Located on the West Coast in California is a little slice of heaven called Goatlandia Farm Animal Sanctuary. Established by passionate animal lover Deborah Blum in Santa Rosa, Goatlandia is home to over a dozen goats, a handful of pigs and a merry flock of chickens. These lucky animals, all of whom were adopted from all sorts of places and situations, (some were considered unwanted because of birth defects, others were seen as “spent” in the animal agriculture industry and therefore marked as useless) no longer live a life where they are seen as a commodity and only given value based off of what they do/produce, get the opportunity to find peace and contentment at this Golden State animal sanctuary.
Check out our interview with Deborah Blum of Goatlandia below to get a better look into her compassion-fueled world.
Q: When was Goatlandia established and how many animals do you provide a forever home to?
A: I moved up to Santa Rosa from SF in 2011, and decided to get some animals. I got a dozen chickens, and two goats; which quickly became 5! Shortly thereafter I decided to go vegan, after watching a video speech by Gary Yourofsky. I then began to visit animal sanctuaries and learn more about the plight of farm animals. And as I learned more, I began to rescue more animals from slaughter, farms and other unhealthy situations. I went to Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Care Conference in 2016 and after that, made the decision to become an official non profit. I was already pretty much operating as a sanctuary, but just hadn’t set it up as an official business. Now we are, and 2017 will be our first year of being a non profit, animal sanctuary and I couldn’t be more excited! I love spending time with the animals and helping people have fun and beautiful experiences with them. It’s truly a blessing!
I currently have 14 goats, 5 pigs, and 31 chickens. And two dogs 🙂
Q: Can you tell us the backstory of one of the animals that you’ve rescued/adopted/saved?
A: Backstory on one of my animals.. hard to pick one; but two stories that come to mind. One is Rainey, one of my goats. Rainey is a Saanen (her picture is below). She was born to a breeder up here in Northern California. She has some type of defect in her internal reproductive system. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but I do know from her breeder that she is incapable of breeding. Anyway, the person who had her sadly didn’t want her because he couldn’t breed her. He called me and said that he had tried to give her to everyone he knew, but no one wanted her. I knew him from vet services (he is a veterinarian as well), so he called me as a last resort. He said that she was a really cool goat and very nice, but if I didn’t take her, she would be killed. So of course I offered to take her. She is such a delight; she is very very friendly, loves to go out on rides and walks, and is definitely a fantastic ambassador goat. She’s very affectionate and gosh, I couldn’t imagine the sanctuary without her. She’s such a cool spirit.
Then there are my four pigs; Dippy, Portia, Gigi and Brianna. They are Kune Kune pigs, and were purchased as piglets (they are sisters) from a guy who wanted to raise them for meat. But he named them, and became bonded with them, and just couldn’t bear to see them killed. So they found their way to me. They are know full grown now, and adorably cute and SUPER friendly. They love people, belly rubs, and of course mud. They are just so incredibly smart, sweet and social. And one of the best parts about this story is that their former owner comes to visit them every year.
Q: What are some lessons that you’ve learned along the way to developing and operating an animal sanctuary?
A: Gosh, so many things.. I volunteered in a wildlife rescue center before getting animals of my own, so that helped me learn about how to handle animals, give meds, etc. But having animals of my own has brought it all to a whole new level. I’ve learned two really important things. Firstly, I’ve learned that all animals are very unique and have their own desires and needs. We need to realize that and respect that. Some animals LOVE people and want to jump in your lap and cuddle, but others just rather not be handled too much and prefer to be on their own. And that’s totally fine. They have their own wants and personalities and our purpose is to help them live the life THEY want, not force them to be something they are not. I respect all animals’ choices and just want to help them be happy and healthy in their own individual way. We always let them approach us, and ask for attention when they want it. But if someone wants to chill out on their own and not be bothered, we respect that too. Although most everyone here LOVES attention and visitors, so it works out great.
The other thing I’ve learned from the sanctuary, apart from the mechanics of the physical work which can be fun, amazing, and challenging; is the emotional benefit. Being around animals has taught me so much; patience, being present in the moment, and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. Whenever I’m overwhelmed or sad or stressed out, I just go hang with the animals. Their unconditional live and chill approach to life heals my soul, and reminds me not to sweat the small stuff. It’s amazing 🙂
Q: What do you hope that visiting Goatlandia does for your visitors?
A: Well, firstly I hope they have fun, and really enjoy the experience. That’s paramount. I love to see lots of smiles and hear laughter. And I love to see the animals enjoy the visitors too!
Next, I hope that the visit inspires them to think about food, and animals, differently. I hope that by meeting these beings, our guests can appreciate that they are wonderful unique souls that deserve to live. I hope it helps them think differently about food, about respect for ALL beings, and about eating plant-based; for the animals, the environment, and their health. We welcome everyone; whether they are a long term vegan or an omnivore. We believe in treating everyone with respect, and creating a positive experience that will hopefully inspire change in a good way.
I also hope it brings them joy, helps them relax, and fill their hearts. It’s about slowing down, taking time, and enjoying an interaction with another being in a way that really feels wonderful. It’s like the best type of therapy ever! 🙂
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to open up their own animal sanctuary, what would that piece of advice be?
A: Learn all you can and get help. I volunteered in a wild animal rescue center for two years before getting any farm animals, and it was an incredibly valuable experience. I learned how to work with animals, how to handle them, about animal health and disease, how to give medications, and also how to deal with their passing. I can’t imagine opening my sanctuary without having this experience; it was so incredibly helpful. And, this kind of ties into this, arm yourself with knowledge. Ask people who are doing what you want to do, FIRST, before starting. Ask advice from anyone you can, especially well established and respected sanctuaries. The more advice you get, the more knowledge you’ll have. And those of us who are currently doing it, well, we absolutely LOVE to help others. One of the highest rewards of being successful at anything in life is having the opportunity to share your knowledge; to lend a hand and to see others succeed. That’s the best feeling in the world. That, and a goat hug 🙂
Thank you so much Deborah for participating in this interview with us, thank you for all that you do for animals, and congratulations on your non-profit 501c3 status!
Want to go and check out Goatlandia Farm Animal Sanctuary for yourself?! Then be sure to get in touch by sending an email over to: [email protected] or by filling out their online form! Goatlandia offers private tours, group tours and volunteer work parties.
All photos courtesy of Goatlandia Farm Animal Sanctuary.