By Jennifer Goetz
Imagine learning about farm animals, the food industry and the nonprofit sector all while living away from home and sticking to a strictly vegan diet.
This is exactly what Caitlin Flynn, a senior journalism and political science double major, did last August when she interned for Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
The nonprofit organization serves as a safe haven for rescued farm animals in need of rehabilitation.
Farm Sanctuary, which also has locations in Los Angeles and Orland, Calif., looks for employees, volunteers and interns who care about animal rights.
Fitting the part, the company hired Flynn as a human resources and communications intern over the summer.
“I found out about (the internship) because the president (and co-founder), Gene Baur, was on ‘The Daily Show’ a year or so back,” Flynn said.
After watching the show, Flynn decided to purchase Baur’s book, where she found “the organization to be compelling and worthwhile.”
Flynn is one of the many students that have interned with Farm Sanctuary.
Each year, the New York location provides a number of internships for students all over the world interested in nonprofits, communications, public relations and more.
While Flynn worked in an office, the nonprofit also searches for shelter interns to provide hands-on care for the animals.
Additionally, the internship can span anywhere from a month to three months, but according to Farm Sanctuary’s website, interns who stay longer have greater opportunities.
“(The New York location averages) around 90 individual participants in our program annually,” said Holly McNulty, the director of resources and volunteer programs at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen.
The 175-acre sanctuary also gives interns housing for the duration of their stay and provides volunteer interns an educational opportunity.
“Interns have many learning opportunities, whether from conversations with staff or during weekly education presentations,” McNulty said. “We strive to help our interns use what they gain from their experience to continue to advocate for farm animals and encourage participants to identify how they can incorporate this into their daily lives moving forward.”
While students gain educational experience through presentations and discussions, they also gain life experience by immersing themselves in the farm’s culture. Because the nonprofit is focused on supporting and protecting animal rights, interns are required to commit to a vegan lifestyle during their stay at Farm Sanctuary out of respect for the animals.
“I think the best thing about the program is it pushes for progress, not perfection,” Flynn said.
Farm Sanctuary brings awareness to issues facing farm animals and the issues of factory farming, which takes a toll on farm animals and the environment, as “raising so many animals in one place pollutes our land, air and water,” according to Farm Sancutary’s website.
Farm Sanctuary is not a factory farm, and because none of the farm’s animal products are consumed, interns get to experience life on a farm that respects animals.
The cows are not milked, according to Flynn, and the chickens produce eggs at their natural pace, unlike most farms that feed chickens hormones to increase eggs production.
Flynn also said the animal rights organization has led her to be more conscious of her eating habits.
“(My experience) made me more mindful of my day-to-day decisions,” Flynn said.
Interns are not the only group of people interested in Farm Sanctuary. In fact, the nonprofit has earned attention from comedian Jon Stewart, his wife Tracey, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and actress Emily Deschanel.
“We have regularly worked with celebrities throughout our 30 years — from creating PSA’s to participating in our events to being active on our board of directors,” McNulty said.
Due to the efforts of Tracey and Jon Stewart, who proposed the idea last October, Farm Sanctuary will open a new location in Collingsworth, N.J., in 2018. Last year, the couple bought a farm with the intention of partnering with Farm Sanctuary. Since the new location’s approval, the Stewarts plan to work with the organization throughout the process.
“We are working with them in the early planning stages — such as permitting and site development — but hope to be open to the public sometime in 2018,” McNulty said.
While the new location does not yet have plans to create an internship program, the nonprofit will eventually have volunteer opportunities, McNulty said.
Whether an intern or volunteer, the experience at Farm Sanctuary is unlike any other.
“(Farm Sanctuary is) a great nonprofit organization and is a nation-wide entity that influences pop culture, legislation and the food industry,” Flynn said. “It is the kind of relentless organization that I think many of the politically and socially active students (at the College) would appreciate.”