I’ve posted a few times about Peaceful Prairie, the farm sanctuary in Deer Trail, CO. That was the first sanctuary I’d ever visited, and it was exactly as I pictured a farm sanctuary would be. A simple farm, the bare necessities, the dedicated people running the show, giving all of their time and resources to save the beautiful animals. Chris and Michele. Michele knows all of their rescued residents by name, by personality, by bleat and cluck and moo. She knows what they need when they call to one another, knows what she can do for them, and what they need each other for. It is a community, it is a family.
Recently I had the opportunity to go to The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, about 35 miles outside Ithaca. It was a beautiful location. I didn’t feel like I was at a farm, though. The buildings were beautiful, everything was almost eeerily spotless. Not that things are messy at Peaceful Prairie, but they’re definitely lived in.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is awesome that The Farm Sanctuary is doing everything it does to bring awareness to people. I don’t know if they’re the first of their kind, but they’re definitely the first that most people hear about. But they not only have several brand new barns going up, replacing barns that looked perfectly servicable to me, but they have this huge gorgeous “people barn” with a gift shop. And some cabins that you can rent to stay the night at the farm.
I have such mixed feelings about this. I think about Chris and Michele busting their asses at Peaceful Prairie, Chris literally busting his back without a complaint. I think about the fact that they’re begging the community to raise $24k so they can get a tractor. A tractor. Not another tractor. Just one. The first one they will have ever had, if they can raise the money for it.
And thinking about that, remembering the few hours we spent raking up one small part of the farm, the blisters (from the rake) and bruises (from goosifer) I earned, how tired we were from a mere 2 hours of work one day, and how great a need Michele and Chris have for any help at all, the comparison seems cruel. Farm Sanctuary is clearly bringing in a lot of money for them to be able to spend money on what seem like supurfluous luxuries. At least compared to Peaceful Prairie.
I can’t help but to wonder how many more animals could be saved if the money had been spent on the animals instead of the people barn? Yet maybe Farm Sanctuary gets so much money because they have these special things, these extras? Many of us were upset, knowing that many people visit the Farm Sanctuary, treating it as a sort of petting zoo. I can see how that mistake would be made, to be honest. I never did see any sign of the people who founded the Sanctuary. I saw some people working, but I was only ever told the name of our tour guide. And that bothered me too, though it is more difficult to explain.
It was an odd experience overall. I can say unequivically that I prefer visiting Peaceful Prairie. Several people were deeply depressed by visiting the Farm Sanctuary, seeing it as a drop in the bucket. I think part of this feeling stems from the fact that the entire experience kept us so far removed from the animals. Yes we got to pet the cows and goats and pigs, we were told a bit about the personality of a few select animals, but overall…we were on a guided tour, guided by someone who has limited experience with the Sanctuary, and it felt very distant to me.
I contrast that to being at Peaceful Prarie, no gift shop to be found, but stories about Graebel fighting off four coyotes (not a typo!) and having to be pulled off the last coyote so it could get away…I hear about Sherman hiding from the slaughter truck, John Lee taking care of his flock, and Goosifer’s neurotic behavior. They are family. And they are my family now. In comparison, visiting the Farm Sanctuary was as personal as visiting a museum.
Harsh, I realize. Still, I think we all would agree that the “little guys” are generally overlooked, whatever we’re talking about. And so I urge you to support the “little guys”. I can pretty much guarantee they need the support more. Your money, time, and effort will mean more to places like Peaceful Prairie, and I’m positive there are many more like them out there, getting much less attention, and therefore much less of the desperately needed money, than they deserve. These are people putting it all on the line, dedicating everything they have to the animals. And you know, this is how Farm Sanctuary started too. I’m not denying what they’ve done, or that they’re busy saving animals, more animals in fact, than Peaceful Prairie. But right now…right now Chris is in almost constant back pain from the 20 years work he’s put in on the farm. He works 60 hours a week in Denver to earn the money that supports the farm and comes home to put in backbreaking labor. Well, I think it is clear where I stand. I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions.