Tag Archives: watkins glen

Far Out: Farm Sanctuary, New York

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Farm Sanctuary. When you say the words, it’s rock solid. It’s the baseline and standard for farmed animal rescues everywhere, thanks to Gene Baur and an army of dedicated volunteers. Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary is the largest animal rescue in North America. There are three locations, one in New York State and two in California. Our journey starts at the east coast farm, just outside of Watkins Glen, New York.

Yep, it’s our first video/photo combo on this blog! We’ve visited Farm Sanctuary three times, and all the images on this post are from a past visit, not when we went last week. But it looks the same – the rolling fields, the cheerful red barns and the perfectly happy critters.

Just before you arrive at the NY Farm Sanctuary, you wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn. You find yourself winding back an unpaved road. Yes, there are signs… but still, you don’t think it could possibly be the place. And just when you are about to give up and call the visitor center, there is a break in the forest and you see the lush green pastures and bright barns. You’re there!

Inside the People’s Barn you’ll find a number of displays about the residents of the sanctuary, as well as a real battery cage, veal crate and gestation crate. There’s also a large gift shop with clothes, books, food and drink, as well as toys and goodies for children. In the gift shop, you also pick up your ticket for the tour.

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On this visit, we had a super tour guide named Ben. He was well-spoken and great at answering tough questions. Maybe we are naive, but thought only vegans, vegetarians and animal-lovers would visit a place like Farm Sanctuary. On our tour there was a cattle farmer, and he was set on arguing almost every point Ben made. Lucky for the animals, Ben was not rattled and had calm, factual answers for each comment made. We were impressed.

The first stop on our tour was a cow pasture. It was the closest I had been to a cow until that point, and their calm, gentle nature was a beautiful thing to witness. There are about 50 cattle living at the New York farm currently. Ben told us that cows can live to 25 or 30 years old, but most are killed by age 4 when they are in the factory farm system as beef or dairy cows.  That day, we met cows named Kirsty, Sammuel, Meg, Frankie and Thunder. Each was a sweetheart.

Farm2_lrNo one wants to admit they play favorites. But let’s be honest – there’s always a favorite. And for me, the favorite is goats. I’m not sure I can explain why. Is it their wiley nature, the joker-esque smiles, the ability to eat anything, the way they climb? Maybe all of the above. Maybe I was a goat in a past life. Who knows. But I just adore goats, and the goats at Farm Sanctuary were no exception. Yes, that is me, snuggling a goat.

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A large number of goats make their home at the New York farm. Many were dairy goats. Others were rescued from live markets, where people go to select the living animal they wish to have slaughtered for a meal. Ben explained that though many Americans don’t think of goats as usual meat, that they are used heavily for goat cheese, which has gained popularity and are commonly eaten in many ethnic cuisines, such as Jamaican and Middle Eastern.

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Next we met some chicks. There were loads of ’em, walking all around. Ben told us that of the 9 billion animals killed for food in US annually, 8 billion are chickens and the average chicken in the food-system has a 42 day life span. Considering that chickens can live to be  7 to ten years old, that’s pretty shocking. Of that number of chickens, many millions are male baby chicks in the egg industry. They have no use and many are tossed – alive – in trash bags and dumpsters, or worse – ground up while still alive and made into feed for other animals.

The chickens and roosters at Farm Sanctuary got lucky. They are living their lives out in peace. They get to truly free range, they can scratch at the Earth, run and play and roost. You can see by their beautiful feathers and bright eyes that they are healthy and serene.

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Though we’ve both seen plenty of wild turkeys (for serious, not the kind on the liquor bottle label), Farm Sanctuary was the first place we met turkeys rescued from the factory farm system.  As you can see, the Dirty Hippie took a particular liking to Antionette.

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Tour guide Ben explained that turkeys bred for food are always all white (wild turkeys are colorful or brown), because it’s considered more appetizing for consumers if there is no pigment in their skin. Also, factory farms trim off turkeys’ beaks and toes, because when in confinement, they become stressed and peak/scratch at each other. This is common practice and is done with no pain killer or follow-up vet treatment. Basically, imagine someone cutting off your toenails and the first bones of your toes, as well as the tip of your nose – with no pain killers. These mutilations have been found to shorten the lives of turkeys and are quite painful, as both the beaks and toes have nerve endings.

And yet, the rescued turkeys we met – despite the fact they were treated terribly by humans before – were friendly and happy to see the folks on the tour. Many walked up and wanted to be fed and petted. We were amazed at the turkeys’ general feeling of trust towards everyone in our group. It was encouraging to witness their contentment and know they were in safe place, where they were well cared for and loved.

Farm4_lrThe last stop we made on the New York Farm Sanctuary tour was a pig barn. And what a way to go out with a bang! These critters were fun, funny and super outgoing. Several wanted belly rubs and just laid right down to wait for the massage to begin.

Ben explained that pigs aren’t really dirty, like people always say. Pigs mud-bathe to keep cool in the summer heat, as they don’t sweat. Also, pigs can get sunburned, so the coating of mud can protect them from an uncomfortable scorch. While it’s well known that pigs are highly intelligent, we learned that they are smarter than dogs, and can perform better playing video games that young human children.

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This is barely a scratch into the surface of the facility at Farm Sanctuary. There were also sheep pastures and barns, areas with rabbits, and a large enclosure with ducks and geese, that also included a pond.

A lovely garden is planted as well, around the grave of Hilda. She was the first rescue made by Gene Baur: he was at a stockyard in Lancaster PA and saw a sheep on the dead pile that was still moving. With his companions, Baur picked her up and took her to a vet, assuming she would need to be put down, but with some simple fluids, Hilda the sheep was revived and perfectly healthy. Hilda lived with Baur on Farm Sanctuary for 11 years until she passed of old age. Her grave is a tranquil place, well-tended with flowers and a stone marker. Clearly Hilda knew love and was blessed to have Baur  pull her from the stockyard all those years ago. When she lifted her head towards him, she inspired a chain of actions that has since saved the lives of thousands more animals – both by actual rescue and by inciting other people to stop consuming animals.

The sign you see as you come and go from Farm Sanctuary in New York sums up beautifully…

Farm7_lrAnd – Want to know something incredible? Gene Baur got this whole thing going by selling veggie hot dogs from a van. No joke. What that means to me is – that if you set your mind to doing something good in this world, and you keep at it, amazing things are possible. Look at the smile on that pig’s face. I think what she’s saying is something like… thank you.

To visit Farm Sanctuary in New York, plan your trip between May and October. Tours are not given over the winter. Be sure to check their hours and available tour times online. The farm is located at 3150 Aikens Rd., Watkins Glen, NY 14891. Their number for tour info is 607-583-2225.  Can’t make it to the farm but still want to help the mission of Farm Sanctuary? You can adopt an animal, buy shirts and gifts online, or just donate funds.

Far Out: Watkins Glen, NY

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Each year we travel to the Finger Lakes region of New York state. Normally, we stay in Ithaca and hang out there, after all Moosewood Cafe and the Ithaca Bakery are big attractions.  We even posted about it a few years back~ Far Out: Ithaca. Watkins Glen is the next town to the west, and it turns out to be a little slice of vegan heaven, from rescued farm animals to an all-veg B&B to vegan ice cream.

Come on, let’s check it out, starting with the scenic rolling views as you drive through the mountains towards your destination…

WatkinsScenic_lrOur Watkins Glen adventure started at the Ginger Cat Bed & Breakfast. Nestled in 15 acres of naturalized forest and garden, the B&B is truly a quiet, peaceful respite. It’s located at 2475 Altay Road, Rock Stream, NY 14878 and offers only two rooms, so it’s quite private and restful. Opening in 2008, the B&B hosts guests to the area from bridal parties to race car drivers to just those passing through who don’t even know it’s a vegan inn. Ginger Cat is also a certified green facility.

GingerCat1_lrThe inn is named after Wally, who is the famed Ginger Cat. He was super friendly and ready to pose for pictures.

GingerCat5_lrInnkeeper Gita Devi made wonderful vegan breakfasts! Which is a big part of the B&B experience and part of what you are paying for. We missed her much-loved weekend brunch, but the regular breakfast included a chocolate cake parfait with fresh local berries and soy yogurt and chocolate chip muffins, as well as a selection of apples, cherries, peaches, blackberries and pineapple. The spread was complete with wheat toast, your choice of peanut or almond butter, and of course, tea, coffee and juices. The breakfast nook was bright and cheerful and there was a communal fridge, as well a microwave, sink, coffee pot and toaster for guests to use ay any time of day. There was also a large selection of brochures for local attractions, including lists of vegan eateries and wineries in the area. The dining area opened onto a large deck that offers spectacular night time star gazing, as well as lovely sunsets.

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Upon arriving  at our room, we found two freshly-baked chocolate brownies waiting for us. Didn’t we mention already… this is a vegan B&B, so ALL the food is vegan! Score! Our room was the Zachary room. It’s the dog-friendly room and we found it to be sunny and pleasant. The other room is the Ariel room, which faces the sunrise and has a matching sunny personality. The rooms each boast a few of the innkeeper’s own original photographs, too. That’s her – Gita Devi with her beloved ginger cat, Wally. You know, it was Wally’s cute face that caught our eye in an ad in VegNews magazine – that’s the whole reason we discovered the B&B! There are not phones or TVs in the rooms, but we got perfect cell reception and Gita will welcome you into the residence to watch television if you are lost without your programs. She doesn’t have wifi yet, but if your laptop or iPad has its own link, you can connect easily – i.e., you’re not too far into the wilderness, despite how it feels. But honestly, we thought it was nice to unplug a while.

GingerCat3_lrThe other residents of the B&B are all quite purr-fect. (Hee hee… too corny? I couldn’t help it!) We enjoyed hanging out with Wally (right); Moses (top center); Hannah (middle center); Indiana Jones (bottom center); and Sebastian. Each feline had her or his own plan, personality and agenda during our visit. You can learn more about them here. The kitties stay in the main residence, though, and aren’t allowed into the B&B. We enjoyed seeing them prowl the windows and glass doors – watching us watching them. 🙂

Overall, we really enjoyed out time at the Ginger Cat B&B. We have recommended it to friends and plan to visit again soon. The room was clean and cozy, the other guests were pleasant and polite, and we loved talking with Gita and her pack of kitties about the area, recipes and more.  Call Gita at 607.535.9627 for more information or to plan your stay.

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Gita recommended that we try a nearby deli called Glen Mountain Market, at 200 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen NY, 14891. So we stopped for lunch. This place has lots of vegan options and we knew it was popular with other plant-eaters because when we arrived, they were already out of the house made seitan and vegan cream cheese because they’d sold over 40 of each that day.  So we tried the homemade tofu burger, called “Jackson’s Revenge.” The burger was nutty and fresh, and the spicy mustard really packed on the flavor. The deli’s fresh bread was a standout, too.

GlenMarket1_lrWe were delighted to find the pastry case had several vegan options, including sugar cookies, chocolate chips, oat bars and peanut butter cookies – all of which were solid and tasty treats. If you check the regular menu, there are a good number of vegan options, including a Healthy Hoagie, Veggie Chili, Vegan “BLT”, the “Sanctuary” Special and even a vegan breakfast bagel with Tofutti cream cheese and veggies.  Just don’t get there late! Cuz the other vegans in Watkins Glen are apparently ravenous and will beat you to the food at Glen Mountain Market. Basically, we are saying run don’t walk to this deli.

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One evening in Watkins Glen we decided we needed a cold, creamy treat. And Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor was calling out to us from  221 S Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. You see, Great Escape offers VEGAN ice cream. And sorbets. And ice cream sandwiches on fresh baked vegan cookies. I kid you not. There are toppings and everything vegan is clearly labeled, as well as gluten-free options. We just about peed our britches with happiness. They even have vegan soft serve in 27 rotating flavors. You really have to stop here when you visit the area. Everything wonderful you remember about being a kid on a hot summer night and eating ice cream – that sweet sticky stuff, melting down your fingers – it will come flooding back to you in a rush of joy. Great Escape is even open till 10pm every night in the summer.

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After all that eating, it’s time get your shopping fix. We stumbled upon a cute boutique called at Wags to Riches, 313 north Franklin Street, Watkins Glen. We adored this place! Not only was it a resale shop, so you are staying green by re-using or up-cycling old stuff, but every purchase benefits the local Schuyler County Humane Society and helps animals in needs. This was a win-win!  There were countless treasures inside, from men’s, kids’ and women’s clothing, dishes and glassware, books, purses and scarves to furniture, fine jewelry, sorting equipment, tools, and handmade items.

WagsRiches1_lrThere were tote bags made from re-used animal feed bags and hand-beaded bracelets and necklaces as well.  Really impressive at Wags to Riches  were the incredibly low costs and well-know designer names like Talbots, Tommy, Express, Guess, Express and more. I picked up a cute LBD by Anne Klein for less than $20 in like-new condition.

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At the register, you can see exactly where your funds are going: $10 covers a rabies/distemper shot; $25 pays for a cat to be neutered and $35 for a dog to be neutered; $45 pays for a feline spay and $75 for a canine spay. Everything in the shop is donated so that the Humane Society can raise money for their varied needs. And really, it’s a fun place to both browse and buy. We found not only the dress, but some jewelry, books & a book mark, a feed-bag shopping bag and some pretty dishes we brought home. Be sure to call ahead to Wags to Riches, as their hours can vary: 607.210.4263.

There’s more to do than this, even, in the Watkins Glen area. Farm Sanctuary makes it home here – and this place is so amazing, it needs its own blog (coming soon!).  The nearby Seneca Lake Wine Trail is home to many wonderful wineries, breweries and distilleries – some of which are vegan-friendly. There are lots of gorgeous parks – many with waterfalls in the area. And of course, there’s the NASCAR track for race fans. Need more places to eat? Check out this veg-guide to Watkins Glen from Farm Sanctuary (or just get on Happycow.net, which is always helpful!) and munch your way across the county.

You’re sure to fall in love with Watkins Glen, NY just like we did. Enjoy your stay and be sure to tell Gita and Wally we said hello!