From Wanderess to Tastemaker: Kameke Brown Leads the Way for a New Generation of Animal Advocates #AnimalRescue

It’s 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. Life inside Farm Sanctuary’s Visitor Barn is still; now that tours at our New York Shelter are back to a weekend schedule (down from our expanded summer tour schedule), the regular bustle is calming down and the pre-winter stillness is beginning to set in. But suddenly, laughter fills these silent walls as one by one they enter: Farm Sanctuary interns, taking a well-deserved reprieve from a hard day’s work. As they take their seats around the communal table, all eyes turn towards the sound
of an approaching food cart. And in walks a familiar face: Kameke Brown, Farm Sanctuary’s Volunteer Program Coordinator, bearing a home-cooked meal and a smile. The beloved “Ed Lunch” tradition is about to begin: an opportunity for our interns to convene over a delicious plant-based meal, and to learn how we can all pool our individual talents and resources as we work together to create a more compassionate world for all.


Jumping for joy – there’s nothing like Farm Sanctuary life!


Bonding with a sheep and fellow interns.


Kameke and Hal.


Kameke spends quality time with some piglets.


Hanging out with Rudy in Orland.


Enjoying a lighthearted moment at our Northern California Shelter.

 

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Sweet Potato Lasagna and “Summer Corn Soup” from Minimalist Baker, “Rich, Fudgy Vegan Brownies” from food.com, and a salad that Kameke threw together. “I was really happy with this meal because to me it actually ‘looked’ good, which seems important. I sneaked a little corner of the brownies for a taste test.”

Perhaps the greatest aspect of these “educational lunches” is the groundbreaking discussions they inspire. For many, these lunches serve as a springboard for future activism beyond the intern experience, inspiring compassionate action across college campuses, communities, and even within the interns’ own homes. And Kameke feels privileged to not only facilitate these discussions, but to learn alongside the interns as well: talking strategy about ways in which we, as individuals, can impact other individuals – so that one by one, we can come together to enact positive, lasting change.

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“’Easy Vegan Cheesecakes’ from Minimalist Baker is one of my favorite desserts to make,” Kameke says. “Cheesecake was a favorite in my house growing up, so I was really excited to find a raw vegan recipe that rivals some of the cheesecake recipes I had as a kid. And the interns really seem to love it!”

Kameke’s own journey to Farm Sanctuary stemmed from an epiphany she had years earlier, after  recognizing the importance of creating a better world for and with other individuals.

“When I was in high school, I was inspired by a quote by Marie Curie that said, ‘You cannot hope to
build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.’ The part of the quote that says it is our responsibility to ‘aid those to whom we think we can be most useful’ really stuck with me. I felt compelled to serve, so I completed three terms of service with AmeriCorps serving with the federal government, non-profits, national parks, and local communities in my efforts to fulfill that responsibility.”

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From the tiniest of lambs to the largest of cattle, Kameke is a friend to anyone in need.

A true “wanderess,” Kameke loved traveling across the country, embarking on experience after experience in an effort to make a positive impact on the places she went and those she met there. But as her latest assignment came to a close, she felt that something was missing.

That missing connection was her veganism – a component so central to her identity that she would have felt remiss not to serve in a manner that best complemented her values.

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Kameke’s wanderlust eventually brought her to our Northern California Shelter, where she truly relished Farm Sanctuary life!

When Kameke went vegan in the spring of 2013, it was a year after she’d crossed another major personal hurdle:coming out as queer to her family. “Coming out was an experience that really shook up my world,” Kameke says. “It was a decision to live openly, honestly, and authentically in spite of the negative messages I had received from society about what that would mean – similarly to my experiences of being black and female. I was frustrated by acts of violence on the news being carried out on the basis of discrimination
and fear, and I had found the confidence in coming out to challenge the stories I had been told – and to more confidently step into and create my own. I thought to myself, ‘What can I do to make a difference about the violence and violent ideologies being perpetrated in our world?’ I soon realized that it was
worthwhile for me to examine the ways in which I was contributing to a paradigm of violence with the personal choices I made on a daily basis.

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Kameke vows to make a difference for farm animals like Marcia each and every day.

“I spent a period of time devouring all the books, documentaries, and articles I could get my hands on, and it became clear that a commitment to veganism was a very tangible thing I could do, and that I felt the moral obligation to do. I realized that ideas of domination, violence, and exploitation that underpin heterosexism, racism, sexism, etc., as well as our exploitative relationships with the earth, ourselves, and each other are
also foundational to species-ism and our use of animals. I knew that my commitment to rejecting those ideas also had to entail a commitment to veganism. I told myself, ‘I am going vegan for the animals and for all of us,’ and I haven’t looked back since.”

Have you ever heard the story about the little boy who decides to rescue starfish that have washed ashore upon the beach? Naysayers chide his actions, the story says, pointing out that he can’t possibly help all of
the starfish. But as the boy gently places one starfish back into the ocean, he looks up and smiles. “Maybe not, but I just made a difference for this one!” Kameke’s own approach draws parallels to this heartwarming tale. Of course, it can be very intimidating – limiting, even – to think about all of the problems that exist in the world that we are unable to solve. But there is great power in the ability of the individual. When we choose to follow our hearts and do what we feel is right, we not only improve our own outlook, but
inspire others to follow our compassionate example. And when we connect with one individual, we can change the world for them, having a greater impact than we could ever imagine. This individual could go on to inspire another individual, who inspires another – producing a ripple effect of compassionate change. And it all starts when one person has the courage to stand up for what she knows in her heart to be right – and in doing so, may find solidarity with other individuals to create a compassionate movement that
extends beyond themselves.

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One of Kameke’s intern photos: Serving Lola pig and farm animals just like her.

This approach bears a significant resemblance to Farm Sanctuary’s own organizational mission of changing hearts and minds about farm animals by inspiring people to connect with our rescued residents as individuals – whether in person or through their inspiring stories of resilience following adversity. It is empowering to know that you can make a difference in a particular animal’s life – and the compassionate steps taken on behalf of that one individual extend to countless others just like them. And so, Kameke realized that the most logical way to serve others – animal and humanimal alike – in a way that best aligned with her values would be to volunteer with and for these ambassadors for their species. “It only seemed natural that I should extend my service to animals more directly, specifically those animals most forgotten and abused in our society – farm animals. I decided to apply for, and was accepted to, two internships at farm animal sanctuaries – one of them being Farm Sanctuary’s location in Orland, CA. I began my internship there in November of 2015 and spent four months in Orland as a shelter intern.

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 Spending quality time with Joey sheep.

“I had such a wonderful experience while interning in Orland,” Kameke reflects. “I felt I had the opportunity to be of service in a really meaningful way and I was surrounded by this community of amazing beings. Something just felt so natural and fitting about the whole experience. Not once did I wish that I wasn’t there or that the day would be over. I wanted to be there every single second of it, and that’s not exactly something that I could say about many, or any, of the experiences I’d had before.

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“There was a moment when I was walking out in the pasture with the caregivers surrounded by the cattle in the special-needs herd that I thought to myself, ‘I want to work for Farm Sanctuary.’ I was hopeful that I would eventually be able to join the Farm Sanctuary team somewhere down the road, but had no idea that I would be embarking on a new chapter as a Farm Sanctuary staff member in just a few months.

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Bonding with her fellow interns at our Northern California Shelter.

“During the month of December, while I was still interning, I heard that the Volunteer Program Coordinator position had become available in Watkins Glen.” While Kameke was intrigued by this prospect, she debated
the opportunity cost of applying versus the other adventures she had envisioned.

“I had run away from the cold on the East Coast a couple of years before and vowed never to return,” Kameke laughs. “Plus, I had these elaborate plans to travel to Haiti, bike the Pacific Coast, do an organic farming apprenticeship, and then attend graduate school full-time that next fall. Still…still, something
told me to apply for the position anyway. I could always turn it down, right?”

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Kameke’s staff photo, which hangs from the bulletin board. These photos are a source of pride for many of our staff members.

But Kameke was the right choice for the position – and in deciding to accept, she discovered just how rewarding it can be when we choose the options that not only help us thrive, but also make the world a better place for those around us. “I’d been a little bit of a wanderess for a while, and now I’d finally found a place that was enticing me to stay – it seemed worth it to pay attention to that feeling. I accepted the offer and moved out to the East Coast in March of 2016 after wrapping up my internship in Orland the month before. Looking back now, I feel like I definitely made the right choice.” And Kameke’s colleagues feel the same, as she inspires them to celebrate the contributions we all make when we spread peace and kindness through compassionate living.

 

“I appreciate having so much variety in what I’m able to do, to the point where none of my days are necessarily ‘typical,’” Kameke explains. And with a consistent influx of friendly faces – interns,
general volunteers, and visitors alike – Kameke can’t help but feel privileged to learn and work with so many compassionate advocates for change each day.

Many people feel so inspired by our rescued residents that they long to work among them and contribute to their lifelong care at sanctuary. That’s where Kameke comes in: After reviewing and responding to volunteer applications and inquiries, she coordinates opportunities for them to come out and support our lifesaving rescue, education, and advocacy work through direct volunteering at our New York Shelter. Kameke then conducts volunteer orientations and coordinates work parties – an opportunity for
people to join in on important shelter projects, enabling us to be as efficient as possible in all of the work that we do here. “I love doing work parties because you always know it’s going to be a great
bunch of people who come together in service for this organization and for farm animals. They usually bring amazing food for the vegan potluck lunch, too, which is one of my favorite things. It’s like, ‘You worked hard, now let’s eat some of this delicious food together!’ It’s always great company and a good time.” And of course, our volunteers also get a special sanctuary tour at the end of the day, where they have the opportunity to bond with the animals who directly benefit from their hard work.

Regarding our intern program, the weekly Ed lunch is definitely one of Kameke’s most time-consuming roles – but it’s also one of her most rewarding. “Ed lunches are a pretty big deal,” Kameke says. “I basically spend the entire day obsessing about putting together a great vegan meal for the interns. They more than deserve it! We also cover a variety of educational topics of interest for them during that time. It is, bar none, my favorite part of the week to get to connect with the interns in that way and to share and discuss with them – and to most importantly, learn from them.

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“A photo of salad and garlic bread that I just put together and “Vegan Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Bake” from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken. For dessert, I gave the interns some treats from Sweet and Sara, which I thought was fun to include since [the company’s founder

Sara Sohn was a former Farm Sanctuary intern.”

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A variation of Minimalist Baker’s “Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing,” “Dreamy Vegan Tomato Soup” from Blissful Basil, and “Vegan Brownies” from allrecipes.

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Buffalo Cauliflower has become one of my favorite recipes to make. It’s delicious and really fun to throw together. It’s based off of the ‘Baked Buffalo Cauliflower’ recipe from Gimme Delicious; I just changed a few things.”

“On occasion, we are joined by speakers such as Gene Baur, Susie Coston, Tara Hess, or other knowledgeable
staff and experts in their field, and it’s so incredible that the interns have the opportunity to learn directly from these inspiring people as well. I really value putting together Ed lunch topics and activities that will be meaningful and relevant to the interns because they are here to learn, and we know the amazing potential of our interns. We know how dedicated and compassionate and passionate they are and we have such a unique opportunity to be able to help facilitate their growth and development – and to grow and develop as an organization because of their contributions.”

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“This is from this past week’s Ed lunch. Moniek, who I interned with in Orland, is currently interning here in Watkins Glen, and she shared the picture with her friends on Facebook. It’s kind of cool to have been eating Ed lunch with her and having wonderful meals prepared by Rebecca, the Volunteer Program Coordinator in Orland at the time, and now being able to prepare meals for her and other interns that they deem worthy of sharing and raving about with others. It was ‘Baked Buffalo Cauliflower’ from Gimme Delicious, ‘15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta’ from Oh She Glows, and a kale salad.”

Kameke serves as a compassionate liaison between our interns and the organization at large, offering a kind face and a helping hand with whatever our interns might need during their time at our New York Shelter. “I facilitate intern activities such as their arrival, orientation, grocery shopping, activity night, Ed lunch, and their departure at the end of the month,” Kameke explains. “I am here to support them in any way that I can
and to make sure they feel like they are getting the most out of their experience.

“It’s really cool to be on the other side of that interaction, considering that I was once in their shoes,” she says. “It’s always wonderful hearing about what our interns go on to do, how much they are impacted by their experience here, and seeing all the ways that they have grown to be such phenomenal advocates and change-makers beyond their internship. I feel so, so fortunate to be able to do this work.”

From time to time, Kameke also teams up with our Visitor Program staff to assist with events and tours, and help out in the gift shop. This year’s Hoe Down was an especially enjoyable way for Kameke to connect with fellow animal advocates. “We had around 50 volunteers for the event and had a great community of people come together for an inspiring weekend,” she says. “It was even more special to be able to take part in this event during the year that marks Farm Sanctuary’s 30th anniversary. I assisted with set-up and take-down for the event, helped with serving food, and staffed the sheep barn during sanctuary time. Quality time with the animals, laughs, and good conversation with wonderful people, fantastic food, and phenomenal speakers – it was definitely a memorable and amazing couple of days. Did I mention there was contra dancing? We learned, we laughed, we ate, we were inspired, and most importantly, we danced. That’s basically my definition of a perfect day.” And it was inspiring for all who attended to be welcomed into
such a warm and vibrant community, thanks to Kameke and her coworkers who made it all possible.

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Kameke bonds with pal Panza goat in the sheep barn during this year’s Hoe Down.

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Serving a delicious vegan meal for our guests!

Kameke draws just as much inspiration from the people with whom she works as they take from her – and together, they are helping the world connect with and learn from these magnificent ambassadors for
their species. Through her bonds with these beloved friends, Kameke hopes that others will be inspired to speak up for animals just like them, and learn how our relationships with these animals can enrich our own lives just as much as theirs.

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Spending quality time with Nutmeg in Orland.

Kameke feels fortunate to have friends across both coasts, to be able to follow their journeys, and to connect others with the individuals who inspire her to be her best each day. In New York, Kameke
shares a special connection with Liza pig, since a dear friend purchased an Adopt a Farm Animal Program sponsorship in honor of Kameke’s birthday. But in California…“Zuri’s my girl!” Kameke exclaims. “I can’t explain why or how it happened, but whenever I’d clean with the farm assistants in Orland they would joke that I  was her favorite intern because she would always come running up to greet me. I’d try and play it off like it wasn’t that big of a deal, but I can’t lie – I love her so much! We just clicked and the rest is history.”

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New York Shelter resident Liza pig.

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Northern California Shelter resident Zuri sheep.

And it’s pretty clear that Kameke’s a natural when it comes to sheep – she knows just what to do to make them feel at home, such as the time she offered a helping hand to some of the youngest residents of our
Northern California Shelter. “There were quite a few lamb babies that were rescued during the final months of my internship – Timi, Topanga, and Mason, as well as Clarke goat – and I helped to bottle-feed them. I would wake up in the middle of the night with a flashlight and head out in the dark to meet them. It was just
me and them, and I felt honored being able to give them what they needed in that way. It has meant so much to see and hear how they are growing and thriving since they’ve been rescued.”

Kameke enjoying a play session with Timi and Mason.

Spending time with the animals has reinforced Kameke’s commitment to her values. “When I began my internship in Orland, there was a heritage-breed turkey with mobility issues who we were responsible for feeding. … I always called her Turkey Mama. She eventually had to be euthanized, but she really left an impression on me. She just seemed so dependent on us and helpless, and I knew the potential of her
life was supposed to be so much more than that. Here was this amazing being, and this is what her life had become. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘This is what we’ve done.’”

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Spending time with the turkey ladies in Orland, who will spend the rest of their lives knowing nothing but the love and kindness they deserve.

Many times, Farm Sanctuary life inspires us to see the good that may exist when we lead our lives with kindness. But Kameke’s experiences with Turkey Mama taught her that sadly, not all animals can have the happy endings they deserve. The best we can do is love them as they are, and help them know that their lives are indeed meaningful, until the very end.

These animals know more about life than we may ever understand, according to Kameke. “Benedict goat…there’s something about him,” Kameke reflects. “Whenever I look into his eyes, I feel like I see this look of wisdom and knowing beyond anything that I will ever personally be able to comprehend. He’s a pretty cool dude. I also find ”Paco steer and his goofball personality incredibly endearing.” When we take the time to get to know farm animals as the unique and special individuals they truly are – and honor their journeys by sharing their inspiring transformations and lives with others – we can learn so much about ourselves through their eyes…and we can become better humans from having known, loved, and learned from them.

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Benedict goat is taking life in stride thanks to his special wheeled cart!

“My life has changed drastically since I started working with Farm Sanctuary,” Kameke says. “Farm Sanctuary has convinced me to put down some roots, and that’s saying a lot. It’s teaching me a lot about the value of
putting down roots and growing where you are. I think part of me believed that I had to constantly go out there in search of experiences to make me feel alive or to make me feel like I was doing something meaningful. I called that feeling the ‘wild red wind’ back when I was in college, but now I use that term to
describe anything or anyone that really moves me – and I encounter those things and those kinds of beings on a daily basis in my work with Farm Sanctuary. There is so much of an opportunity to grow here and to have an impact here and to build meaningful relationships here that I feel immensely grateful every day
I make that drive to work and pull into the sanctuary. It also means so much, for me, to have this springboard of knowledge and experiences from all that I am doing and learning at Farm Sanctuary, to then be able to apply in all the areas of activism and advocacy about which I am really passionate.”

Hanging out with Watkins Glen goat pals Lulu, Min, Archie, Tatiana, and Aretha.

Kameke exemplifies the positive change we can create when we follow our hearts, connect with individuals who help us grow, and help others grow in turn. And despite the changes in her life’s plan, the goals she
once had continue to hold importance for her – for example, she’s currently working towards her master’s degree in social change; spends a lot of time exploring with her dog, Chaz; and finds other creative outlets to nurture her spirit. But she also stays grounded through her time at the sanctuary, and thrives from connecting the aspects that are most important to her. There is so much we can learn from this supportive ambassador for change – but what we can take away most of all is her excitement to learn about all of us – everyone around here, human and non-human – so that we can grow together to make a more compassionate world. We hope you’ll connect with Kameke and Farm Sanctuary as you explore what your own values mean to you, and how together, we can pool our talents to make the world a better place.

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Chaz’s adoption photo; Kameke rescued Chaz about a month after moving to Watkins Glen.

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Creating a more compassionate world, one belly rub at a time.

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