The day came when i couldn't stand to hear the girls I love crying out for their babies any longer.
That day came nearly 3 years ago, the last time we rehomed a young goat who had grown up in the shadow of his loving and fiercely protective mother. At that moment, I knew i could no longer do this work.
When I started my cheesemaking internships, 9 year ago, I had no idea how my life would be forever changed. Seeing rampant abuse and neglect, screaming babies and confused, discarded elderly goats shipped to slaughter, I knew I had to do something. I began rescuing slaughterbound goats with my tiny internship stipend in an abandoned tobacco barn on borrowed land. I finally saved up enough to bring them all to safety here in Colorado in 2010.
When I opened a slaughter-free dairy in 2011, I had visions of changing the industry from the inside out. Mothers would raise their own babies, babies would be rehomed as pets after weaning, and everyone would recieve exceptional care and a lifelong home.
Fast forward two years. Rescue requests began pouring in, farm animals who had been abused, neglected, abandoned or otherwise in danger. It no longer made sense to be breeding animals when there were so many desperately in need of rescue, just like dogs and cats.
I also saw something I had never seen while working in the dairy industry...mothers and their children clearly formed lifelong bonds just as I had with my own human daughter, and even recognized their kids by sight after long separations. Continuing to produce dairy would have meant that year after year, i would have no choice to continue to break and disrespect those familial relationships.
Then the unthinkable happened. I got a call that goats I had rehomed to a casual acquaintance were being rehomed behind my back. We rushed to repossess them and found them nearly starved to death, every bone in their bodies visible. I was nearly broken with guilt and sadness. We managed to take possession of and save 7 of them.
Nearly three years ago, I began working on a plan to replace the income from the dairy while no longer using animals. It has taken a long time. We are home to over 250 animals, many are here because they truly had no place else to go. It is expensive and exhausting, 24 hour a day work, and I have not taken a day off in over 4 years. The amount of planning and work just to reach this point has been overwhelming.
As a person who formerly worked in early literacy and children's programming I finally found a natural fit to close the dairy and inspire the next generation of children who will seek a better, kinder, more empathetic world. And so we introduce The Sanctuary School, a program for 3-5 year olds which models and fosters nonviolent communication, service, and both physical and emotional health. We are currently enrolling students and hope to provide scholarships so that we can support every child, regardless of ability to pay tuition.
I wanted to feed the world while caring for my beloved farm animals, but forgot there is more to be fed than just bellies. As evidenced by the success of our Open Farm Days, it seems the world is actually starving for connection, healing, warmth and affection. That is the part we have and want to continue to skillfully nourish from now on, both in the human and non-human species. Our work is crucial both in protecting farm animals and advocating for their lives, and we are able to reach many thousands of people per month who would otherwise have no connection or exposure to farm animals.
However, we need help to raise funds for the infrastructure to make these changes, and the dairy can no longer sustain us financially. We have a brand new barn ordered which will allow us to better house all of the animals and so that we can convert our former cheese kitchen space to our indoor classroom, and the former barn into outdoor classroom and event space. And we need funds to cover the financial transition and interim bills to neuter our remaining herd of male goats.
Even at the peak of our rescue animals and the bottom of our dairy production, we have been a 95% self-supported sanctuary. We want that number to remain unchanged, however, we realize we need a hand up to make that possible and continue to do the work that we do.
There is nothing I want more than to remain in our perfect and easily accessible location, and continue to take in the most downtrodden and heartbroken animals who have no place else to go. We will need tremendous help to do this. When i came home to Colorado with my first 16 slaughter-rescued goats, I promised them I would make sure they were always safe. I'm asking for lots of litle miracles to continue to do this....and much more.