Maple Farm Animal Sanctuary - Mendon MASS
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MFS Rescues Goose Whose Family Was Attacked by a Coyote

Maple Farm Sanctuary recently welcomed a new goose to our gaggle: Tony, a Tufted Roman Goose.

Tony was being raised as a companion animal along with three other geese in a private backyard. They lived in a rural area, and sadly, one day after the geese were let outside, three of them were attacked and killed by a coyote. The family was devastated by the loss of the geese and knew that they would also have to find Tony a safer place to live. They also wanted Tony to find a home with other geese.

MFS was glad to take Tony in and give him a safe and loving home. Here, he will never have to worry about being attacked by a coyote again, as our animals are protected from coyotes by our resident guard dogs, who keep the coyotes at bay without hurting them.

Tony is slowly becoming part of MFS gaggle and spends his days hanging out in our front lawn and splashing in our pools. We have also found him out back a few times visiting with the Canadian geese who frequently stop by the sanctuary!

Here are some more photos of our handsome new goose:

Above: Tony is introduced to the curious MFS gaggle.

Above: Geese like Tony (and other birds) often stand on one foot as a means of conserving body heat.

Above: Tufted Roman geese were named for the small tuft of feathers on their heads, which reminds many people of a tiny hat.

Piggy Smalls and the Mini Pig Trade

Piggy Smalls is a four-year-old Vietnamese potbellied pig who was originally sold to a loving family by a breeder advertising “mini pigs” who would remain small forever. Like all potbellied pigs, Piggy quickly grew to more than 150 pounds, and his family could no longer keep him.
Fortunately MFS stepped in to rescue Piggy, as we did with our other potbellied pig Chance, but not all potbellied pigs are so fortunate. Watch the video below to meet Piggy and learn about the deceptive mini pig trade:

 Video by Aviva Luttrell

Behind the Scenes: Volunteer Spotlight, Part 2

Who knows Maple Farm Sanctuary’s animal residents best? The kind and compassionate people who volunteer their time to give these furry, wooly, and feathery friends the best life possible!
We recently asked several of our volunteers to tell us about their special bonds with the animals of MFS. If you missed it, read Part 1, and then read on for more heartwarming stories below:

Barn Volunteer Jane and Dragon

“I've volunteered at Maple Farm Sanctuary for just over a year now and I have a soft spot for the older animals. Anytime I go in to visit the dogs, Dragon nudges his way in and makes sure he gets some love as well.”

Tour Guide Sarah and Jonathan 

“Running tours at Maple Farm Sanctuary is such an incredible experience. I get to share these amazing animals with people and help them form connections. I always encourage people to look in the eyes of the animals so you can see they really are someone and not something. Sharing the message about how special animals are has been one of the best experiences. I am so fortunate to be part of the MFS community!”

Barn Volunteer Luciana and Gail 

‘I am so honored be a part of the Maple Farm Sanctuary team. For years I visited the Sanctuary and wished I could get closer to the amazing animal residents and give them some love. Although I have not been a volunteer for too long, the experience has been more than fulfilling — it’s dream come true! Gail is such a sweet and special lady. I feel extremely pleased to meet and hug her!”

Barn Volunteer Yana and Mimou

“Mimou is a beautiful girl. Her owner almost sent her to slaughter because she didn’t like her personality. I think Mimou is great and she wants the same as all of us — to be loved and accepted.”

Barn Volunteer Jennifer and Gwendolyn

“I love every single animal at Maple Farm Sanctuary. Today though, Gwen really needed someone to listen to her. She is going through an exhausting and uncomfortable molt. I loved just being able to be there for her and comfort her. Open your heart to an animal and you know what they are saying to you.”

Tour Director Marlene and Putt Putt

"Putt Putt, our sweet senior goat, has impaired vision in one eye. I call him my handsome pirate!"

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation Awards $5,000 in Grants to MFS

Maple Farm Sanctuary (MFS) is grateful to the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, which recently awarded us a total of $5,000 from the Foundation’s Community Spirit 9/11 Mini-Grant program!

Ten employees of Health Plans, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, nominated MFS for an award of $500 each. MFS plans to use the grants to support a variety of projects, including purchasing a much-needed hay feeder that will enable our resident cow herd to more easily eat nutritious hay in the cold weather months.

“We are so appreciative of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation and all the employees who generously selected MFS as a grant recipient,” says MFS Co-Founder Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis. “Our cows will certainly appreciate the grants as well, as they will soon be eating in style from a new hay feeder!”

Additional funds may be used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables to feed the animals and purchase vitamins and supplements to support the care of our many elderly animals.

About the Community Spirit 9/11 Mini-Grants Program

To commemorate those Harvard Pilgrim members who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, Harvard Pilgrim and its Foundation created the Community Spirit 9/11 Mini-Grant program. This program enables employees from Harvard Pilgrim, Health Plans Inc. and NTT Data to award an annual grant, completely funded by the Foundation, to the local charity of his or her choice.

Since the program began in 2002, these employees have directed almost $5 million to hundreds of organizations throughout the Foundation's health plan service area – comprised of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Former Dairy Cow Just Wants to Cuddle, and Spend Time with Her Favorite Goat

If you open the door to Gail’s barn, the 1200-pound Jersey Cow will stop whatever she is doing, perk up her ears, turn her head towards you, and beckon you with her big brown eyes. She is hoping you will come over, so she can rest her head in your arms—it’s the cow version of a hug.

At 23 years old—one year past the average lifespan of a cow—Gail can be forgiven for making visitors come to her. She is afflicted with arthritis, often preferring to lay down, but she still has a lot of life in her, and a lot of love to give.

"Gail just loves getting attention and cuddling,” says Maple Farm Sanctuary (MFS) volunteer Chrissy Toti, who visits Gail each Friday during her volunteer shift.

“All of the cows at MFS are friendly, but Gail is just so sweet and mellow,” says Toti. “Each time I see her, I spend an hour petting her, massaging her, talking to her, and feeding her oranges, her favorite treat. Sometimes she just tries to lick me the whole time.”

Toti first began visiting Gail after she moved to her own barn about a year ago. Gail had previously lived with the MFS cow herd, but she had to be separated from the younger, more rambunctious cows, who could potentially injure her while they were roughhousing,

Though she is no longer with the herd, Gail is not lonely. Not only does she receive multiple daily visits from volunteers like Toti, she also has a roommate, Lily, a 13-year-old goat. While Lily has been known to have a bad attitude around fellow goats and other animals her own size, she and Gail are thick as thieves.

“Gail and Lily are almost always together—they are always inside the barn or in their pasture at the same time,” says Toti. “When they are outside, Lily sometimes runs and hops around Gail. She can get pretty crazy, but Gail just swings her head to the side, cueing Lily to calm down, just like a mom.”

Below: Lily and Gail often hang out together in the pasture behind their barn.

It is heartening that Gail has had a chance to show her maternal instincts with Lily. She spent the first ten years of her life on a dairy farm, where she was continually impregnated so that should would produce milk. Gail never got to keep any of her calves, as they were taken away from her shortly after birth so that the milk she produced for them could be sold.

“We’ve rescued a few pregnant cows who gave birth at the sanctuary,” says MFS Co-Founder Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis. “It is heartbreaking to watch cows like Gail get excited and run over to the new babies to see if they are one of their own who had been taken away,”

Gail most likely lost more babies than most, as she was used in the dairy industry for twice as long as average diary cows, who are sent to slaughter at around 5 years of age, when they are considered “spent” because they can no longer produce enough milk.

Fortunately, the farmer who owned Gail had a change of heart and surrendered her and several other cows to MFS in 2005. She’s been living a well-deserved life of leisure at the sanctuary ever since.

“After going through the trauma of having her babies constantly being taken away, now all Gail knows is love and compassion. You can see the trust in her eyes,” says Toti. “I feel like every day she is thanking MFS for rescuing her.”

Top image: MFS volunteer Chrissy Toti hugs Gail the cow.


The Milk Myth

Many of us were told as children that drinking milk was one of the nutritional foundations for growing healthy bones and teeth. This pervasive message, a product of the oft-debated food pyramid, continues into adulthood, particularly for women, who are encouraged to eat dairy in order to ward off bone loss

In reality, it is calcium, a mineral found in many foods, from leafy greens to baked beans, that is critical for healthy bones, nerves, and muscles. Equally important is vitamin D, which is difficult to get from any food. While milk may be advertised as a good source of vitamin D, it only has trace amounts of it. It’s fortified, but so are many brands of orange juice and breakfast cereals. The bottom line is that calcium and vitamin D are important, but milk is not necessarily the best source.

In fact, drinking milk may have more health risks than benefits. Studies have linked the high levels of saturated fat, allergens, and Bovine Growth Hormone (a synthetic hormone that artificially increases milk production) in commercial dairy to ovarian cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, increased body inflammation, and Type 1 diabetes. Not to mention that three-quarters of humankind lack the enzymes to comfortably digest dairy. This statistic isn’t surprising when you consider that humans are the only mammals that drink milk after infancy, and we are the only species that drinks another species’ milk.

What is most heartbreaking is the widespread perception that dairy cows graze in green, open pastures, side by side with their calves and cow families for the whole of their lives. In reality, the vast majority of dairy cows live inside commercial facilities, tethered to milking stations. In researching her book, Cash Cow: Ten Myths About The Dairy Industry, Elise Desaulniers found that cows are "milked three hundred and five days per year, which means they are also milked for most of their pregnancy…They are artificially inseminated so that they are kept pregnant and lactating almost all the time.”

Calves who would normally suckle for nine months are taken away from their mothers after two days and fed milk replacer, so that we can drink the milk that was meant for them. Male calves are typically sold for veal, while female calves are often raised as dairy cows, repeating the cycle.

Plant-based Alternatives

On average, we absorb about 30 percent of the calcium found in milk. We absorb nearly twice that amount when we eat vegetables such as kale, broccoli, bok choy, and spinach. Calcium can also be found in delicious foods like almonds, figs, edamame, and tahini. You can learn more about calcium-rich foods by visiting Ginny Messina’s vegan calcium primer on The Vegan RD blog.

To get your Vitamin D, drink fortified almond, soy, rice, coconut, and hemp milks, as well as fortified orange juice and breakfast cereals, or you can simply bask in the sun.

The Full Helping blog ranks the following wholesome options as the best plant-based sources of calcium, and lists how far each food will get you towards 100% of your daily RDA:

  1. Fortified almond, soy, or rice milk, 8 ounces: 300-500mg (30-50%)
  2. Fortified orange juice, 8 ounces: 350 mg (35%)
  3. Collard greens, cooked, 1 cup: 270 mg (27%)
  4. Fortified breakfast cereal, 1 cup dry: 250-1000 mg (25-100%)
  5. Turnip greens, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 200 mg (20%)
  6. Mustard greens, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 160 mg (16%)
  7. Bok choy, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 150 mg (15%)
  8. Tempeh, 4 ounces: 120 mg (12%)
  9. Tahini, 2 tablespoons: 120 mg (12%)
  10. Dried figs, 1/2 cup: 120 mg (12%)
  11. Extra firm tofu, 3 ounces: 100 mg – 150 mg (10-15%)
  12. Oats, instant, 1 serving: 100 mg (10%)
  13. Kale, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 100 mg (10%)
  14. Shelled edamame, steamed, 1 cup: 100 mg (10%)
  15. Silken tofu, 3 ounces: 80 mg (8%)
  16. Blackstrap molasses, 1 tablespoon: 80 mg (8%)
  17. Almond butter, 2 tablespoons: 80 mg (8%)
  18. Almonds, 1 ounce: 80 mg (8%)
  19. Orange, 1-cup sections: 70 mg (7%)
  20. Navy beans, cooked, ½ cup: 65 mg (6.5%)
  21. Broccoli, steamed or boiled, 1 cup: 60 mg (6%)
  22. Pinto beans, cooked, ½ cup: 50 mg (5%)

A plant-based diet is a win-win. Not only is it cruelty-free, it is also extremely healthy. A study published in 2015 in the “American Journal of Health Promotion” found that a plant-based diet can boost both physical health and emotional well-being. Perhaps that’s why 11 team members of the Tennessee Titans went vegan last season, a change they credit for adding power and speed to their defense, which ranked third against the run and fifth in the league with 40 sacks. "My energy levels have gone up," says Wesley Woodyard, the team’s leading tackler. "And it's just putting in good fuel to your body.”

—written by MFS volunteer Jennifer Novak


Get Your Chocolate Fix with Two Decadent Vegan Dessert Recipes

Love is in the air—and on the farm—for Valentine’s Day! In honor of this sweet holiday, integrative health coach Susie Belanger is sharing two of her favorite cruelty-free dessert recipes, as well as tips on how you can celebrate another, lesser-known holiday this week.

Do you wish you could eat a kind diet free of meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and other animal products? Or are you a seasoned vegan looking for a new recipe for a special Valentine’s Day dessert to share with your sweetie? Either way, you are in luck! Here are two decadent recipes just in time for the 14th.

Before we start baking, did you know that it’s Random Acts of Kindness Week? Here are a few ideas for how you can celebrate with kindness towards humans and animals alike:

  • Give a homeless person a fiver (not just the loose change in your pocket).
  • Let someone out into your lane, even if there is mad traffic.
  • Smile at a stranger. Hopefully she or he will pass that smile on to the next passersby.
  • Donate to Maple Farm Sanctuary in your loved one’s name by making a one-time gift or sponsoring an animal. Your kindness will help support animals in need of love and care all year round. 
  • Skip meat and dairy for the day. There is simply no easier way to help animals and prevent suffering than by choosing vegan foods over meat, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Show the love to your furry companions. Take the pup in your life on an extra long walk, or give your kitty some extra chin scratches.
  • Love yourself. Random acts of kindness can and should also be directed at YOU. The more you love yourself, the more you will have the capacity love to other beings.

Now, on to the recipes!

Let’s start with these incredibly easy cupcakes....

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes With Chocolate Walnut Topping


  • 1 1/2 cups white all-purpose flour, sifted (I used a mesh colander)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee (I use Mount Hagen Organic Freeze Dried Instant Coffee)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted (I avoid Dutch processed cocoa because it is treated with alkali)
  • 1/2 cup raw brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (almond, hemp, and organic soy are all good options)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 5.3 ounce 70% dark chocolate bar
  • 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a large 6 cup large muffin pan with vegan butter (I love Miyokos Creamery European Style Cultured Vegan Butter) and a pinch of flour.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, cocoa, coffee, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a small bowl, mix maple syrup, vinegar, non-dairy milk, olive oil, and vanilla extract.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until there are no lumps.
  5. Fill cups 3/4 full with mixture.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.
  7. Let cool to room temperature.
  8. Spread the topping on top of cupcakes.
  9. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
  1. Break chocolate into pieces and heat in a double boiler on low until just melted.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in non-dairy milk, chopped walnuts, and salt.

Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Hazelnuts and Raspberry Coulis

This cake recipe is “next-level” but it’s worth the extra time and effort. It’s filled with healthful ingredients like carrots, nuts, coconut, cocoa, and dark chocolate. (No one will taste the carrots, which are the secret to its moist, dense texture.) Credit goes to my super fabulous Swiss-German friend who made it for a party I attended and I was blown away! If you read German, follow the original recipe here.

Here’s how it’s done:



  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 pinches of cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup of agave (or sugar)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 a cup coffee (I dissolved two packets of Mount Hagen Organic instant in half a cup of hot water)
  • 1/4 cup chopped up 70% dark chocolate
  • 1-2 carrots, grated


  • 1 cup melted 70% dark chocolate (about one and one half 5.3 ounce of 150g bars)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon almond milk
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted in a pan on the stove in 2 tablespoons granulated sugar to caramelize

Raspberry Coulis

  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon powdered confectionery sugar

Nota bene: Organic ingredients are always best. Also, don't have hazelnuts? Use almonds, walnuts or whatever nuts you have - or omit. As with all recipes, feel free to change it up. Use strawberries instead of raspberries. Use organic soy milk, oat, or hemp milk instead of almond. There are no rules.


  1. First, mix all dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, cocoa powder, coconut flakes and ground hazelnuts - well.
  2. Slowly add wet ingredients- coffee, agave, vanilla extract, coconut oil and almond milk - and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add grated carrot.
  4. Put the mixture into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 60 minutes. The baking time can vary depending on the oven, with me it took 60 minutes.
  6. The coffee or the almond milk can be replaced by other fluids, juice or tea, depending on your preference.
  7. Once the cake is done and cooling, make the icing: first toast the hazelnuts lightly in a dry pan and then remove the outer coating once cool enough to handle. Don't worry if you don't remove all of the outer coatings. Do your best. Loosely chop nuts and set aside.
  8. Add granulated sugar to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add back the hazelnuts to caramelize. Once coated and sticky like peanut brittle, spread on parchment paper in a single layer and cool.
  9. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Add 2 tablespoons coconut oil. Stir.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon almond milk, stir, and pour chocolate icing over your cake.
  11. Top with caramelized hazelnuts.
  12. Blend raspberries with powdered sugar in a food processor (mini Cuisinart is great for this step) then strain to remove seeds. Spread raspberry coulis on plate in any design you like and add a few raspberries. Voilà

Susie Belanger is a Plant-Based Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and the Founder of Belavie Health & Beauty Homemade. Cooking is her jam and creating plant-based versions of traditional meat-based dishes is her specialty. She offers healthy vegan recipes and do-it-yourself skin care recipes on her blog:


MFS Rescued Sheep Tara Anna Featured on the Dodo!

MFS was thrilled to find out that one of our most steadfast supporters, 12-year-old Elias, was recently featured in a video created by The Dodo! The video highlights Elias’ special bond with rescued sheep Tara Anna, who he sponsored for many years.

MFS rescued Tara Anna in summer 2005 after we received a call from the local police department about a sheep who had been badly abused and was found hiding in some bushes. It turned out that a group of women had tied a rope around the sheep’s neck and dragged her around their yard by a riding lawn mower. While the poor sheep struggled to get free, other women beat her with sticks and a baseball bat. When the police arrived and cut her free, the women said they were planning on using her as a piñata to stab to death and then have for dinner.

When we approached sheep, who we named Tara Anna, she wasn't shy or skittish—she was petrified. We finally got her to MFS and put her in a comfortable stall next to the majestic, calming llamas, before giving her veterinary care.

Over the years, Tara Anna gradually recovered from her trauma and healed. She bonded with other sheep at the sanctuary as well as goats, pigs, and llamas, and she even came to trust people again. Volunteers were very careful around her and never picked up a broom or stick when she was near, as we never wanted her to feel scared again.

Tara Anna passed away from natural causes associated with old age in summer 2017. We are so happy that we were able to give her a loving home where should could recover from her trauma and know peace and comfort for many years. We are also so thankful to young Elias for all that he has done to help Tara Anna as well as other farm animals around the world through his compassionate advocay efforts!

Make a difference for rescued animals like Tara Anna by sponsoring your own animal friend at MFS just like Elias. Also sign up for our e-newsletter, the Non-Dairy Digest, to stay up-to-date on MFS news and animal rescues.

Behind the Scenes: Volunteer Spotlight

Who knows Maple Farm Sanctuary’s animal residents best? The kind and compassionate people who volunteer their time to give these furry, woolly, and feathery friends the best lives possible!

We have volunteers who spend time in the barn, volunteers who manage our email newsletter, volunteers who lead weekend tours  — you name the task that promotes compassion towards farmed animals and we’re fortunate enough to have amazing people who come from far and wide to cover it.

Recently we asked our volunteers to tell us about their special bonds with the animals of MFS. Read on to get to know the faces behind MFS, and then make sure to read Part 2:

Barn Volunteer Sharron and Chivo

“I was intimidated by Chivo when we first met, mostly because of his size, and those horns! He surprised me once by butting me gently in the back and I realized he just wanted attention, like my dog, or my kids when they were little. The similarities didn’t end there. Experience taught me to Chivo-proof the barn while I’m working. He’s been known to nudge open the gate and trot over to eat the chicken feed, or climb into a stall behind a volunteer and refuse to leave without payment (a grape or apple slice). I fell for it once, but never again. Chivo, I love you, but I am so on to you!”

Barn Volunteer Megan and Lovey

“Lovey is missing the top part of her beak, so she has trouble pecking for food. It's heart wrenching to watch her try to eat! So I've learned Cheri's special way of feeding her small pieces of grapes by dangling them. If I'm not feeding her fast enough, she jumps up to reach my hand — just like a cat or dog! At Maple Farm Sanctuary, I've discovered what amazing personalities birds have! Look at her on her cute little tip toes!

Barn Volunteer Meghan and Piggy Smalls

“This pig is such a love, he comes when I call for him, he returns the affection that I give, and on occasion, he'll follow me around the back paddock.”

Tour Guide Assistant Ryan and Olaf

“I have volunteered at Maple Farm Sanctuary for many years but it wasn't until September that I got to meet and hang out with baby goats, Olaf and his sister Sage. This was only made possible by mama goat Wynvisa and the tireless work of Jim & Cheri. They have created a place of peace in a world of chaos and I and all of these very lucky animals thank them for it. Oh, and go vegan!”

Barn Volunteer Chrissy and Gail

“Maple Farm Sanctuary holds such a special place in my heart! Cheri, Jim, and the animals are like family. I love volunteering every week and it has been such a positive influence on my life. Gail is a retired dairy cow that is over 20 years old and she’s one of my favorites."

Barn Volunteer and Tour Guide Jessica and Gwendolyn

“I call Gwendolyn my best turkey girlfriend. She’s goofy and talkative and brave. I’ve worked for about three months to make her a lap turkey and finally succeeded. That was an incredibly happy day for me.”

Tour Guide Assistant Sue and Pumpkin

"I never knew I would have such love for farm animals. I've always been a cat/dog person. I realize now I just never made a connection outside of house pets. I think I'm in trouble now!!"

Are you interested in joining this compassionate group of animal lovers? Whether you’re available for a weekly barn cleaning shift or you have professional skills that you could donate to the cause, find out how to get involved with Maple Farm Sanctuary today.


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