Walking through the gate at the Sanctuary at Soledad Goats in Mojave, you might get the sense that it is someplace you’ve been before – in one of your best and sweetest dreams. There are goats that meander up to say hello and rub against your elbow looking for a friendly ear or back rub. Happy dogs scamper around your feet as you catch sight of a couple of grand old horses. In the distance a trio of observant cows relax near the fence by the road and suddenly an excited pig trots eagerly to dip herself in a muddy puddle in the middle of the yard. It is a little slice of heaven, especially for the retired goats and farm animals rescued from slaughterhouses and other dire situations.
Carol and Julian Pearce embarked on a sanctuary movement even before they established the Sanctuary at Soledad Goats. They moved to the high desert to escape the cold and damp of England. There they had developed an award winning artisan goat cheese business and raised their own goats. Even then their sense of responsibility to their animals compelled them to retire their older goats to a retirement pen so they could live out their lives in peace. They spoke out about treating dairy animals with compassion and they practiced what they preached. When they relocated to California, they set up their farm and began making goat cheese and soon became fixtures in over a dozen farmers markets in Southern California. The concern they demonstrated for the well-being of their goats was not limited to their goats – they began taking in other animals – the lost, the abused, the discarded.
The natural progression of their concern led them to the realization that what they were doing was not sustainable and it was no longer compatible with their commitment to protecting the animals in their care. They decided to go vegan.
The change, while an easy decision in heart and mind, was a challenge economically. Carol says it was a frightening time. "It was hard...at that time...the scariest time of my life." The awesome burden of feeding and caring for the animals that relied on them made it imperative that they create a viable replacement for the goat cheese which had previously sustained them. They struggled to get the formula right for the early incarnations of their nut cheese. After much trial and error, their handcrafted artisan cheeses began to reflect their unique craftsmanship and they found a new following for their vegan cheese.
When the Pearces announced their intention to sell nut cheese in place of their goat cheese, it did not go over well with the management of the farmers markets. The farmers markets that had been their mainstay for marketing, began to shut them out. While their nut based vegan cheese was gaining a following, management at various farmer’s markets could not reconcile their new direction with how they fit in as vendors amongst other fresh food products – a loss for consumers open to quality plant based foods. Fortunately, they were able to find a new location to sell their creamy vegan cheese, their rich vegan chocolate, and handmade soaps and soy candles. You can find them at the Original Farmers Market now at Fairfax and 3rd in Los Angeles.
On a cloudy, gray day Patrick and I stopped by to visit with Carol and got to meet Edgar Allen Pig and Kaboom. As people stopped to ask questions, or buy some cheese or say hello, bright smiles broke out as they took in the four-footed ambassadors.
Edgar is a charming little guy who seems to love the attention of passersby and the conversation directed at him, if he’s not in the middle of eating his food. His full attention can be gotten with a French fry – for that kind of snack, he is happy to show you he can sit. He is small and cute, but his size is the result of a disastrous attempt to keep him and his siblings tiny. He is the only one that survived the deliberate starvation – barely. He is 30 pounds when he should be 150. Carol said he was half that when they rescued him a month ago. Watching Edgar, he appears happy and content. Time will tell if his tragic beginning in life will have debilitating long term effects. For now he is happy and content and has lots of opportunities to revel in kindness and affection.
Kaboom, the pygmy goat, accompanies Carol to the market quite often. He is a charismatic character that draws admirers. He was named Kaboom because he was born on the Fourth of July and his name actually fits his sparky personality. His entry into the world was tough - he was born with paralysis of his legs - but with the gentle care provided by Carol and Julian, he runs around with his other animal buddies on three good legs.
Currently the Soledad Goats sanctuary family consists of nearly one hundred goats, some are retired from the previous cheese business and others are rescued, about eight horses, a family of three cows, a number of pigs and dogs, ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigeons. The numbers keep growing because there are always animals in need.
Speaking with Carol, it is clear how much she is committed to educating people about the uniqueness of each animal and the need to treat them with compassion. She wants people to make the connection when they meet Edgar and Kaboom and hopes it encourages them to look at the treatment of animals in our society. "You have to question. You have to have a conscience," she stresses.
The statement on the website of the sanctuary expresses their mission best: "The Sanctuary at Soledad Goats believes that we have a moral imperative to honor and respect the animals who have spent years in service to us on farms, as well as those who simply need a new home and a little kindness to survive."
If you would like to help the animals of the Sanctuary at Soledad Goats, you can donate once or monthly to them on their website, you can order some of their wonderful handcrafted products, or you can volunteer your time at the sanctuary or at the Farmers Market. Contact them on their Facebook page, The Sanctuary at Soledad Goats or through their website, http://sanctuaryatsoledad.org/.
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