Postcard From the Road: We’re on a Roll

By Gene

The vegan movement is gaining momentum! In the last few years, I’ve seen more people than ever attend vegan events and more animal-friendly participation at mainstream events. This year, for instance, Farm Sanctuary fielded its first team to run for farm animals at the LA Marathon. I am always energized to meet other people who share an interest in running and sports and who demonstrate that athletic performance can be fueled by plant foods.


Team Farm Sanctuary at the LA Marathon

Farm animals are also gaining friends in the business community, where entrepreneurs are developing and marketing even more vegan substitutes for meat, milk, and eggs. And, during a recent visit to the Midwest, I saw farmers speaking out against factory farming at an anti-CAFO conference. Veg-friendly restaurants are popping up around the country, while books advocating plant-based lifestyles are topping best-seller lists. Individuals are lighting up social networks en masse with images and information about the wrongs of industrialized animal farming and the benefits of eating plants instead.

Plant-based living is not about deprivation and sacrifice. It is about living in a way that is aligned with compassionate values and healthy lifestyles. Vegan festivals have taken root in communities across the United States, welcoming attendees with food, entertainment, creativity, and enthusiasm. This spring, I attended inspirational events like Vegan Earth Day in Berkeley, California, and Worldfest in Los Angeles, which was held in an outdoor park with four stages, animal adoption booths, nonprofit and business booths, art displays, entertainment, and even a beer garden. I also stopped by VegFest in Charlotte, North Carolina, which attracted thousands and doubled its attendance from 2012.


Grilled veggies and polenta, one of the many incredibly delicious vegan dishes.


Meeting folks at the Charlotte VegFest

Of course, I have a special love for Farm Sanctuary events like our annual Country Hoe Down that I just attended in Orland, California. At our Hoe Downs, participants hear moving presentations, eat yummy food, commune with rescued animals, and experience a peaceful setting and welcoming community. At the Orland event in May, I spoke with many people, including Seth Tibbot, founder and president of Tofurky, who has been a long-time supporter of Farm Sanctuary and plant-based eating. He was living in a tree and I in a bus as our fledgling organizations started in the 1980s. We’ve come a long way!


This year we welcomed hundreds of attendees to our California Hoe Down.

I often say that “vegan is normal” at Farm Sanctuary, and it’s also a place where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to learn about food issues to begin their own journey toward more compassionate and healthful eating. With better access to information, and with more veggie food options available, shifting toward plant-based eating has never been easier. And with veg fests and other awareness- and community-building events, compassionate living is becoming an increasingly attractive way of life. This summer, keep your eye out for veg events in your area and bring your friends along for the ride.

P.S. You can still make plans for our New York Hoe Down, August 3–4, 2013 at our Watkins Glen Sanctuary!


It’s Hoe Down Time!

By Gene

Each year, we organize some special events at Farm Sanctuary to provide visitors with a deeper experience of our mission and our work. An integral part of our events lineup is our annual Country Hoe Down. The California Country Hoe Down is coming up this weekend, May 18–19, at our Orland, California, shelter. For folks in the East, we also will hold a Hoe Down at our sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, in August. These events are wonderful opportunities to spend time with rescued animals and commune with others who care about protecting animals and who are concerned about the effects of our industrialized food system.


While vegan is the norm at Farm Sanctuary, everyone is welcome. Whether you are someone who is just becoming curious about farming and food, a new vegetarian, or a long-time vegan, the Hoe Down is a place to learn about the issues in a peaceful, supportive environment.


Our California Hoe Down will feature a number of inspiring presentations from Farm Sanctuary staff and others, including Linda Long, author of Virgin Vegan: The Meatless Guide to Pleasing Your Palate; Chef AJ; and Cindy Machado, Director of Animal Services at Marin Humane Society. There will be plenty time to ask questions, meet the speakers, and interact with other attendees and the rescued animals.

2012_11-24_FSOR_Albert_donkey_DSC_8422_CREDIT_Farm_SanctuaryThe animals who live at Farm Sanctuary come from the worst places imaginable, including factory farms where they are denied the most basic humane treatment. Some of our animals were found starving in abandoned farms or were rescued from disasters like floods and fires. Our animals are refugees of cruelty and neglect borne out of a system that sees living, feeling beings merely as commodities. When they arrive at Farm Sanctuary, these animals experience human kindness for the first time and live in peace. Now, they’re waiting to meet you! During shelter time in Orland this weekend, Hoe Down attendees can spend some time with the ever-popular Melvin the goat; charming Albert the donkey; Lucas the loving pig; Joey the gentle lamb; and turkeys, cows, and chickens galore.

Everyone will enjoy delicious vegan meals and have a chance to kick up your heels at Saturday night’s barn dance. Perhaps best of all, the Hoe Down is a wonderful time to mingle with a bunch of great folks — it’s inspiring and a whole lot of fun — and, who knows, you may even strike up some new friendships. If you’re the outdoorsy type, pack your sleeping bag and tent — the Hoe Down is one of the few times when camping is allowed on the farm, and it’s a strikingly beautiful place to enjoy the open air.

We hear year after year from participants that the Country Hoe Down is the highlight of their summer, and that it leaves them rejuvenated and inspired.

Learn more about the California Country Hoe Down, May 18–19, 2013.