Poplar Spring’s Open House and being flustered by a ten-year-old


Yesterday was the annual Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary open house. It’s one of four major events Poplar Spring has each year. The first is the 5k run and walk. The second is the Montgomery County Farm Tour, which is similar to the open house except that most of the people that come to the Farm Tour aren’t vegans and may not even have a clue what an animal sanctuary is. While that event offers a lot of opportunity for outreach, it can be frustrating to hear yet another idiot make a joke about bacon when visiting the pig yard. The third event, the open house, is one where a lot of the farm’s supporters and those curious about what Poplar Spring does come out to visit with the animals, eat catered food, and hear a speaker (this year, Jonathan Balcombe, who, I should note, isn’t afraid to get down and dirty cleaning up in the pig yard, either). The fourth event, Thanksgiving With the Turkeys, is probably my favorite, but I’ve talked about that one before.

Yesterday’s open house went really well. It was very well attended this year and seemed to bring in a fair amount of money for the farm. As usual, my job was that of a “floater,” going from animal spot to animal spot to help out where needed. Some of the day’s highlights included meeting one of the guys responsible for bringing the initial batch of 140 pigs to Poplar Spring 12 years ago, watching Rocky the goat charm every single visitor that walked through the gate, and getting to see Rasine hold Alina:

Rasine's new friend Alina, a seabright hen

(Rasine also pet some pigs yesterday, which was a big step for her. She’d been a little tentative on previous visits.)

While I still stumble sometimes with questions that people ask when I’m manning the animal areas (ie. “Shoot! Why do roosters have the comb and waddle? I forget!”), I’m not too bad at remembering animal names and stories and key facts about lifespan, diet, etc. But yesterday, I was completely flummoxed by one little girl who was maybe ten or 11 years old. She came up to me when I was in the goat pasture and started a conversation.

“Are these goats in captivity for their whole lives?”

“Um… you mean here?” I responded.


“Well, they have full roam of this pasture and the rest of the farm when the gates are opened up,” I told her.

“But this farm has a fence around it so they can’t get into the woods.”

“So you’re keeping them here so they can’t get into the woods and run free.”

I think I sputtered off some response about how sometimes the animals come in sick and need food and medication so the farm makes sure they’re well cared for. Who knows if she was convinced. The look she was giving me seemed to indicate she was enjoying holding my feet to the fire.

I told Sandy, the farm manager, about this exchange. “I’m glad I didn’t have to answer that question,” he told me.

Every time I leave one of the farm’s events, I make a mental note of the questions I didn’t have answers to so I can find out for next time. Clearly, this question is one I’ll have to give a little more thought so that I’m not taken down a notch by a tween again.

5 Responses to “Poplar Spring’s Open House and being flustered by a ten-year-old”

  1. Deb

    That is a tough one. Of course the majority of the 400 acres IS the woods, so in that sense they do get to run around in the woods.

    Maybe bring up the fact that when they do have full roam of the property (and remind her how long the drive in from the road is), they come back to the goat yard on their own.

    Or even just admit that, yes, this is a compromise, in the same way that rescuing a cat or a dog is a compromise. (Is 10 too young to start talking about reproductive freedom vs all the reasons for spaying/neutering? lol.)

  2. huyen

    You forgot to mention Malcolm, the cutest baby goat I’ve ever met (well, I haven’t met many but he’s a real sweetheart!). I think the farm needs to be on the lookout for a 10/11 year old liberating the goats one night…

  3. sheryl

    Oh, I wanna take that little girl to the zoo. Talk about putting their feet to the fire … I guess I would’ve tried to explain that these animals are not wildlife, they’re domesticated and really wouldn’t survive very well on their own. Or something … We don’t have such tough customers at beer and wine. :-)

  4. Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Open House 2010 « Invisible Voices

    […] read Ryan’s experience being flustered by the questions of a 10 year old (and an incredibly cute picture of his daughter holding the tiny bundle of cuteness we call Alina), […]

  5. C.Elizabeth

    First, I want to say that your blog is fantastic! I have only just discovered it and I’ll make sure to read previous posts as well. Excellent work!

    That was a tough one… But I think that you got “out” of it quite fine. As Deb said, maybe saying that it is a compromise… Never easy to answer questions like this though!

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