Refarm’d is a newly formed organisation which aims to turn all dairy farms into animal sanctuaries. The idea is to target specific regions where the most interest is shown in the concept, then approach dairy farmers in these regions with these numbers and orders to convince them to shift into plant-based milk production, in the meantime the farm animals are kept as sanctuary animals, and the farmers are assisted with retraining and various types of support in their new ventures.
We spoke to Refarm’d founder Geraldine Starke about this interesting and forward-thinking concept.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Geraldine, I am originally from France and am living in València, Spain. I have been vegan for almost 10 years now and made the transition for ethical reasons.
What was the background to the launch of Refarm’d?
As a sensitive person I always believed that the majority of people are good at heart, they have just not yet aligned their values with their actions because they grew up in an environment that normalises this exploitation. That’s especially the case for animal farmers where this exploitation is part of their life, their identity. It’s their daily normal.
I always dreamt of building an animal sanctuary. But I was always holding back because it is not a scalable solution, especially as animal sanctuary are surviving from donations and that makes it for a really uncertain future for them sadly.
Then a year ago, I had this realisation that animal farms are actually the ideal places for sanctuaries. They already have the land, the structures, the animals and the people caring for them. So I started thinking about ways to transform them to become shelters for these sentient beings whilst still having the farmers earn a wage, and preferably a better wage so that, they too, can have a better life?
Tell us about the project of retraining farmers into plantbased milk
After getting a better picture, I realised there is demand for transitioning out of animal farming but the two only options for them is to either do something totally different, another job, which is quite scary in my opinion because it means to leave everything behind you; or to transition to horticulture/crops but this is also a complicated solution that involves lots of time, learning and costs with an uncertain outcome. And depending on their configuration it might not even be an option.
That’s were I wanted to fill this gap and make the transition easy so that they’ll be more inclined to do it. Plant based milk production is a simple process that doesn’t require a lot of investment or learning. Furthermore, it is a booming market that can ensure an income for these farmers. Freshly handmade plant-based milks made by the farmers, with organic and local ingredients. No “secret” ingredients, additives or any type of conservation process. Only quality, healthy milks.
Farmers keep their farm and their animals. They will be able to live their lives, as a herd, in best possible conditions. No expectations or value put upon them. At Refarm’d we want to give back the power to farmers, skip the middleman and let them decide what their work is worth. Each farm will have their unique ways, products and therefore taste, making it a great experience for the consumers. We want to revive the local community and it has to go through the small business first.
We will provide a platform that allows to facilitate the communication and exchange between farmers, providers (for the ingredients, delivery system, packaging…) and the customers. Customers will be able to make subscriptions for recurring delivery at their home and/or one time purchases whilst travelling for example. Part of the payment made for the products will be aimed specifically at covering the costs of caring for the animals and enhancing their environment.
What is your mission as an organisation?
We are starting with plant based milks but in a near future we want farmers to diversify and use their inherited knowledge to make a variety of fresh plant-based products like cheese, yogurt, butter, cream and so on. We also want to expand to help all types of animal farmers transition, also those for meat. We want to start simple and make it easy for farmers to join, hence starting with only plant based milks.
Farms we are looking for at the moment are small scale ones, family farms, where the animals have enough space and good condition to be able enjoy the rest of their lives. On the long run, we want Refarm’d sanctuaries to welcome new rescue animals (once the ones they had start dying from natural causes). This would be a allow us to start converting bigger scale farms, factory farms, as we would have room to rescue the animals who couldn’t stay there for obvious reasons.
We want to not only make farms have the lowest carbon footprint possible, we want them to be providing a positive impact on the environment. We want farmers to work towards this goal and make improvements on their farm to become a model for sustainability. This will be achieved thanks to multiple solutions like optimising the animal’s food consumption and production, planting trees (food forests), shifting to renewable energies and so on… This is a topic where there is room for lots of improvement and will definitely be an important part of Refarm’d!
How can people get more information about the scheme?