While in Brooklyn we’re lucky to have access to great farmers markets and restaurants that educate the public about the perils of the livestock industry, we’re so often disconnected from where our food actually comes from. For city folks looking to take a nearby trip upstate, the Gray Barn is a new nonprofit hotel with an activist mission, hoping to connect the dots from farm to plate.
From the team behind the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary (you might recognize it as the location for designer Rachel Antonoff’s most recent lookbook), everything about the inn goes directly into benefiting the property’s rescued animals. All meals and products are vegan and part of the stay includes a tour with the animals (chickens, goats, pigs, cows, sheep and more!), educating guests on their respective rescue stories, while giving guests some rest and relaxation among fuzzy new friends.
“As a grassroots nonprofit that’s all donation-based, we want to be self-sustaining. The inn is new source of revenue. Every guest that stays here helps because the money gets put directly back into the sanctuary. We’re able to say yes to rescuing more animals, maintain the property and other vital operational elements,” says hospitality coordinator Leigh Goldstein, who also developed the recipes for the menu and is the in-residence chef.
The inn is small—only five guest rooms—and was designed to be minimalist yet serene: a sanctuary within a sanctuary, so to speak. Each is named after an animal at the sanctuary, like the “Albie Room,” named after a rescued goat. “We work to connect people with the animals whom they usually just see as food. These are animals who are hidden from us, by industry and marketing, so meeting them and learning about them as individuals is a life-changing experience,” says executive director Rachel McCrystal.
The Gray Barn team hopes it’s the beginning of larger conversations around hospitality and ethical eating decisions. Included breakfast will feature vegan seasonal fruit crisps, breakfast quiche, tofu scramble “egg” sandwiches, chocolate strawberry muffins and cucumber lavender lemonade, with ingredients changing by season and flexible to guests’ dietary restrictions. The Gray Barn will work with High Falls Co-Op and Red Barn Produce, as well as making use of their own in-kitchen herb garden.
“We’re doing activism through food. We’re using the menu to make people more aware of the animal and agriculture industry. People might assume vegan food can’t taste good, so we hope to change that through approachable, easy-to-replicate meals that don’t require anything fancy or expensive,” says Goldstein.
But if you’re thinking the Gray Barn is only for people who lead vegan diets, you’d be wrong. In fact, most of the visitors who come to visit the animal sanctuary eat meat and are just looking to get to hangout alongside some baby goats. What they leave with is an opportunity to be more connected to animals and to access the tools to make more informed decisions in the future.
The Gray Barn is open for booking now.
Photos courtesy of the Gray Barn.