Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Poplar Spring Farm Tour, 2008

The Farm Tour is actually a county type of event – all the participating farms in the county are essentially open for visitors on this one Saturday every summer.

There are hay rides, pulled by a tractor, and your typical food-for-purchase that are likely sold at every farm, but at Poplar Spring, of course the burgers and dogs are vegan.

Last year there were about 800 visitors. I’m not sure how many there were this year, I couldn’t really compare because last year I worked the food table, and it seemed like we were busy constantly the entire time. This year I was working the cows/horses/mules area, and that meant I had almost nothing to do. The horses and mules were staying cool in the barn, almost the entire time, and the cows were not seen the entire day, sticking to the woods and stream.

I always wonder how many people coming to the farm really understand ahead of time what they’re coming to see, whether (if they’re going to several farms) they find it jarring at all to experience groups of people with two opposite attitudes towards animals – one group focused on saving them, the other focused on making money off them. I wonder how many people have a veggie dog or burger for the first time, too worn down from the heat and humidity to have their usual “I’ve never tried it, but I just know it must be absolutely horrible” reaction.

I met cat rescuers from Baltimore, and various other people who seemed to have come specifically because it was a sanctuary. Perhaps they didn’t visit the other farms. Most of the visitors, however, make a day of it going to the various farms.

It is too bad that we have no way of knowing whether a message gets through, whether what they see and experience changes them.

Someone recently left a message on my Mork and Mindy post, about two of the most recent piglet arrivals:

I visited the sanctuary on Saturday and met Mork and saw Mindy sleeping. Mork was muddy on his face and lower half so I scratched behind his ears. I loved the pig barn! Loved it.


It made me smile. There is something about those pigs, messy, muddy, curious, intelligent and loving their belly rubs. Seeing them sleep is one of the most peaceful things I’ve ever seen. Having a giant half-asleep pig roll over for you to give them a belly rub, or having a muddy pig approach you and flop over on the ground for a belly rub…I find it amazing. Especially considering some of the things these pigs have survived. Bellies are vulnerable area for just about all animals, rolling over to expose our bellies requires trust. When the new pigs roll over for belly rubs for the first time (many, it is clear, have never had anything like it in their lives), that’s when we know they’re about to get over their wariness of humans.

I’m so glad that “s” had a chance to feel and experience some of that on Saturday.


4 responses to “Poplar Spring Farm Tour, 2008

  1. Lenn August 4, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I’ve never heard of a Farm Tour before. What a great idea for Poplar Springs to be a part of it! I wouldn’t expect there to be in-your-face preaching about how the sanctuary is the polar opposite of the other farms on the tour, but was there any sneaky way to make the distinction? Like saying, “Here’s Polly, a goat that came to us when a farm was going to kill him so he wouldn’t drink any of his mother’s milk. They needed it to make goat cheese.” (Polly is fictitious).

    I’m glad “s” got to meet the pigs–hopefully he/she will be a future vegan! Bless you, Deb, for helping them out. I know having help makes such a difference to the owners (sorry, I forgot their names) and animals!

  2. Deb August 4, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Lenn – it definitely is a good outreach opportunity for Poplar Spring! As people wander around and ask questions about the various residents, they certainly have a chance to hear the stories. The volunteers are stationed in specific animal areas, so it is hard to know what others say, but there are always signs with the animals stories (short versions anyway), so the information is definitely there for them. And if they wander into the gift shop, there’s a lot of informational pamphlets in there as well.

    You never can tell what will resonate with people, or what they are ready to hear, but every bit of exposure counts….and at least it gave people the opportunity to see what it “should” be like, as well as have some vegan food!

    Terry says that she thinks there were close to 1,000 people there this year! She says definitely more than last year, and the biggest year they’ve ever had. So that’s great news – that’s a lot of people who had a chance for some eye-opening information. 🙂

  3. nothoney October 13, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Ha! that was me and that was my first visit to the farm. I sent my volunteer application in the next day, and shortly after I resigned from my volunteer position at the National Zoo.

    I still love to watch the pigs after they’ve eaten all laid out in the barn and sleeping.

    Sheryl (I usually sign “s.” until people get to know it’s me)

  4. Deb October 15, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    That’s great that the visit turned you into a PSAS volunteer! 🙂

    It is always one of the best parts of my week. Even the day that it poured rain the whole time!

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