The New York Shelter of Farm Sanctuary has been on this Examiner’s bucket list for years. What’s held me up is distance: it’s 400 miles (six and a half hours by car) from Boston.
Last week, we went. My husband, my boss, her daughter, her daughter’s friend and I piled into a car and road-tripped across Massachusetts and most of New York to reach Watkins Glen.
Farm Sanctuary is a 27 year old organization dedicated to shining a light on the horrific conditions borne by 99% of farm animals in this country and to inspiring people to shift their understanding of farm animals.
Its a rare and critical model: given the infrastructure and geography of industrial food, most farm animals are kept far away and out of our sight. Farm Sanctuary’s three shelters in Watkins Glen, Orland (which I visited in 2006) and Los Angeles provide spaces and places for people to meet and interact with farm animals as individual beings, just as we do with our beloved cats and dogs.
So many animals and so many stories of both hope and horror, our experience in New York was powerful. A wonderful team of staff introduced us to the meaning and mission of Farm Sanctuary, and we lingered for nearly two hours with representatives of each of the shelter’s resident species.
I was so grateful to have been there. Yet, driving away, the thought persisted: we would spend 13 hours on the road to fulfill the core desire of just two hours at Farm Sanctuary. Did the benefit outweigh the cost?
This is the dilemma of distance. The further afield something is — the more time, energy and money required to reach it — the more precious it becomes. Logical enough. For what have we to calculate value besides our time and money?
Certainly, this Examiner’s trans-Pacific, tri-nation touch down to reach the high Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan felt like a much bigger deal than jaunting down the Pike to spend a pair of days at Kripalu. Reaching Farm Sanctuary was a big deal.
We snapped a few great photos. We had a few poignant moments. But the pressure was on for an “amazing” experience, simply because we had come so far. When the standard is “amazing,” it can be hard to simply enjoy.
The dilemma of distance makes yet another case for local. When it doesn’t cost me half a day to get somewhere, I tend to surrender the need to be impressed. Shorter trips leave room for improvisation without disappointment. Less special, but often more satisfying.
September will mark the first food tourism conference in the U.S. in Providence, RI. (Farm Sanctuary probably doesn’t love being framed as part of food tourism, but it surely is — it’s in the business of menu influence.) Taste Trekkers, the group behind the conference, will showcase at the Mass Innovation Nights in Woburn on August 14.
Local continues to grow faster than virtually any other value-add in food. So when you’re thinking about your next food journey, consider the weight of the destination — and how much it’s worth it to you to get there.