Piedmont Animal Farm Refuge and Lenore Braford

Lenore With Chickens
My name is Lenore Braford and I am the Founder and Animal Care Director of Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge. My journey to start an animal sanctuary is one that can be traced back to my childhood. As a young person I had a connection to animals that was likely both innate and taught. Our family included cats, and my parents were always drawing our attention to the hummingbirds at the feeder or the deer in the backyard. However, contrary to my family’s guidance, I refused to eat most meat throughout my entire young life.

In college I transitioned to become a vegetarian very easily and without much thought. I was pleased to be in an environment with lots of veg options and where I could make all of my own food choices. Through my classes as an Environmental Studies major, I learned about factory farming for the first time and was particularly exposed to the immense environmental harms that this industry is responsible for. It was at this time that I began to be more vocal about the issues facing the animals who are used as food.

In 2007 I was in my senior year of college and was taking an Environmental Philosophy class. In this class I was randomly assigned to debate that it was ethical to eat animals and animal products. Through my research for this debate, I discovered that there were no solid ethical arguments to back the consumption of animal products, and in fact many reasons to stay away from them. This class assignment had a powerful impact on me - I immediately became vegan and have never waivered from that commitment. While I may have lost the debate, the animals definitely won!

As I continued to learn about the issues facing farm animals and vegan living, I became aware of the many other aspects of veganism, including animal-testing, personal health, and social justice issues. These topics deepened my knowledge and commitment, and ultimately led me to begin to think about my future career and how I could share this information with others in an effective and meaningful way. After lots of internet searching, I stumbled upon the concept of a farm animal sanctuary. I began a 5-year journey during which I interned, volunteered, and worked on staff at a number of animal sanctuaries around the country. This experience armed me with the knowledge and confidence to start my own non-profit sanctuary in 2012, Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge.

Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge (the Refuge) is located in the heart of North Carolina - a state where there are reportedly more pigs than people, but you’ll likely never see one unless you get stuck behind a transport truck. Within a few miles of the Refuge in either direction you will find industrial chicken and turkey houses, and the notorious Smithfield pig operation is less than an hour’s drive away. Within this setting, the Refuge provides a stark alternative for how we can care for and relate to farm animals. Our mission to is provide lifelong care to rescued farm animals, educate people about the realities of animal agriculture, and promote veganism by offering knowledge, support and community. We have a myriad of educational programs including Tours, Potlucks, Cooking Classes, Film Screenings, Volunteering, and more.

Our 45 acre sanctuary is home to over 100 rescued animal residents including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, goats, sheep and cows. With our recent expansion, we are now set up with the proper amount of space to rescues pigs in the future. The animals in our care receive high quality medical care, individual diets, and daily enrichment.

One of these individuals is a lamb named Marigold. Marigold came to the Refuge in 2022 along with her mother Camellia. Both were being kept in a small pen next to a rural convenient store. While they had originally been purchased to be used as “lawn mowers,” their pen had long run out of anything edible and they were slowly starving to death. With the help of concerned citizens, PETA was notified and was successful in negotiating their release. When Marigold and Camellia arrived at the Refuge, we were shocked at their condition. Marigold appeared to be a newborn lamb but was already 3 months old, and you could see every bone in Camellia’s frail body. Despite their rescue, our veterinarian was wary about Marigold’s chances of survival. Since her mother was so emaciated, she was never able to provide Marigold with milk, which contains a vital nutrient called colostrum that helps to establish a healthy immune system. With each passing week our caregiving team watched Marigold like a hawk, with any small sneeze or cough being taken as a potentially serious health concern. Luckily Marigold was strong enough to push past this rough start to life, and she and Camellia are now thriving.

Another one of our beloved residents is a turkey named Blackberry. Blackberry was originally purchased to be a backyard pet, but unfortunately he and his flock mates weren’t provided with any kind of shelter. One by one they were getting killed by evening predators, until a kind neighbor stepped in to rescue them. At the Refuge, Blackberry has become a star with volunteers and visitors alike, due to his extremely friendly nature. He loves to show off in a display of gorgeous iridescent feathers, and often climbs into people’s laps for snuggle time. For most people who have never met a turkey face to face, it’s surprising for them to witness such affection. This is one of the most magical and vital aspects of our sanctuary - ordinary people have the opportunity to meet farm animals in a setting where the animals are relaxed enough to show their true personalities. Those personalities, as varied as our own, touch people’s hearts in a deep and lasting way.

Duck and Goose Houses
The Refuge has another aspect that makes us stand out in the farm sanctuary movement. My husband, Paul Drake, is an architect who has brought his unique perspective and talent to our work over the years through a concept we call Animal-Centered Design. Paul donates his time and expertise in designing each animal house, taking careful time to study and learn about each species ahead of time. Erasing any visuals from his mind about what a “barn” should look like, he begins with a small set of key facts about each species and designs based around those facts. The resulting structures are each unique and tailored to the needs and wants of the individual animals. For example, our goat houses have 3 climbing levels and sleeping bunks, our chicken house has huge garage-style doors that act like “wings” which open and close with the day and the night, and our cow house is made of a large rock wall that uses geothermal cooling to provide a comfortable environment. The ultimate goal is provide the animal residents with the best possible life, and to move away from traditional barn structures, which have historically been designed around the use of animals. 

You can learn more about Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge and contribute to our life-saving work at these links:

Website: www.piedmontrefuge.org
Facebook and Instagram 
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/piedmontrefuge

Text and Photos Copyright©2023 by Lenore Braford and Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge. All Rights Reserved.