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Joyce Farm


Nonhuman Friends: Joyce At The Farm

Nonhuman Friends: Joyce At The Farm

Every Monday afternoon, I grab my muck boots and pink coveralls and head to a farm in South Salem, NY. It’s not your typical farm. There’s no breeding or slaughter of animals. The more than 250 critters that live there were abandoned, abused or have special needs. Some, like Tucker, a gregarious black goat, were rescued on their way to the slaughterhouse. Pink-snouted pig Jessie was found roaming the streets of Stamford, CT. The farm sanctuary, which is operated by the wonderful organization Animal Nation, is like Noah’s ark for castoffs. 

When I pull up to the circa 1800s red barn, I’m greeted by a cacophony of creatures. Any inner dialogue fades to a whisper. The animals — their sounds, smells and mere presence — shake you out of yourself. Each one, from chicken to cow, has a unique personality and demands your attention. Considering their histories of abuse, they’re still hungry to interact and, yes, to be loved. Sweet talk Didgeridoo the emu, and she plops at your feet to be stroked. Rub Oscar the pig’s belly, and he topples over in complete surrender. (Pigs, I’ve found, are some of the most sensitive animals at the farm; they’re as emotionally expressive as teens.)

As I feed, water, wrangle, nurse and clean up after hundreds of animals, I’m lost in the work. It’s a moving meditation … with an occasional jolt. Bam Bam the bay gelding sometimes lunges on his lead, Layla the llama hawks loogies, and Winnie the belted Galloway cow with a busted jaw headbutts you when she’s hungry. It’s a reminder to pay attention to the animals — and to the outside world. During this time of hate, war and suffering, I look to the farm for peace and beauty. I also look to it for hope. The animals are survivors; they have overcome so much and still have open hearts — and we must too.

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