Rooterville: The love story of rescued farm animals and a Valentine’s Day brunch

Okay, so add this one to the long list of things I’ve been meaning to post. Still, it’s a beautiful tale, so I’m calling it better late than never.

Our adventures the day after Valentine’s Day took Mr. TOA and I out, way out, to a farm sanctuary that I’d been hearing a lot about. Rooterville was started by Elaine West on five acres in Archer, Florida. More than 300 animals now spend peaceful days on 20 acres in Melrose. They include rescued pigs, cows, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, goats and more.

Where do these animals come from? Well, you may remember the big bust of the illegal slaughterhouse in Miami-Dade back in March. Thousands of animals were being kept in unsanitary conditions, starved and drinking polluted water. Dead and dying animals blanketed the property. Rooterville was one of the rescues that stepped in to help. They’ve also provided a home to some of the pigs surrendered by a farmer, Bob Comis, who could no longer bear to kill them and homes to many animals who have been abandoned.

Lucy, one of the lucky piggies who call Rooterville home.

In addition to rescuing and caring for animals, Rooterville’s mission includes educating people about factory farming and the many health, environmental and ethical reasons to eat a plant-based diet. In fact, this year they’ve started Camp Rooterville, a weekend retreat for 8-15-year-olds, where the kids will get to spend time with the animals; participate in lessons and exercises in awareness and compassion; and enjoy healthy, plant-based meals. Rooterville also hosts school groups, offers tours and participates in a whole host of initiatives.

Of course as a nonprofit, they must continuously seek funds to support all of those programs and, most importantly, the care of the animals, so they host fundraising events like their fun annual Valenswine’s Day Brunch. On this occasion, friendly volunteers met incoming cars and helped with parking.

The Rooterville sanctuary at the end of a long dirt road…so peaceful!

The brunch was held in Rooterville’s lovely events barn. On the way in, guests could enter a raffle for some great prizes and drop off any donations they may have brought, like blankets or peanut butter for the animals.

The checkered tablecloths, centerpieces of red geraniums and adorable “Cupig” drink coasters were so inviting.

Elaine and her husband Dale welcomed everyone and gave a short slideshow presentation on the important work done at Rooterville.

Dale West, one half of Rooterville’s compassionate leadership, welcoming guests.

Then everyone got to dig in to the most delicious buffet brunch ever. Garden Truck catered the event with all of their customer favorites, like Chick-un Salad, as well as some special brunch dishes like “Crab” Cakes Benedict.

Ron Patak, of Garden Truck, saucin’ it up.

I had mostly finished before I thought to take a picture; it’s THAT good!

And, of course, there was plenty of champagne and local orange juice for mimosas. No one saved room for cupcakes, cookies and other treats…but we ate them anyway!

After the meal, guests ventured out to meet the residents of Rooterville. The pigs, as well as all the other friendly animals, were eager for belly rubs, head scratches, hugs and conversations. The pigs really seemed to be leading tours of their own!

These guys were so sweet!

Goats love scratches too!

All the animals came right up to visitors; they know they have nothing to fear from people anymore!

Piggy palaces in the shade.

The Rooterville Valenswine’s Day brunch is a wonderful event, but they host others (and others are hosted for them, like the upcoming Yoga Brunch Benefit) throughout the year, so like their Facebook page and don’t miss the opportunity to visit this sanctuary dedicated to loving animals!

A follow-up: Not too long after that slaughterhouse bust, Dale West passed away suddenly. We had just met the Wests, but it was very clear that they were a team, partners in every sense, and that Dale put his all into rescuing and caring for animals. His passing has meant that Rooterville is more in need than ever of volunteers and donations, financial and otherwise, so even if you can’t help by attending a fundraising event, consider the gifts of time, labor and some material comforts for the animals. Visit the Rooterville website for details and contact information.

An Earth Day YouTube collaboration with Florida Coastal Cooking & Wellness

Happy Earth Day everyone! I hope you’re enjoying some awareness on this beautiful day. Huh? That’s right, awareness. I hope you’re out there noticing how beautiful this world is and how fragile it is in the face of a force as powerful as…us. I also hope you’re aware of, or becoming aware of, how much we really can do to preserve and protect our beautiful planet.

My friend Dawn Hutchins of Florida Coastal Cooking & Wellness has a unique and valuable perspective on awareness that is important to keep in mind:

Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable because we have big hearts and we feel powerless. But here’s the truth. We aren’t powerless. We can change the world together – IF we see what really happens in the world, and then stop and think, “Could there be another way? What can I do?”

I would encourage all you Organic Adventurers to read the rest of what Dawn has to say about awareness in her latest post.

Recently, I teamed up with Dawn to provide some awareness to participants in FCC&W’s Diet Reset Program of the positive impact a plant-based diet makes. The result is my first YouTube appearance ever! But we’ll get to that in a second. First, Dawn is an old friend whose awareness journey, particularly when it comes to the impact of food and diet, I’ve had the privilege to witness firsthand. What’s always impressed me, aside from her genius and creativity in recipe development, is that she approaches pretty much everything she does with an eye for helping other people, from the beginning, when she was helping her daughter overcome and cope with multiple food allergies and digestive issues, all the way to becoming a wellness coach and successfully completing Dr. T. Collin Campbell’s Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition.

FCC&W’s Dawn Hutchins digging potatoes at our CSA farm’s potluck, where we first met WAY back in the day. I’m sure she’ll be just as thrilled to see this picture as she looked when I first took it!

So when this consummate entrepreneur told me about her new Diet Reset Program earlier this spring, participating was a no-brainer for me. See, this program isn’t part of the fad bandwagon of detoxes, juice cleanses or handfuls of supplements. It’s based on the solid science of the healthfulness of a plant-based diet; it’s based on developing and maintaining good habits; and it’s based on getting the right information and support to achieve real health goals: more energy, better sleep, awareness of what your body needs, nutritionally and behaviorally, and the most healthful ways to fulfill those needs.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I already eat a plant-based diet, and so do many of you Adventurers. Many of us also exercise, meditate and are pretty “aware” as it is. But I know Dawn and, especially after looking through the program materials, I knew that even I would learn something and get a lot out of doing the Diet Reset Program. And I did: everything from practical tips on preparing and storing smoothies ahead of time for quick, energizing snacks to the motivation to get back into good habits of mindfulness, like practicing gratitude, and more. There were other people like me in my class of “Resetters,” and there were people who hadn’t really considered diet or awareness as drivers of health before. And we all got so much out of the program.

One of the many great practical tips I learned from the Diet Reset Program was a genius way to prepare and store veggie & fruit smoothies ahead of time. So convenient!

So when Dawn wanted to interview The Organic Adventurer in order to give future “Resetters” a concrete sense of the positive impact they were having on their own health and the environment, that was an easy “yes” as well. Read her post above for her take on it and the video. I’ve also embedded the video here. Let me know what you think about my maiden voyage into YouTube land; I’d love to hear your feedback!

The next round of FCC&W’s Diet Reset Program will be starting soon, so get in touch with Dawn to reserve your place. Also, know that Florida Coastal Cooking & Wellness is not sponsoring this post or compensating TOA in any way. It’s just a great business doing great things for our planet and its inhabitants, and I wanted to tell all you Adventurers about it!

P.S. Dawn’s Earth Day post was inspired by a “trashy” experience. (Seriously, read the post.) If you’d like to learn more about reducing waste and overconsumption, and have a fun Earth Day night out while you’re doing it, join me at Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville tonight for the U.S. Green Building Council North Florida’s Green Carpet film series. They’ll be screening The Clean Bin Project. Then contact me to find out how you can go green and save a ton of money while you’re at it!

Before you go, comment with your favorite way to reduce waste and/or avoid excess consumption. We’d love to hear your stories!