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Erin's Farm animal sanctuary

Erin Yanz has turned a former slaughterhouse into an animal sanctuary in Hobart. Erin's Farm is full of rescued animal right now but is seeking donations and volunteers.

Tony V. Martin, The Times

I wrote a story nearly three years ago that reported Indiana was then home to 1,827 confined feeding facilities mostly for pigs, but also for dairy cows, turkeys, chickens and horses, the latter of which are at racetracks.

Indiana was the fifth-largest producer of hogs for meat in the nation, accounting for 3.65 million animals in 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

This is a whole lot of animals being raised for food in the state. Many of these confined facilities are visible along either side of Interstate 65 once you get south of U.S. 30.

But I recently learned that another type of farm is on the rise in Indiana — one that actually welcomes your visit and is proud to show off what they are up to. They are farm animal sanctuaries, and there are now at least four in Indiana.

These are Erin's Farm in Hobart, Kanda Farm Sanctuary in Ambia (immediately west of Lafayette, near the Illinois state line), A Critter's Chance in Plainfield and Uplands Peak Sanctuary in Salem.

Uplands Peak announced just this week it is planning to move to a larger site in Freedom, Indiana, and has a fundraiser underway.

For those unfamiliar with sanctuaries, they are farms where various animals are taken in to recover from past trauma, including being in the meat industry pipeline, and are allowed to live out their natural lives in peace.

Most of the sanctuaries I am familiar with welcome at least some public involvement. Some restrict interaction out of concern for the animals, while others, like The Gentle Barn in Tennessee and California, encourage involvement to foster healing for animals and people alike.

It's very moving to interact with animals that we have been brought up to think of as nothing more than food. False images of them being different than our dogs and cats quickly melt away and we have the opportunity to come away with a more compassionate perspective. 

When I started this blog a few years ago, I was told Uplands Peak was the only sanctuary in the state. We are now up to four, which, while far behind the number of sites operated by the meat industry, is enough to distinguish the state as a tourist destination for sanctuaries.

There are online lists of farm sanctuaries (though clearly not complete for Indiana) to help you plan a great family vacation. See Facebook and individual websites for details about all of Indiana's sanctuaries.

Those unable to make the rounds to Indiana's various sanctuaries can make a one-stop visit with representatives from at least several during this year's Indy VegFest from noon to 6 p.m. March 31 at the Biltwell Event Center in Indianapolis.


Porter/LaPorte county reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.