In August one of my favorite bloggers, Emily at Daily Garnish, posted about her visit to Pigs Peace Sanctuary near where she lives in Seattle. Her beautiful post on her experience at the sanctuary inspired me to look up my own local animal sanctuary here in Massachusetts. I found Maple Farm Sanctuary located in Mendon, Mass., about 1 hour from Boston/my house.
Maple Farm Sanctuary is run by Jim and Cheri Vandersluis. Their story is incredible. They met and began working together on a dairy farm. After years of making their living from selling milk and animals for meat, they realized they could no longer consciously be part of that industry. They took the uncertain leap and began their own animal sanctuary. They created a place for abused and/or abandoned animals to find refuge and live peacefully. What they did was courageous and so morally strong, I am so inspired by them. At the farm we were able to meet Jim and Cheri which was such a pleasure. They have such obvious passion for these animals and dedication to the sanctuary.
When I found Maple Farm Sanctuary online I friended them on Facebook immediately. About a week later I saw a post advertising an opportunity to join an upcoming tour of the sanctuary. The tours are run by volunteers and kept small and intimate. They are incredibly knowledgeable and so obviously passionate about their work. My friends Melissa and John were interested in making the journey to Mendon with me so we all went last weekend for the tour!
The sanctuary is a beautiful place and we toured it on a gorgeous Fall day.
The welcoming committee!
Beautiful chickens roamed the entire farm freely. One place in particular that they loved was underneath a huge pine tree right at the front of the property.
I called Mel the Chicken Whisperer because the chickens all came out from under the pine tree for her. So cute!
The cows roaming outside were amazing to watch; they are so majestic and have such interesting personalities.
This is Cassie the Cow. She is kept inside the main barn because she has severe anxiety/PTSD from living in a slaughterhouse before being rescued. She was a beautiful girl and even let Mel and I put our hands close to her nose for her to sniff. You can read more about Cassie’s story here.
Inside the main barn we met so many wonderful animals. The volunteers led us through each stall, introducing us to the animals by name, and sharing their stories. Each animal has a unique background and reason that brought them to Maple Farms. It was fascinating to learn about them and to see how much they’ve recovered there after being mistreated/neglected.
Llamas are such wonderful animals. They are curious, funny, and very loving.
This guy was so curious about my camera, he did everything he could to get his head through the slats to sniff at it. It was hilarious! Mind you, his pen is totally open so he could have walked around and not had to squeeze his head through but llamas are not the brightest bulbs I guess.
This is the lovely sheep, Tara Anna. She was my favorite animal at the sanctuary. She had such a sweet demeanor despite being severely abused before she was brought to the farm. She was tentative and demure but clearly happy to be at the sanctuary.
The animals loved their Himalayan sea salt cube. Fancy!
This is Chance the pig and the rehabilitating ducks.
The goats wander freely between the barns which was funny because they followed us around during the tour. They are very social animals and have such great little personalities.
This is Chocolate Milk. He tried to eat Mel’s hoodie. Still laughing about that one.
This is Dale the turkey. He was featured in Veg News magazine last Thanksgiving to pay tribute to rescued turkeys.
In the backyard the animals can lay out in the sun and snooze. In the middle you can see Jonathan the pig. The backyard is his favorite place to nap. Jonathan was brought to the sanctuary at 4 months old after he was bred by a family to provide entertainment for their children. Apparently they had no use for Jonathan after he was born – it’s such a shame that some humans treat animals like disposable playthings. However, Jonathan now lives a happy life at the sanctuary. I think he may have been the biggest pig I’ve ever seen!
Ducks and chickens in the chicken house.
The sanctuary is on 100+ acres of gorgeous farm land. It’s not hard to imagine why these animals rehabilitate and recover so quickly from the trauma they’ve experienced once they get here. It’s such a restorative and peaceful place. Humble but very beautiful.
There are a group of cows who roam free on the farm but came to us when we walked over to their gate. The only time I got really emotional during our visit was when I saw these majestic animals slowly coming towards us. Something made me feel so connected to them; I find their gentle spirits and maternal nature fascinating.
Another one of my favorite animals was Max the cow. He weighs over 2,000 lbs. but was an gentle as could be. We got to feed him carrots! I couldn’t have been happier to have cow drool all over my hands. We also watched Cheri feed him peppermints which he gobbled up with delight.
Finally we met Putt Putt, a very sweet goat. He was playful and full of life despite being blind in one eye. He also had the softest fur ever! He really liked Melissa and John.
Our visit wrapped up with apple cider, vegan cupcakes, and big group hang out with the volunteer leaders.
We had an amazing day visiting with the animals and the wonderful people at Maple Farms. I’m not trying to force my views on animal sanctuaries on anyone with this post but I do think it’s important to share the magnificent work being done by the folks who run places like these. Our trip to Maple Farms has really got me thinking about my own food choices and how to proceed ethically. As a person whose professional career is based on the ethical treatment of humans in research, I am deeply passionate about the humane and equal treatment of all living things.
I would definitely encourage you to read more about Maple Farm Sanctuary, to look up your own local animal sanctuaries, and to check out the new documentary, Peaceable Kingdom, about animal sanctuaries. It even features Jim and Cheri from Maple Farm!