Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell

HIGH FALLS—The three little pigs were the final piece of the puzzle.

Miss Piggy

They arrived Friday by truck at the new 150-acre farm that will be their forever, sturdy home.

Workers at the new grounds of the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary huffed and puffed and labored all summer long to complete the project just in time for the Sept. 5 grand opening.

As part of it, the public is invited to tour the former Epworth United Methodist Church Camp and Retreat from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and see its transformation into an animal sanctuary that has, for the past 11 years, been caring for abused or neglected livestock.


“Everybody’s so excited,” said Jenny Brown, the co-founder and executive director.

“The size of the pastures and the barns dwarf the number of animals we have right now, which goes to show we’re going to be able to help so many more animals in need.”

Brown and her husband, Doug Abel, had a vision years ago not only to rescue animals like chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs, but spread a message of the “compassionate” vegan lifestyle to all who would listen.

At the heart of the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary’s mission is educating the public about what the founders and their followers describe as the “devastating effects of modern-day agribusiness on the animals, environment and human health.”

Brown, a former filmmaker, dedicated her life to helping farm animals after she went undercover in Texas slaughterhouses.
She and Abel settled in the Woodstock hamlet of Willow in 2004 and started their sanctuary with a couple of rescued chickens from a factory farm and a rooster that had been dumped in a New York City schoolyard.

Nowadays, it regularly takes in, or works to place, farm animals that are victims of cruelty and neglect.

Most are rescued during investigations of farms, stockyards, auctions and slaughterhouses, while others arrive from humane societies and SPCA cruelty cases.

Over the years, the sanctuary has grown into a widely respected and nationally recognized shelter for animal refugees—many of which have come from cruelty cases in New York City.

Space constraints and issues with their neighbors in Willow forced sanctuary leaders to look for a bigger farm, so when they discovered the Epworth property was available, they seized the opportunity.

Photos courtesy of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Not only is it six times the size of the Willow farm, but it came with a 250-seat dining room, several pavilions, a 4,900-square-foot multipurpose barn and a two-mile nature trail.

The Woodstock Farm Sanctuary bought it a year ago for $3,225,000, buoyed by a substantial donation, according to Brown.

Ever since, the 15-member staff and a horde of volunteers have been building barns and fences and grooming the grounds. Moving the animals was the final piece.

On Friday, staff and volunteers were putting the final polish on the idyllic pastures and wide-open animal pens.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime, but absolutely a huge undertaking,” Brown said.

“It’s still a work in progress. We’ve got more to build and do, but we’re ready for the public, and Saturday is our big day.”

The Sept. 5 celebration will feature live music, tours and vegan food trucks. There is no admission charge.

Brown is recommending visitors bring water jugs and asking them to kindly leave their dogs at home. A membership drive will be held during the event.

For more information about the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary or the grand opening, go to or call (845) 247-5700.


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