — the ultimate reminder that animals are friends not food! I am so proud of her and thrilled to watch her embark on this a-m-a-z-i-n-g plant-based journey. (And having more vegan friends is always pretty darn awesome.)
Sidenote: I’ve gone on more adventures with this girl than just about anyone else. We lived together in Italy, traveled Europe together, lived together in LA, have been to Oregon, Las Vegas, SF, Sacramento and all over NY together. And I know I’m missing a few. She rocks.