From the first time I stepped onto a Sanctuary, I was in love.

I can’t remember when that was exactly. Long before my son was born, and he just turned 16 this past Spring, so it had to be 18 years ago. 20?

It was Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen. A gorgeous day. I stepped onto the property and even before I met the first animal, I felt this sort of peace. Almost a sense of “relief,” if that makes any sense. My wife (who wasn’t my wife yet) ended up getting a very private tour simply because no one else showed up. The guy giving the tour lost track of time and we spent a couple of hours out in the fields.

From that point on, nothing has made me feel quite the same as visiting a Sanctuary. I’ve even just sort of fallen in love with the word… “Sanctuary.” It’s a refuge, a place of safety, a hideout from a world that so often seems to have lost its soul.

Most of my Sanctuary trips have been out to Watkins Glen. It’s the Big One, it’s not too terribly far away, and it’s easy to fit a couple of days at the farm in with other activities like hiking the gorge and getting vegan ice cream and eating at one of the many vegan friendly diners in town.

I love Watkins Glen, but I was super excited when I heard from a person who heard from a person that there was a new Sanctuary moving in closer to home. I got a name, reached out to Lori Pinzer, and ended up taking my kids to visit Briarwood Farm Sanctuary earlier this summer.

From the moment I stepped onto the property, that same feeling. Refuge. Hope. Goodness. Sanctuary.

Briarwood is a small Sanctuary in Oswego County, just 26 minutes from my own home near Fayetteville, driveway to driveway.

When we arrived (just a few minutes before Lori), a couple of residents came running over to meet us and say “hello” over the fence. I later learned that these two—Cora and Maisie—sort of started it all. They were wonderful greeters and set the tone for the day.

Lori arrived moments later and gave us the complete tour, as well as the history of Briarwood.

While Briarwood only recently relocated to our area, the Sanctuary has existed since 2018, when Lori heard of a pregnant Highland cow (Cora) who needed help. Cora was feral and didn’t like humans (hard to blame her given her experiences) and so finding a Sanctuary that was willing to take her in was no easy task. “So at that point I decided,” says Lori, that if no one else could save her and her unborn baby… I would.” Lori made a 600 mile round-trip drive through a blizzard, brought Cora home. Cora had he baby (Maisie) a few months later, and a Sanctuary was born. (In 2020, it became “official” with a 501(c)3 approval).

Now Briarwood is home to 4 cows, 14 roosters, 1 hen, 2 alpacas, 4 turkeys, 1 pony, 5 rabbits, and 11 goats.

Not the size of something like Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, but when you consider that Lori is doing this pretty much on her own, that’s an amazing number of animals being cared for.

“Being cared for.”

In reality, “being loved” would probably be the better choice of words.

Because really, it only took a few minutes of being there and talking to Lori to realize that “love” is what it’s about.

Knowing these animals, Lori says, “fills my soul.” Lori knows each resident like a member of her family, can tell you the history, their likes and dislikes. There is a bond.

All that work, though, can be exhausting. Lori spends between 40 and 60 hours each week with the animals, as well connecting with other Sanctuaries, engaging in education and outreach, and performing various other acts on behalf of the Sanctuary residents. None of those hours are paid. This is work that’s done out of love, but it’s still a lot of work.

Which is to say that volunteers (and funds) are always appreciated.

Lori plans to share this space with others who advocate for animals—we’ve already scheduled the first of what we hope will be many Vegan CNY potlucks on the farm this September. And of course, that potluck will feature a donation jar so any who are so inclined can pitch in a little as able.

But no one needs to wait for the potluck to get involved and help out.

Briarwood always needs volunteers to help with repairs and other assorted projects as well as to clean out the barns. Once volunteers are comfortable, they can move on to grooming and feeding the animals and, most importantly, giving them all the love and attention that so many other farmed animals never experience.

Anyone interested can message Lori through Facebook. And those who don’t have the time to visit but still would like to help out can donate via Venmo or PayPal: 


Briarwood is Sanctuary. Which is to say, it’s a beautiful place, a sacred place. A place that I can’t wait to get back to, and that my 8 year old daughter keeps asking me about, insisting that we return soon.