Thanks to support from VegFund, Animal Place Veganic Farm has truly thrived this season. The micro-farm experiment evolved into a definitive farm with the sale of produce to visitors and vegan restaurants. Efforts in community outreach and education have expanded to include public workshops, farm tours, elementary school connections and a live-in farm internship program.
Farm to school
Farm to School is a USDA funded program in Nevada County that promotes healthy eating through partnerships with local small farms. As a partner farm with a local elementary school, Animal Place stocks an after-school garden cart with fresh, veganic produce. The cart makes healthy eating accessible for students and their families and promotes veganism through the Animal Place brochures and newsletters that are displayed with the cart.
Third grade and sixth grade students will visit the sanctuary this autumn and next spring as an educational field trip, meeting all of the resident animal ambassadors, helping with age-appropriate activities in the veganic farm, and completing program lesson plans on plant anatomy and insects found on the farm.
The veganic farm has generated income for the sanctuary with the sale of vegetables to two vegan restaurants in the Sacramento area and one vegetarian café in Nevada City. Selling to vegan and vegetarian businesses has opened up a new channel of promotion for Animal Place, while spreading the message of compassion to an audience that may have originally patronized the restaurant for health reasons. The partnership with businesses also allows us to sustain the farm financially while offering restaurants and their customers the choice to go veganic.
This season we have sold tomatoes, basil, green beans, kale, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and eggplant, and in the process have learned the logistics necessary for restaurant customers – pricing, a certified scale, packaging, delivery and the estimation of crop availability.
Farm stand fundraising
Animal Place debuted the veganic farm stand at the annual fundraiser, Music in the Meadow, on September 22nd. Hand-painted signs welcomed over 400 visitors with phrases like “Peace Love Veg!”, inciting the curious to ask about the definition of veganic, the purpose of the model farm at Animal Place and the ethics and how-to’s of food production. The veganic farm generated an additional $800 in produce sales and donations for the sanctuary.
Animal Place is open to the public for both guided and self-guided tours on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Visitors are welcome to roam the wide aisles of the veganic farm and marvel over the bounty and luster of our crops. Many visitors are surprised to learn about the option of veganic agriculture, and ask questions to our staff and volunteer farm team. Guided sanctuary tours now include an overview of the veganic farm, sometimes stopping for awhile to pick sweet, cruelty-free strawberries. This summer we also hosted a tour and Q&A for the Master Gardeners group of Sacramento.
Internships and volunteers
This year Animal Place introduced a live-in internship program for activists to learn and contribute to programs in animal care, advocacy and the vegan farm. Three consecutive interns joined the veganic farm team during the busy months of June to September. Interns were an invaluable addition in the field, and without their help the expansion of the farm would not have been possible. Interns also tabled at outreach events, engaged in organized discussions about animal rights with Animal Place staff and visited other sanctuaries. One intern has gone on to work as a caretaker at the House Rabbit Society in Richmond, CA, where she applies her new skills by growing bunny food in their backyard garden.
The veganic farm also attracts all kinds of volunteers, including local gardeners, an animal rights advocate all the way from Australia and a team from Americorps.
Outreach and education
Staff horticulturist Greg Litus presented a workshop on veganic farming at Eco-Life Festival in Grass Valley. The festival itself was not well attended, but Greg’s workshop drew in at least one dozen attendees. Greg’s account of the Turlock hen rescue and how it relates to feather meal used in many organic farms was particularly affecting to one local woman who, although not vegan, had come to the workshop to learn about soil inputs that did not originate from factory farms. Greg’s workshop, while hard-hitting on the cruel facts of animal-based inputs, hit on all the practical points of compassionate, plant-based farming and encouraged attendees to just go veganic. In June, Animal Place hosted a screening of the film Vegucated in Nevada City. Veganic lettuce, chard and kale were offered on a donation basis before and after the film, completely selling out after guest speaker Dr. Don Forrester answered audience questions about health and veganism.
With the financial support from VegFund, we were able to accomplish all of this and still share much of our produce for free with the community; we have donated produce to a local homeless organization, supplemented the catering at Animal Place fundraising events and most importantly nourished our non-human animals at the sanctuary with food grown on the same land that they take refuge. Thank you, VegFund, for contributing to our success and giving us the experience and confidence to move forward with the veganic farm next season.
In 2013 we will continue with the outreach and sales markets established this year, with the restaurant, school and special events. We are not yet financially self-sustaining, but that is our ultimate goal in proving that veganic agriculture is a viable option for other farmers.
Our goals for 2013 include:
- obtaining an organic certification;
- starting produce sales at farmer’s markets while educating the public about veganic agriculture;
- promoting veganic agriculture through increased outreach in local schools and events;
- establishing an on-site farm stand to draw more visitors to the sanctuary;
- and expanding our offerings to additional vegan restaurants.