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.

Postcard From the Road – Hawaii

By Gene

The Vegetarian Society of Hawaii, with the support of Down to Earth™, a vegan-friendly health food store chain on the islands, recently welcomed me to their beautiful homeland. I spoke to several groups and attended events on Oahu and Maui. As I’ve seen in many other places, vegan awareness is thriving there!


Sharing our message
Three events on three consecutive days drew strong attendance, and our message was magnified in news reports on two popular morning news programs with special segments promoting plant-based eating. One of these programs also included an interview with Justin Young, a talented musician and Farm Sanctuary supporter who performed at a Valentine’s Eve benefit for Farm Sanctuary at Govinda’s vegetarian restaurant in Honolulu.




Justin Young performing at the Valentine’s Eve benefit.

During my visit, I met Patricia Bragg (of Bragg Liquid Aminos), whose father, Paul Bragg, inspired the beginnings of Jack LaLanne’s life-long devotion to encouraging fitness and nutritional eating, and Jay, a vegan athlete who ran the Honolulu marathon (26.2 miles) carrying an impressive 100-pound log to demonstrate both the endurance and strength that plant foods can support. I also saw old friends like Ruth Heidrich, a six-time ironman triathlon finisher who beat cancer on a plant-based diet, and Dr. Bill Harris, a former fighter pilot who founded the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii and who is keeping active into his 80s by parachuting out of planes, among his other pursuits! Members of Hawaii’s vegetarian community are actively demonstrating the short- and long-term benefits of eating plants instead of animals.


Gene with Patricia Bragg and Matt Jisa.

Animal agriculture operates in Hawaii on a relatively small scale, with the exception of the Parker Ranch, one of the oldest and largest cattle ranches in the United States. It was established in the 1800s, alongside the whaling industry, and comprises roughly 250,000 acres. As on the mainland, Hawaii’s animal agriculture industry also includes chickens exploited for egg production and pigs exploited for meat who are kept in cramped, filthy enclosures. Exploiting animals for commercial gain here presents animal welfare problems associated with shipping animals to and from the mainland. To contest these practices in Hawaii, members of the vegetarian society and animal activists are speaking out and demanding reforms.

Special opportunities
I especially enjoyed whale watching — from a bluff, not a boat — during my visit. Mothers and their babies swim, dive, and breach in the waters around Hawaii as part of their annual migration for birthing and mating. In the past, killing whales was a significant economic activity in Hawaii, but thankfully times have changed. A more humane and sustainable economy has now developed around watching and appreciating these whales.

During my time on Maui, I visited Leilani Farm Sanctuary. This shelter for abused animals shares a kindred spirit with Farm Sanctuary. Laurelee Blanchard, their director, is a dedicated animal advocate who I’ve known for many years. She moved to Hawaii in 1999 and now lives in the middle of her sanctuary, surrounded by rescued animals. We toured the grounds together and then enjoyed a tasty vegan meal prepared by Laurelee’s boyfriend, Barry. It always delights and inspires me to spend time with other committed, passionate advocates.


Gene at Leilani Farm Sanctuary. Photo credit: Leilani Farm Sanctuary.

All of these individuals who are supporting animal causes, choosing more plant-based diets, and speaking out on behalf of suffering animals show me that we can make a positive difference in our world. I just love watching our movement grow!


Will You Join Team Farm Sanctuary?

By Gene

At the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in DC

I’m excited that Farm Sanctuary has been selected as an official charity for the 2013 LA Marathon®. This is the first time Farm Sanctuary will participate in a major athletic event, and I will be running as part of Team Farm Sanctuary on race day! I would love to have the opportunity to meet other Farm Sanctuary supporters who are also runners in this event. The LA Marathon will take place on March 17, 2013. It starts at Dodger Stadium and ends in Santa Monica. Registration has begun. Click here to learn more about how you can get involved.

Joining Team Farm Sanctuary at the LA Marathon isn’t just a great way to meet other runners who care about protecting animals; it’s also a chance to raise funds for Farm Sanctuary and reach out to friends and family about the issues that matter so much to all of us. Every member of Team Farm Sanctuary will be working hard to raise $500 to support our life-saving work.

Getting involved provides a wonderful opportunity to educate people about why farm animals deserve better than the horrible existence they endure on factory farms. Running a marathon is also, of course, a significant personal accomplishment.

I’ll be running 26.2 miles for farm animals in Los Angeles on March 17th. I’m sure there will be challenging moments, but knowing that I’m running for a meaningful cause will propel me forward. I hope you will consider joining Team Farm Sanctuary. If you aren’t able to run but still want to get involved, please consider supporting my efforts by making a donation today on my fundraising page. Let’s show the LA Marathon what Farm Sanctuary is made of!