Founded in July 2017 by Jonina Turzi and Sarah Salluzzo, Lancaster Farm Sanctuary is a Pennsylvania based animal sanctuary with a truly dynamic background and mission. The founders tireless committment to animals in need is movingly evident, as is the advocacy and spiritual ethics at the heart of their motivation. We feel fortunate to feature this interview with Jonina and Sarah about the history of the sanctuary and the work they do. At this time of year particularly, it is truly a gift to be inspired by individuals whose mission is in selfless devotion to others and embodies such an extraordinary spirit of generosity and humanity.
Interview with Jonina Turzi and Sarah Salluzzo of Lancaster Farm Sanctuary
The sanctuary appears to be very well established though founded quite recently in 2017! How has the pace of work and operations been since founding?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: We are shocked at how quickly things have happened for the sanctuary! We took in our first rescued animals (10 Cornish Hens) that October and then our first 4-legged residents arrived in early 2018. Since then, we quickly filled up our current available spaces with animals in need, sold out every public event and tour we ever offered, and have had such incredible community support that we now have a full-time employee (Executive Director) and are looking to move the sanctuary to a much larger property with at least triple our current acreage!
When was the idea for the sanctuary born?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: Ever since we met, we’ve talked about how critical animal liberation is to human liberation, and we ultimately went vegan together. We kept discussing how we could have the greatest impact for animals here in Lancaster County. We had done some legislative advocacy and other forms of volunteering, but felt that more could be done. After visiting several farm sanctuaries in upstate NY, we knew our purpose or Dharma was to start the first ever farm sanctuary in Lancaster, PA.
Can you share more about how the first three ethical guidelines of yoga tradition – Ahimsa, Satya & Asteya- became your sanctuary’s core values?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: We own a yoga studio and Jonina teaches group and private classes as well as offers a yoga teacher training program in addition to our work at the sanctuary. These three ethical guidelines are really the heart of the ancient practice and bring the most joy and freedom, but unfortunately they have been largely undersold in Western yoga where often yoga is associated with the postures or physical exercises. Ahimsa, or the practice of not causing harm to other living beings, is the essential yogic practice, the very most important thing, and Satya (the practice of speaking the truth) and Asteya (the practice of not stealing from others) are other ways we can practice liberating ourselves from the causes of suffering. We are constantly amazed at the experience of practicing nonviolence toward others– of course it is impossible to cause zero harm, but the intention to try as a daily practice is the most stabilizing mental and spiritual activity and deeply joyful experience we have ever known. We really, really want to share that message in every possible way!
How has the sanctuary grown since it was founded?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: We now have over 50 residents! We are so happy to provide a forever home and sanctuary to cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks, chickens, and barn cats. We have 30 or so regular animal care volunteers and a gradually expanding board of directors that share our passion for animal rights and activism. We have an awesome online community and regular donors as well! We are hopeful that in the next year we will find the perfect property for us to expand so we can rescue more animals and create a bigger impact through community services, educational experiences, and advocacy programs.
What has the pace of animal intake been at the sanctuary and what growth are you anticipating over the next coming decade of the sanctuary’s operations?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: We took in about 50 residents between Oct 2017 and July 2019. The need for sanctuary for animals used for profit is huge! We are devastated each week when we have to turn away animals in need because we don’t have the room or resources to rescue them. We could easily fill a 100+ acre property in just a few days time, really… so the question is more about land management and the impact we can have on the system itself to stop breeding billions of these beings for consumption. We do envision our function in the future as a continued (larger!) animal rescue organization, but also as a center for education and advocacy to solve the root issues. We are planning to add a veganic farming program and more zero–waste practices at our future expanded property. And of course we’ll continue to add more yoga and community-oriented wellness programs!
In addition to care-taking all the animals, you also have tours and yoga! Are you and Sarah both full time now at the sanctuary?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: Sarah is full time (our Executive Director) but Jonina still holds a full time job at our yoga studio and see private Physical Therapy clients in downtown Lancaster in addition to work at the sanctuary. She would love to offer bodywork at our future expanded property too, to reduce commuting hours each week, and also get more people over to meet and enjoy knowing the animals who live here!
About how many volunteers do you currently have and what are the types of duties they attend to?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: Our 30 or so awesome volunteers come for either a midday shift or an evening shift nearly every day of the week. They are so wonderful and we’re so grateful they choose to spend their time caring for animals with us. They stay for a few hours when they come and help us with the essential tasks of checking and refilling water dishes, cleaning pens and animal areas, giving the residents dinner, and occasional special care endeavors like hoof-trimmings or medication treatments.
On a logistical and operational level, can you share more with readers how the sanctuary operates?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: Sarah and I pay the mortgage for the property each month, but all of our animal care expenses are covered by fundraising and social outreach programs like dinners, tours, yoga, wellness classes, and some merchandise sales. We rely on donations to function, not only for our ongoing expenses, but also because of our critical move to a bigger property– we are going to need to add or alter fencing, housing, and outbuildings so we can make a safe transition for our current residents and be able to rescue more animals. One of our plans for the next property is to increase the fixed income from the classes and events so that eventually our fundraising efforts can be supportive for growth and expansion of our mission and advocacy work, instead of essential expenses like vet bills, food, and housing.
Your sanctuary has holiday cards & 2020 calendars available for sale. Can you share more about your merchandise- what goes into making it and the importance of the proceeds to the sanctuary’s operations?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: We are so excited to be offering them, especially those gorgeous calendars for the first time this year! Just like everything we do and sell, every single dollar of profit from their sale goes to help us cover the expenses of running the sanctuary and caring for animals. We also love how someone can spend a month getting to see Stanley goat or Minerva duck’s beautiful faces and learn a little bit about their incredible lives!
Please visit https://lancasterfarmsanctuary.org/merch/ for Lancaster Farm Sanctuary holiday calenders, cards & more.
Adoption (sponsorship of animals) is also possible as a holiday gift. This is a really beautiful and charitable way to gift for the holidays. Can you share more about this option- how people can gift sponsorship of an animal and what their gift means for the animal(s)?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: This is definitely one of our favorite ways people can support our work here! Sarah once sponsored someone named Scott, a sheep from Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen as a gift to me the first holiday we were together, and it meant so much to both of us! We are so happy to be able to connect humans and animals in such a generous and caring way all year, but of course the holidays are a very great time. We send a lovely photo and “adoption” card (sponsorship through a donation) of a specific animal. We tell about their story and personality, and we absolutely love hearing from people and families and even classrooms that they kept the card in a visible place and made that “connection” that can help us walk more compassionate pathways in the future.
Veganic agriculture is an issue also dear to your hearts. Can you share more about your work with veganic farming and also what you are doing at the sanctuary in this respect?
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: Veganic farming is the future! It is a way of farming and growing plants with utmost respect to animals and ecosystems that seeks to exclude animal exploitation and harm as much as possible. Basically it’s a practice of veganism + permaculture– looking at each farm individually and trying to grow food in a “closed loop” system whenever possible and methods of soil regeneration like composting and cover crops. Perhaps your readers are aware that food is often sold to us as “organic,” even if the soil has been treated with the remains of animal’s bodies and massive amounts of their wastes, which are often concentrated with antibiotics and growth hormones. This is very problematic for our health and the environment, of course.
We know that a huge part of liberating farmed animals from their bondage is showing humans that we CAN grow food to feed ourselves without exploiting others, and causing animals (including wildlife) as little harm as possible. Veganic farming is going to grow as more and more people go vegan(!) and demand alternatives to practices like artificially breeding certain animals by the billions annually for consumption. We are so excited about this aspect of our future work because it is a chance to role model more of what we DO want to see in our food systems instead of just a reminder of the violence and exploitation inherent in animal-based agriculture.
So although we are not growing veganic food here yet, we are certain this will be a huge part of our next property’s function! There are several volunteers and people in our community who said they are interested in helping us run this new aspect of our mission. We envision a CSA and other plant-based community-oriented agriculture programs full of healthy food for humans to enjoy!
I really enjoy following both the sanctuary Instagram as well as your account Jonina. Your account is so rich with truly generous and gentle but provocatively thoughtful media about vegan farming, animal liberation, veganism and more. I deeply value how you present the ideas, such as “Sanctuaries, not slaughterhouses”. To the point, practical and profound. How did you get started creating this rich and incredibly thought provoking (and enlightening) media? Also, when are you going to write and publish a book? 🙂
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: Thank you so much, Annika! That really means so much to us, as it is our joy to do this work. I think one huge part of our mission and style of communicating comes from our backgrounds in Yoga and other Eastern spirituality disciplines. We truly see our “oneness” and interconnectedness with all beings, and that includes the humans who are still caught up in cycles of violence and abuse, as we ALL have been to varying degrees in our shared cultures. It is our practice to address complex issues of violence, oppression, and injustice from that understanding, instead of judgement and condemnation.
Another major influence is that Sarah has Master’s Degrees in both Social Work and Media Studies, and I have a Doctorate in Physical Therapy– so we are clinicians trained to look for the root pathology of disease processes to reduce suffering and be as effective as possible in helping people resolve them when they are seeking healthy change. We are therapists of the human mind and body, so we have some special insights into how we can best unite them mindfully for the betterment of all sentient beings!
Funny you should ask– writing a book has been coming up for us a lot lately! We do have plans and think it’s going to be pretty awesome. Thank you for asking– please stay tuned!
I want to say thank you both for your time. What you are doing at your sanctuary, what you are doing with your media- all of it- is truly humanity in action and providing a real and very clear example of a deeply balanced relationship with ecology and environment. Just to end off here, please feel free to share here anything about that- how you chose the land you are on and your relationship also with your local environment and community.
Lancaster Farm Sanctuary: We thank you so much for this opportunity to share about our work! We are so excited about the move to a bigger property and all of the possibilities that will create for the future. We know it’s scary to think about the state of the world and environment these days, so we would advise listeners to follow that classic advice and “look for the helpers.” Spend at least as much time around positive and inspiring people *who share your values* as you do following the news that can be destabilizing and anxiety-producing these days.
We can all take conscious action every day on behalf of other beings. We can all work together to have a greater impact in creating compassionate and justice-based communities and ecosystems that benefit all beings. Let’s really dare to envision it! Let’s really try to look at EXACTLY what we want to see more of in the world! Let’s look at it and ask the questions and take the actions that help us live into it!
Visit Lancaster Farm Sanctuary online at https://lancasterfarmsanctuary.org/
Feature & Interview by Annika Lundkvist at Pacific Roots Magazine Editorial Desk