Debra Malinics was walking on Forbidden Drive recently when she saw a woman with what looked like the strangest dogs she had ever seen.
Retired Chestnut Hill advertising executive Debra Malinics was walking on Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Park recently near the Crefeld Street entrance when she saw a woman coming in the opposite direction with two animals that looked like the strangest dogs she had ever seen. As she got closer, she could see that they were not dogs at all but goats, which reminded her of her favorite breakfast drink — “Goat-orade.”
As it turns out, the goat walker, Kristin Sutch, founder of Rose Bridge Farm & Sanctuary, has a lot more farm animals than just the two goats.
A native of Whitemarsh, Sutch went to Plymouth Whitemarsh High School and then earned a degree from Chestnut Hill College in real estate. She proceeded to work for a local real estate firm for five years, thereby learning about all sorts of properties for sale in the area before the general public. As a result, she learned about a 13-acre farm for sale at 1314 Limekiln Pike in Dresher, about 20-25 minutes from Chestnut Hill. The previous owner raised horses on the property.
“I've always loved animals,” said Sutch, “so I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and make the switch to a life of poverty and I bought this place at auction 10 years ago.”
While researching its history, Sutch learned that the property's first owner was William Penn, who gave it to a man named Levi Jarrett, after whom a nearby community called Jarrettown was named. The house on the property was built in 1734.
Sutch refers to her farm as “a hidden piece of paradise.” She began obtaining lots of farm animals such as chickens, ducks, sheep, pigs, rabbits, horses, and even cows and dairy camels. “Our main focus is on farm animals that would otherwise have been killed for their meat, like baby cows that would have been killed for veal,” said Sutch. “So instead of their being killed, we socialize them and get them adopted. The Lehigh Valley Zoo and The Highlands in Fort Washington, for example, have adopted our animals, as well as individual animal lovers. And the farm also offers horse and goat yoga.” (The horses do not walk on your back, but the goats do.)
During our recent visit, several families with young children were visiting the property, which is open to the public. The children were having a wonderful time petting and cuddling the adorable baby animals. They also have evening piggy parties, craft workshops, storytime, goat hiking, a furnished tent, BYO picnics, painting farm animal pots, butterfly house painting, and feeding baby animals. Everything was clearly more fun when beautiful, friendly baby animals are around.
“Animals have a gift to help humans relax and heal,” said Sutch. “Most people when in the presence of an animal, especially a baby animal, tend to be in the present moment; no worrying about anything, and oxytocin is released, which makes them feel good. Not only is cow cuddling fun; it is also healing and healthy.”
I also discovered that the phrase “eats like a pig” is accurate. Two baby pigs drank so much milk, I thought they would explode. One of them got out of its enclosure and ran at Olympic speed all around the property, squealing as loudly as thunder. It was like a scene in a comic movie, and it took several adults getting their weekly allotment of exercise to corral the fugitive piglet.
People invariably ask questions about the massive camels. “I got them five years ago,” said Sutch. “I was sick and getting divorced and used the camel milk to heal my body. We make skin care products and sell them only on the premises here. The first animal we rescued was a baby lamb named Rosie, who was a therapy animal for me. She followed me everywhere. She brought joy to so many people. I thought, 'Who is rescuing whom?'”
Sutch, who has about 20 consistent volunteers and other part-time help, is a pescetarian (eats fish, no meat) who is not hesitant to discuss the ethical issues around killing animals for their meat.
“For example,” she said, “baby cows love to snuggle and kiss, just like dogs. You give any farm animal love and attention, and they give it back. They are no different from dogs and cats. They are all special little souls! Look at that cow licking the kitten. The 'difference' is purely cultural. And the people who come here to share their love give these sweet farm friends a second chance at life.”
For more information, visit rosebridgefarmsanctuary.com or call 215-209-9561. Contributions and other gifts are gratefully accepted. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com