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A Letter from Co-Founder Jenny Brown

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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“Well…we have the keys!”

The big question that faced us at the beginning of 2015 wasn’t would we move the Sanctuary but how would we move it?

We had our new property in High Falls. It was ours. The keys to all the lodges, office buildings, and the big red barn sat on our kitchen counter.  Doug and I started 2015 excited and nervous about all the amazing things we would be able to do – and all the lives we could save.

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The Goat & Sheep Barn under construction

And then in January and February, the pipes of the new property began to freeze and break, roofs began to leak, the pump house that provided water everywhere kept failing, and serious structural engineering work was needed on the one existing barn… we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.

The dark, long winter was relentless, and we missed construction deadlines because of the frozen ground.  I began to avoid looking at the keys sitting there on the counter. Instead of all the potential I’d originally seen, I started to feel overwhelmed by all the work that we had in front of us.

Yet the property was beautiful and the possibilities for what we could do there were endless. We were so lucky to have been able to find it. It is six and a half times the size of our old location in Woodstock.  It boasts big open pastures, majestic forests, a gorgeous and historic waterway—and all the lodging and dining facilities we would need to host retreats, camps, events and other opportunities that offer immersive mission-based experiences. But it was full of unknowns and urgent building projects—we needed to build four new barns, rehabilitate a dozen existing buildings, trench endless yards of buried water and electric lines, and put up miles of fencing around all the pastures. Also, how in the world were we going to move 200+ animals with our two small trailers?

Big plans

Big plans (click to enlarge)

It wasn’t blind faith that gave us the confidence to make the leap; it was faith in our talented team, our dedicated supporters, and our committed volunteers.  We needed more than keys: we needed people’s help, a plan to move the animals, and (most important to me) we needed to make a home for many more rescued animals. We couldn’t take a year off to move…we needed to transform the property, move everyone, and immediately start opening our doors to farmed animals in need and to the public. As they say, we had to build the plane even while we were flying it.

Enlisting the Flock to Help the Flocks

So we asked this year and kept asking. We had some pro bono professional skills donated and amazing volunteers who helped ready the barns and facilities for the animals. It seemed like every afternoon I would see new faces. You all heard we needed help and you stepped up in the most generous and transformative way.

And we asked for help with funding the move. I am so full of gratitude when I think about everyone who gave just a little more this year to help. We still have a mortgage on the property and a lot of funds to raise, but we are going into 2016 strong and stable, thanks to you. We couldn’t have done any of that without each and every person who gave. I hope each and every person who helped can come visit and see the work we are doing because of you.

Our Big Move

I’ve worked hands-on with farm animals for over twelve years, but I had no idea how we were going to move over 200 of them 45 minutes south to High Falls. True to their adventurous personalities, the goats were by far the easiest to relocate! They were happily loaded onto the trailer with some treats, and happily got off the trailer to colonize the new digs very quickly.

But some of our more sensitive animals took hours, if not days. By far the hardest was Junior, the sweet shy steer who was an escapee from a slaughterhouse in New Jersey. He refused to get his 2000+ pounds on the trailer. We ended up leaving him behind on one trip since his pasture mates, Kayli, Maybelle, and Maribeth, were already loaded. But he missed his friends so much he started running around the Woodstock property in search of them. He jumped fences and knocked over steel gates. It took over seven hours and eight people to get him on the trailer. When we arrive at the new site, he charged off and went to greet the rest of his herd. He calmed down the moment he was with them.

6000 people showed up for the Grand Re-Opening

An estimated 6000 people showed up for the Grand Re-Opening

There are so many other stories from the big move,—delays and hurdles and rapid-fire decisions—but finally the day before our Grand Re-Opening celebration on September 5th, we moved the last two animals—pigs Judy and Patsy—to the new sanctuary (see video).

And we were OPEN! Thousands of people came to see our new property and meet the animals. We had visitors come everywhere–from Chicago to Montreal, and so many New Yorkers who made the drive that morning. It was so affirming to see everyone and to be part of the excitement.

Our Mission – changing hearts and saving lives

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Campers greet Fawn

Before our Grand Re-Opening on September 5th, we hosted three youth camps, including the Youth Empowerment Action (YEA) Camp, which features a curriculum focused on social justice in general and animal rights in particular. We also hosted two weddings onsite—an exciting new addition to our program offerings that promises to generate as much new revenue as new awareness.

While our visiting season was short due to the move, we were open every weekend in September and October, leading several thousand additional visitors on powerful tours that are typically both heart-warming and heart-wrenching.

Lexi turned 6 most old on Christmas Day--the age she would have been slaughtered.

Lexi turned 6 months old on Christmas Day–the age she would have been slaughtered.

2015 was a record-breaking year for lives saved. Despite managing the logistics of a move and massive build-out, we directly saved more than 180 lives. And as you know, with every individual rescued, thousands more are spared through our advocacy and education.

Major rescues included saving chickens from religious rituals in NYC, taking in survivors from a neglectful petting zoo, seizing pigs, sheep and goats from a horrific backyard butcher and welcoming 42 hens who were rescued from a hellish life in battery cages at a factory farm. I am SO THANKFUL to have been able to save individuals like Lexi, the piglet who was doomed to be killed at a small organic farm, and Picasso, the chick who was dyed blue and auctioned off at a church for Easter.

Each of their stories stands as a testament to resilience and compassion, and we are honored to tell them. Every day we see that meeting rescued farm animals – not in some virtual or theoretical sense but through direct eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart connection – is integral to inspiring a shift away from animal products and meaningful change in the way farmed animals are viewed and treated.

And again, we went to you after each of these rescues and asked for help. It can feel isolating to live in a world where people don’t understand why we care about these animals. But I know we can go to you, our supporters and friends, and tell these stories, and that you will always come through. This was a record year – because of you.

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Jenny and Louise

In early 2015, when I was staring at those keys sitting on our kitchen counter, I could not have guessed at what the future held. I feel like I’ve aged about ten years in the past 12 months, but I’ve also been given such hope and inspiration. You advocates, dreamers, and supporters are the real keys to a future where no animal is raised just to be eaten. A future where we aren’t ruining our planet because of our appetites and short-sightedness. A future world where compassion is the norm and not the exception.

I hope to see you soon at the Sanctuary and introduce you to the animals whose lives you helped save, and to show you the home you helped create for them.

For the animals,

Jenny

P.S. Donations, as always, are most welcome.


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