There are dozens of abstract reasons to give up animal products and go vegan. Your health, the environment, and of course, the horrors of factory farming. But it’s not often many of us city dwelling folks get a chance to come face to face with the creatures we do it all for. Thanksliving at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary is the perfect event for celebrating life. And this year with the animals available for snuggling, the menu prepared by Terry Hope Romero and Vegan Treats, and great company, Thanksliving was not to be missed.

Here is the rundown.

Guests started to arrive at the farm at 12pm yesterday. The tent didn’t open until 1pm so that gave everyone a solid hour to walk around and visit with the farm animals. We’re talking pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats and sheep amidst a backdrop of changing leaf colors and a cool fall day.

At around 1pm, people started to filter into the tent to find seats and look through the fabulous silent auction offerings which had everything from fashion to books to food to experiences. Guests snacked on fabulous appetizers like Faux Gras Crostini by the Regal Vegan, Faux Beef Medallions with Bernaise Sauce by David Silver and Buffalo Bites and Cape Cod Cakes from Blossom.

I have no qualms about stating unequivocally that Thanksliving had the absolute best food I’ve ever eaten at a large scale event. (And one of the best meals I’ve eaten period.) It’s not easy to make food for 250 people. I would think it gets even harder when you’re serving it in a tent in the middle of a farm. But Terry Hope Romero outdid herself and probably ensured that everyone there ran out to buy her book Viva Vegan! If you’re not feeling jealous, you should be. This was a meal for the ages.

We dined on:

Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque with Cashew Crema
Savage River Faux Chicken Rajas in Orange Garlic Mojo
Cornbread Sofrito Stuffing with Veggie Chorizo
Massaged Kale Salad with Raisins and Toasted Almonds

And of course, because it’s celebrating Thanksgiving a month early, you can’t have any of that without cranberry sauce. Plates were scraped clean. And guests debated which part of the meal was the most delicious.

Jenny Brown, co-founder of the sanctuary, got up on stage to talk about why we were all there celebrating. To raise much needed funds to support the farm. Her message was perfectly clear when she said, “Animals are here with us, not for us.” And while these events can get pretty serious due to the truth about what happens on factory farms, Jenny kept it light, funny and delightful while not shying away from the facts. That’s one hard line to walk, but she did it effortlessly. She’s with the animals everyday. The lives that are being saved aren’t abstract to her. They all have names, personalities and a desire to live a happy free life.

Desserts by Vegan Treats came out next. Whenever I even hear the words Vegan Treats, my mouth starts watering. They are always perfect in taste and in design. I was fortunate enough to be sharing a table with the genius behind the sweets, Danielle Konya. For this event, she made pecan pie, apple pie, cannoli, brownies, cookies, peanut butter bombs and more.

Once the feast was over, and it really was a feast, guests went back out to spend a bit more time with the farm animals before heading home. Personally, I sat down in the field with a sheep named Sparky and the founder of Vaute Couture, Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart. Does it get any more perfect than hanging with a creature who was saved from the wool industry and the girl who made using wool for coats totally passé?

I’m embarrassed to admit, it was my first time to Woodstock, but it surely won’t be my last. It’s a magical place where both human and animal lives are changed. If you weren’t able to make it up to Thanksliving this year, I’d strongly recommend marking your calendar for next year. And book early. It sells out faster than you can say, “Scratch that pig’s belly.”

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World (Hazelden) and Misdirected (Seven Stories Press). She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Her published work can be found on her website at In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

View all posts by Ali Berman →
  • Gary Ploski

    All the food you described has me wishing I was there!

  • Michelle Maskaly @ The Adirondack Chick

    I’m so bummed I missed this! Next year :)

  • JL goes Vegan

    It was a spectacular event! Visiting the animals was the highlight, as always, but yes, the food and drink were marvelous and Jenny and Doug were inspiring. Oh, and I did a little damage at the silent auction table…anything for the animals! ;) Can’t wait ’til next year!

  • celyn

    What a heavenly day!

  • herwin

    i am jealous !!! wishlist : Viva vegan. on a serious note, everday i see “the creaures we all do it for” ; plastic wrapped cut in pieces. a good reminder of why veganism. anybody know if there is a book with photos and rescued animals stories of Animal Sanctuary ?

  • Ali Berman

    Herwin – There is a fab book with great photos and stories about rescued farm animals at sanctuaries. It’s called “Ninety-Five.” –

    • herwin

      thanks for the tip, bookmarked it and its on the lsit together with Viva Vegan.
      And Bless You, Jenny Brown (and others) for being such a great and humble activist with such a big heart. :-)