Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary: My Happiest Place on Earth


Ashlee, Colbie, and Desmond make a new friend.

When I was a child, if you had asked me to name my happiest place on earth, I would have replied, like millions of others, “Disney!” If you were to ask me that question today, without a doubt or second thought, my answer would be, “a farm animal sanctuary!” That’s why I was like a kid on Christmas morning a couple weeks ago as I made my way to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s (WFAS) grand reopening. With my two young children, Desmond (2.5 years old) and Colbie (5 months old), and mother in tow, we ventured up to High Falls, New York to see the new, 150-acre sanctuary. (For those who do not know, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary relocated to High Falls from a 23-acre farm in Willow, New York this summer.)

When we arrived there was a steady line of cars pulling into the sanctuary. That steady line of cars lasted for at least a couple more hours. They ended up parking cars in empty pastures because all of the other parking areas were completely full! Thankfully, no animals were inconvenienced by the parking overflow situation. To think that the former WFAS parking lot could only fit about 10-15 cars, the abundance of parking possibilities at the new location put into perspective how going from a 23-acre farm to a 150-acre farm can really make a difference.

We were all hungry, so the first thing on our agenda was to get some lunch. The food selection was a vegan food lover’s dream! There were multiple vendors to choose from, including Marty’s Vegan Fast Food and Aba’s Falafel. We ended up going to the Yeah Dawg!!! booth. I wanted to go to the Cinnamon Snail truck because, well, it’s Cinnamon Snail, but the line was huge and standing in line with an excited 2.5 year old didn’t seem like a smart idea. We ended up with an Underdawg, Marley Dawg and Krautrock Dawg. They were all delicious. It was definitely the first time I had a veggie dog with pineapple pickle!

Next on our agenda was to visit the animals! Not surprisingly, there were lines to get up close to most of the animals. The staff, wisely, did not just let an unlimited number of people go into the barns and pastures and interact with the animals. Our first stop was the pig barn. Oh, how I love pigs! We ended up waiting for about forty-five minutes before getting into the barn, but the wait was worth it. We got to pet them, watch them play in the mud, and get a hose-down by one of the volunteers. While we were in the barn, Desmond pet Olive the pig. As he was petting her, I happened to look over and I saw a woman wiping away tears as she spoke to one of the volunteers. I overheard her telling the volunteer that the innate compassion children have is amazing. I have thought the same thing many times before, but seeing someone else make that observation really struck a chord.

After walking around and visiting all of the animals, Desmond checked out the many children’s activities. He went in the bouncy house (for a whole 30 seconds—he quickly realized he was the little guy of the group and he wasn’t too keen on bouncing around with a bunch of older kids). He then attempted to hula hoop, which was entertaining. There was also a craft table and face painting, but by the time Desmond was done showing off his hula hooping skills (translation: walking through the hula hoop), we were all ready for some dessert. As much as I would have loved to enjoy some macaroons from Sweet Maresa’s or some chocolate from Lagusta’s Lucious, we headed on over to the Like No Udder truck. After all, how many chances do you have to get vegan soft serve ice cream? Also, it was hot out! An hour later, we got our ice cream. I had the classic vanilla/chocolate swirl on a cone, my mom had chocolate with chocolate syrup in a cup and Desmond had the classic swirl with Oreo crumbles. The ice cream was scrumdiddilyumptious!

Desmond with Chicken

Desmond gets to know a new chicken friend.

It didn’t bother me that we had to wait in line for everything that day. All I kept thinking while standing there was how great it was that there were lines! It meant that there were so many people there to support WFAS and the animals. Thousands of people were in attendance. Of course, not everyone who visited that day was an animal rights activist or vegan. In fact, my mom and my best friend, who joined us for part of the day, are omnivores. But the hope is that exposing them to such a wonderful place and having them get up close and personal with the sentient beings who end up on their plate will make them think twice about who and what they eat.

My heart almost exploded with happiness as we walked around the amazing new sanctuary that day. Of course, I got all warm and fuzzy seeing the farm animals living the life they deserve, but what also made my heart burst with joy was seeing all of the children at the sanctuary. I saw young children feeding chickens (including my son, who had his finger nibbled on because the chicken didn’t realize there were little fingers under the huge handful of kale—no worries, he was not traumatized by the incident, and he was lovingly petting chickens later in the day), I saw children wearing pro-animal t-shirts, I saw children marveling at the size of the pigs and the cows, and I saw children devouring yummy vegan food. Every time I saw a child, they had a smile or look of excitement on their face. What I was witnessing was Generation Veggie in their element.

It really was a spectacular day. The only thing missing was my husband, who unfortunately had to be at work. Congratulations to WFAS for such a successful event. Jess Davis, Program Manager for WFAS, shared with me that they raised $40,000 and reached their goal of signing up 250 new members at the grand reopening event!

In the words of Jenny Brown, co-founder of WFAS, “We are thrilled that so many people came out to enjoy the day, but also participate in what we believe to be a critically important undertaking to bring about a shift in the way we view and treat farmed animals and how to go about eating and living sustainably, responsibly, and compassionately.”

And, not like I needed reminding, but being at the event reaffirmed my dream of my family and I having our own farm animal sanctuary one day. When that day arrives, I will be at my happiest place on earth every single day.

Posted in Family Life

Ashlee is a mom to three vegan cuties, lawyer, and animal advocate. She has been vegan since 2010. She and her husband are in the process of starting a microsanctuary for farm animals in Orange County, NY. You can send her your questions via email.