Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
26 December 1999 Issue

Interning at Farm Sanctuary
by [email protected]

Where to begin. So much to talk about! I was there for three months. The interns live at Vegan House -- a three bedroom house up the road from Farm Sanctuary's office and the actual farm. When I walked to work in the morning, the cows were always in the field across the street. :)

The first two months there, I worked most of the time at the education center. A typical day went like this: Set up breakfast (coffee, tea, bagels and muffins) for the bed and breakfast guests (there are three cabins), sweep the ed center floor and scrub up the bird poo. Then I would clean up the bathrooms, and clear the breakfast "mess." I'd open the gift shop, put on some music, arrange displays, dust, etc. While I was there, the ed center and gift shop were only open to the public on weekends. Otherwise, it was just for the B&B guests. I would wash the breakfast dishes while the guests were out on a farm tour. These were "guided" either by a fellow intern who worked with me, or the intern coordinator whose office was upstairs. You get an hour lunch, then come back, work a few more hours and close up. If things were slow, I'd get sent to the office to help there.

Working at the education center was a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of interesting, friendly people. It got hectic at times, but it's a good learning experience. Plus, I got to take leftover bagels and muffins home to Vegan House :) On the way home from work, I always walked through the farm so I could visit the animals. I have tons of pictures of them all :) There is a basket in the ed center (also called The People Barn) where visitors can drop off food for the animals. I loved chopping up apples and giving them to the pigs on the way home.

The ed center closes after Halloween, so after that I did all my work up at the office (which is actually a large farm house). Everyone there is really, really nice. I had a great time with them all. Especially when we got recruited to keep an eye on a recently neutered goat. They brought him into the main office area so we could make sure his head stayed propped up. That little goat's name is Ivan, and I just love him to pieces. I took care of him, and when I went for lunch, he woke up and started crying. I came back three times before my stomach told me I really had to go eat. When I came back, Ivan was gone, but they told me, "He cried and cried and cried while you were gone. We were almost going to make you come back!" Kidding, of course. Before I went home that evening, I stopped in the back room behind the kitchen to check on Ivan and say goodnight. He was up and doing fine :)

Granted, I'd gone to Farm Sanctuary dreaming of going on animal rescues and doing all sorts of wonderful things. But in truth, most of it was "tedious" work. Cleaning, collating, things like that. But it's worthwhile work, and I don't regret any of it. I had the opportunity to rescue some chickens, and I got to visit several stockyards and Cornell University's farm animal research facility. Every week we all gathered at Vegan House for Education Night, where someone (Gene Bauston or someone else) would give a "lecture" on a certain subject. We even had a vegan nutritionist in once.

One thing I'll never forget was Thanksgiving. They have a huge potluck dinner at the education center. People from all over attend. I couldn't believe how packed it was! But the most memorable part was afterwards, we all went to feed the turkeys. A few days beforehand, some of the interns were instructed to "practice" hand feeding the birds cranberries and other goodies. Those big birdies were having none of it. Finicky creatures, I tell you. But come Thanksgiving, those turkeys were sitting around, eating the food, letting people pet them. It was like they knew what day it was and what it meant to them. I'll never forget that.

I learned a lot at Farm Sanctuary, and grew a lot too. And I also made a lot of good friends. I moved back to Watkins Glen last year, where I lived with two ex Farm workers, one of which I consider one of my very best friends. One of my fellow ex interns still lives in Watkins Glen (I also consider her one of my best friends). Besides me, there were four other interns. Cat, Karin, Saara, and Tom. Tom, Karin and I shared one room, Cat and Saara shared another. We called ourselves The Famous Five, and they were the best bunch of people I could ever have hoped to live with those months. We had a blast together, talking, sharing music and books, going to Ithaca together to shop at the co-op (GreenStar -- check it out!) or see a movie at the University. One night we stayed up til three playing charades :) Karin and Saara only stayed two months, so for the last month we had two new interns, Emily and (another) Tom. They arrived on Halloween. I was the only one not working that day, so I decided to stay home and carve a pumpkin while waiting for the new interns to arrive. By then I'd moved my things into Cat's room so that the two Toms could room together, and Emily could stay with me and Cat. When they both finally arrived, I showed them around the house, what rooms were what, etc. I was pleased when Emily asked where all the interns were because she thought I was the intern coordinator, lol! After two months, I was an old pro, ha ha!

When I wasn't working, I spent most of my time on the Farm in my friend's cabin down the road from the cow barn. She was an animal caregiver, and she got to live on the property with her dog and two cats. She and I eventually started fostering dogs from the local pound, and that's how I got my dog Tank. He was a month old puppy when she brought him, his mother and sisters home. She also took in four kittens. We had a lot of fun there, cooking, listening to music and playing with the animals.

My time at Farm Sanctuary is one I will never, ever forget. I saw some awful things while I was there (by way of their informative videos, and my stockyard and Cornell visits), but most of all, I was surrounded by beauty. Every morning I awoke to roosters crowing (they do it ALL day long), and pigs nosing their food troughs around. At night I would sit on the front steps and watch the skies for shooting stars, and I fell asleep to the geese crying out to each other. On my days off I would sometimes hike up Six Nations Hill to lie in the grass and watch the cows graze.

I knew going vegan was the right thing to do, but after living at Farm Sanctuary all those months, I realized just how right it is. Once you've rubbed a pigs belly and listened to him grunt with delight; had a cow come when you call her and she licks your arms; once you've chased geese and rabbits into their pens at night; put a half blind chicken to bed; listened to baby turkeys chatter in the twilight; once you befriend a little goat and he still remembers you over a year later --- that's when you know there's just no going back.

Watkins Glen is a beautiful little town. Be sure to check out The Professors' Place and take plenty of hikes in the gorge. If the Glenn Mountain Market is still there, definitely check them out! Oh, and the fire tower as well. It's a long hike off of Aikens Road, but the view is worth it. And if you or any of your fellow interns have a car, see if you can visit the dog pound -- those dogs really need the company.

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