Green acres

New Yorkers discover the joys of being farmed out.

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Photo: Derek Goodwin

Imagine taking a bus to an upstate farm where you work all day for no pay. Sound like fun? Well, it is to a growing number of husbandry-loving Gothamites. Their destination: Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a 26-acre spread in the hamlet of Willow, where nearly 100 rescued critters graze without the worry of ending up on a dinner plate. “I call the experience 'farm therapy,’” explains Jenny Brown, who bought the property with husband Doug Abel in 2004. “People come up here to be in the sunshine and play with the pigs.”

For the past three years, the couple has worked closely with the ASPCA and Animal Care & Control of New York City, taking in all kinds of abandoned chickens, goats—even a sheep. But more recently, their place has become a haven for what Brown calls “enviro-hipsters”—young urbanites from nabes like Billyburg and Greenpoint who love nothing better than spending the day putting up fences, building barns and manhandling manure. “Most of them say, 'Sure I’ll do it! Just give me some gloves,’” she laughs.

In return, Brown serves these day-trippers a free lunch and gives them a tour of the farm (which includes a talk about the inhumane treatment of animals). So far, the sanctuary has survived on grants, donations and periodic fund-raisers like the Art for Animals benefit auction on Saturday 19 at Jivamukti Yoga Center in Manhattan, which will include works from syndicated cartoonists Garry Trudeau and Dan Piraro.

Brown says she plans on seeing some of her urban farmhands at the event. “A lot of them have called to say that they had a life-altering day up here,” she notes, before adding, “We’re not trying to be a bunch of tree-hugging, soapbox-preaching freaks. We just want folks to have fun. ”—Daniel Derouchie

For more info, go to woodstocksanctuary.org.

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