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  • Writer's pictureRobin

Iowa Farm Sanctuary

I moved from the east coast to the midwest recently, and one of the biggest differences I noticed was the number of animal transport trucks on the highways as we traveled towards Iowa. As odd as it sounds, in Maryland, we had been isolated from the daily reminders of the animal agriculture, meat, and dairy industries. So you can imagine it made my heart happy when I learned there was a Farm Sanctuary right smack dab in the middle of farm country.

I was fortunate to grab founder, Shawn Camp, for a chat about all things Iowa Farm Sanctuary: how it began, where it's going, and how they navigate the world of animal rescue and sanctuary along the way.

Long-time vegan and looking to extend her activism beyond her diet, Shawn stumbled upon a book, My Gentle Barn. Unsure if this story was going to have a happy ending for animals, she picked it up cautiously. After reading about how Ellie Laks started The Gentle Barn farm sanctuary after adopting a sick goat from a run-down petting zoo in 1999, Shawn fell in love with the idea of opening an animal sanctuary.

Shortly after finishing the book, Shawn and her husband had the opportunity to visit a sanctuary in Wisconsin. They dove into the experience, learning hows, whys, and wheres of opening a farm sanctuary. This turned into a property search, and paired with her husband's 4H knowledge, they founded Iowa Farm Sanctuary in 2015.

A quick picture from my visit to Iowa Farm Sanctuary

What are your "pie in the sky" goals for Iowa Farm Sanctuary?

Short-term: Creating an education center or museum, something for the community where they can learn about the animals, the realities of factory farming, where food comes from, and the process.

Long-term: Well duh... create a vegan world!! The goal is to change minds through education and through showing compassion for our nonhuman animal friends.

So, 2020 has been...rough... how has it been good and bad for Iowa Farm Sanctuary?

Everything is about timing, you know? Between March and April, we were sitting down to sign paperwork on a new piece of property, coordinating the move of all our rescued animal friends, and working to establish a new residence... And then. COVID. It was a scary time to make such a bold move, but with fundraisers -and possibly the timing of more people at home and working virtually- we met our goals and were able to move ahead as planned.

2020 also resulted in some factory farms closing, which meant there was a sudden, large, immediate need to rescue more farmed animals. This is a side of things not everyone will have on their radar when it comes to the ripple effects of 2020.

A quick picture from my visit to Iowa Farm Sanctuary

How does Iowa Farm Sanctuary work with the community...

For the holidays, we’re gathering food and home goods to donate to local shelters. More specifically, we were able to donate Tofurkey Roasts to those utilizing food banks, giving them access to vegan options. The sanctuary also partners with Des Moines Animal Allies for organized protests and activism opportunities.

Changing gears, what is your go-to vegan cookbook or website...

A dangerous misconception is to assume someone who is vegan and an animal activist is also well-versed in the kitchen. Lesson learned. What I’m trying to say is: I’m not much of a cook, but happy to suggest Isa Chandra, from Post Punk Kitchen, for great recipes both on her website and in her cookbook.

You mentioned wanting to extend your activism beyond your diet, what would you say to someone wanting to get more involved, but they aren't quite sure where to start...

Make connections within your community or online community to see what’s going on, what’s being organized… That’s a great way to get involved and feel out what you feel comfortable doing. Anything from leaving thank you cards at restaurants who offer vegan options to protesting outside slaughterhouses can contribute to the message and the mission of animal advocacy. Locally, a great group to get involved with or follow on social media is VegLife Des Moines. (Editor’s note: Stay tuned for an interview with this fantastic group.)

Okay, I can't thank you enough for your time, one last question! How does someone get involved, learn more, contribute, and visit Iowa Farm Sanctuary...

I thought you would never ask... Check us out online, on our social medias, and come out for a tour (when we open in the spring!). The *best* way to get involved with us is to come out and volunteer if you can. We’re a non-profit and very much supported by our volunteers. As you can imagine, it takes a lot to care for our rescued residents and the property we all call home. If you aren't local and want to help, please check out our Amazon wishlist. Thank you so much!

A quick picture from my visit to Iowa Farm Sanctuary

Speaking from experience, if you have the opportunity to visit Iowa Farm Sanctuary, or a local animal sanctuary in your area, I would highly encourage you to do so. I was so lucky to visit IFS over the summer and visit with all their residents, take in the breathtaking sunset, and just feel the peace that exists in the atmosphere. Truly wonderful.

A quick picture from my visit to Iowa Farm Sanctuary

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