Volunteering at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary – Poolesville, MD
A few months ago I received a kind email from Ryan, a fellow vegan and regular volunteer at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. Aside from providing an excellent list of vegan resources in the MD/DC area, he also invited me to spend a day at Poplar Spring. Yes, yes, yes!! I love animals (obviously) and one aspect of the trip is to spend time on farm animal sanctuaries, not only to help out but to also spread the word about their good work. Um. And. For selfish reason as I like to roll in the dirt with the all those little critters. But who doesn’t, really?!
When I knew that I was getting close to my MD/DC leg of the trip I contacted Ryan to let him know. We scheduled a day for me and my friend Chris to go out and help around the farm. We mostly picked up poop (which I am MORE than used to from my horsey days) and I might have also spent some time petting, picture taking, and recording as much as I could so that I could put together a little video/photo montage of the day.
Terry Cummings, co-founder of Poplar Spring sat down with me, after chores were done, to chat about the beginnings of Poplar Spring, when she and her husband, Dave became vegan, and the love and gratitude they have for the many wonderful animals they work with. I wasn’t able to squeeze all of the audio interview into this YouTube clip so I’ve included some additional notes, below the video.
Poplar’s First Rescue
The first animal to come to Poplar was Petunia–a piglet who was rescued by a former factory farm worker. The woman who rescued Petunia found her as she was being crushed under a barn door at the factory farm. She informed the owner of the farm and he said to “let nature take its course.” But the woman couldn’t walk away so she freed Petunia and brought her home. Since Poplar wasn’t quite ready to take in animals, at the time, the woman raised Petunia in a laundry basket, in her bedroom until the sanctuary could take her. Due to her near death injuries, Petunia had a crooked jaw and walked funny. Petunia grew to be about 600 lbs and lived out the remainder of her life at Poplar before passing away of old age a couple of year ago.
Turning Animals Away
I was curious what happens when a sanctuary is at its limit and yet they continue to get calls for animals in need. Terry said that instead of turning any animals away they reach out to a network of sanctuaries and small farms that take an animals. “The goal is to always find a home for all animals,” she said.
Road To Veganism
Terry and Dave Cummings, the husband and wife team who founded Poplar Spring, have been vegan for nearly twenty years. The introduction into that story can be found in the beginning of the YouTube clip (above). In short, it was through living on a beef cattle farm (that they didn’t own or manage it in any way–they just lived in a house on the property), getting to know the cows, and then watching them being shipped off to slaughter. Terry and Dave first became vegetarian, before deciding to start the sanctuary. They remained vegetarian for three years before realizing that ethically, it was wrong to continue to support the dairy and egg industries as well. They spent some time at Farm Sanctuary and continued to gather information about veganism and vegan cooking.
Terry also noted that many people who come to visit the farm animals are often times not vegetarian or vegan. But she’ll get follow up phone calls or emails about how someone had become vegetarian the same day they visited the farm because they were that moved by their experience with the animals. Ryan, the volunteer who reached out to me originally, was vegetarian when he started volunteering and told me that he became vegan after spending so much time at the sanctuary.
Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary Today
“We’ve grown to have more than 200 animals. We take in horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, and turkeys and a few other things like peacocks. We can only take in so many animals so we focus on education, we do a lot of school tours. We feel like changing children’s minds is really where the goal is because they’re so open to it still. They’re the future. So we do a lot of tours for young children, elementary schools, families, and individuals too. Even though we have 400 acres we’re limited to our barn space and finances and how many animals we can take in. But our hope is that by educating people we can save more animals that way.” – Terry Cummings, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary Co-Founder and Manager
How You Can Help
If you’re interested in learning more or volunteering at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, please visit www.animalsanctuary.org. There is a volunteer application and waiver on the website. Terry and Dave also offer internships for those interested! Tours and visits are by appointment and they welcome vegan cookies and cakes to share with everyone! :)
Thank you again to Terry, Ryan, and the rest of the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary crew for all that you do to help the animals. PS – Ryan and his wife are just about to (or perhaps have already, at this point) welcome their second vegan-from-birth child into the world. Congrats you two! :)