We Stayed Overnight at Farm Sanctuary. Here's What Happened.
map courtesy Peter and Maria Hoey
GETTING THERE From Sacramento, hit Interstate 5 for a 100-mile drive north through farmland dotted with strip malls. Stop in Williams for tasty Italian food at Granzella's, a quirky restaurant-deli-motel. (Avert your eyes from the taxidermied carcasses, including two polar bears, haunting its "sports lounge.") Continue north to Orland, where you leave the freeway to enter a bucolic landscape of rolling hills, wispy vegetation, and grazing cows. Pull up to the 300-acre Farm Sanctuary's sole accommodation, a humble but charming cottage, then pluck the key from its hiding place and let yourself in.
BEST MOMENT When Jordan the turkey ran up to us and gazed longingly until we realized he just wanted to be petted, whereupon he settled into a comfortable squat, eyes half closed, basking in the attention. (Jordan mysteriously appeared at the farm, along with 10 other chicks, in fall 2009. They'd all been debeaked and detoed, suggesting that they'd been covertly rescued from a factory farm.)
WORST MOMENT On a blustery hill, the goat that we were petting became so relaxed that she lost all sense of discretion. Unhappily, we came to know what the term "pissing into the wind" really means.
FAVORITE CHARACTER Blossom, the confident pig who likely escaped from a factory farm as a baby and now lives a contented adolescence in the sun and mud. Someone inclined to anthropomorphism might describe her as earnest; I simply liked her energetic spirit, her habit of rubbing her nose in the dirt, and her excitement at being hand-fed frozen grapes.
LOCAL LORE Farm Sanctuary cofounder and president Gene Baur is from Hollywood and worked on commercials for KFC and McDonald's. In 1985, inspired by such various influences as Carl Sagan and the Amish, he became a vegan. He helped start Farm Sanctuary the following year, funding it in part by selling veggie dogs out of a Volkswagen van. "Some people remain particularly sensitive to animals," he wrote in his book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, "and I am one of them."
WHAT'S GREEN The sanctuary maintains strict composting and recycling policies, uses eco-friendly cleaning products, and allows only vegan food on the premises. And its very existence represents a protest of factory farming — an industry that's one of the world's worst polluters.
WHAT'S NOT GREEN Well, the cows emit methane.
PLANET-SAVING OPPORTUNITIES A monthly volunteer work party offers the chance to pitch in with chores and projects. Extended animal-care and advocacy internships are also available.
BONUS! Here's a link to a slideshow of some of Farm Sanctuary's most adorable animals, alongside their heartwarming rescue stories.