Animal Place (www.animalplace.org) has been providing refuge to neglected farmed animals since 1989 on their sanctuary in California. More recently, they launched a 3-acre veganic farm, a working proof of the concept that domesticated animals are not necessary to grow food. In conjunction with the resident animal ambassadors, Animal Place’s veganic farm educates visitors about how their food is produced and demonstrates a healthier, more compassionate way of eating and living.
The farm is managed by two farmers, Stephanie and Greg, along with the help of one or two interns, and occasional help from volunteers. To learn more about interning, visit animalplace.org/vegan-farm-internship. Please note that the internship positions are quickly filled, and applications are accepted in the fall for the upcoming spring. The farmers also provide regular information about the veganic farm through a blog (http://growitkindly.wordpress.com/) and a facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/growitkindly).
Animal Place’s veganic farm participates in the USDA funded national program Farm to School. They stock an after-school veggie cart for a local elementary school, where children and their parents can take home free (or by donation) veganic produce and information about Animal Place. The kids visit the farm in the springtime to get hands on experience with veganic farming, and to meet Animal Place’s resident animal ambassadors and hear their stories. Animal Place donates seedlings in the spring to encourage families to grow their own food veganically.
In 2013, Animal Place’s veganic farm begins their first season as a CSA. They also sell wholesale to a local natural foods store and several vegan restaurants in the Grass Valley and Sacramento areas, as well as at a farmer’s market.
Part of the harvest is also shared with the resident animal ambassadors who live on the sanctuary. All sales from the veganic farm directly benefit the rescue, care and advocacy for farmed animals at Animal Place.
Animal Place’s veganic farm uses a full spectrum of proven techniques that have been developed by innovative farmers such as John Jeavons and Iain Tollhurst and they “veganize” the techniques that many successful organic farmers having been using for years.
For green manures and cover crops, they use a readily available mix of peas, cowbell beans and oats. As soil amendments, they use soybean meal, kelp meal, rock phosphates, alfalfa tea, and green waste compost. For potting soil, in addition to the base of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite, they are beginning experiments with alfalfa tea and complementary veganic fertilizers.
They grow a diverse selection of vegetable crops in order to provide ample variety to their CSA members and farmers markets. Their young orchard features figs, asian pears and permissions, and the perennial flower and herb garden attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects.
The veganic farm sits on a 600-acre piece of property, as part of the nonprofit Animal Place. Most of the land is a nature preserve, with another large portion reserved for pastures and barns for the rescued animals. The acreage of farmed land for food production is 3 acres but can be expanded in the future.
The soil on the farm is a clay loam. The climate is Mediterranean: hot and dry in the summer, cool and wet in the other seasons. The challenges on the farm include heavy rains which deplete the soils of nutrients and organic matter, and sloped land with poor drainage near the bottom. They are working to improve the soil fertility with an extensive program of cover cropping and amendments, and they will be taking measures to improve the hydrology while assuring that there is no net loss of wetland habitat.
The vegan ethic of least harm is extended to all areas of the farm. For example, they don’t use violent and fatal traps to deter wild animals such as gophers and voles; instead, they make use of live traps and the adjacent nature preserve to relocate the animals. They offer habitats for song birds and native predators, which helps reduce the problems of insects and overpopulations of rodents on the farm, while reestablishing the natural ecology of the land around them.
Animal Place’s veganic farm provides a working example that food can be grown without the use of domesticated animals. This links into Animal Place’s overarching goals of providing education and outreach activities that promote compassion, respect and responsibility for all life.