Breeding a Love for Rescued Animals

Pugsley, a pot-bellied pig, enjoys a little attention from Tracey Stewart at Bufflehead Farm in Middletown.
Pugsley, a pot-bellied pig, enjoys a little attention from Tracey Stewart at Bufflehead Farm in Middletown.
Photo by Vyolet Michaels

Not many first-time authors enter Amazon’s top 10 before their book is even published, but then, not many get the kind of endorsement Tracey Stewart enjoyed prior to the October publication of her book, Do Unto Animals (Artisan).

Stewart’s husband, Jon Stewart, mentioned the title during one of his final nights as host of The Daily Show. The next day, it soared to number 7.

“I thought people might wonder if maybe there was more hype than was warranted because of Jon,” says Tracey during a recent phone call from Bufflehead Farm, the 12-acre tract in Middletown she and Jon bought in 2013. “What was nice for me is that, when I handed people the book, they seemed to have the same reaction: ‘Wow, this is good.’”

Do Unto Animals is an illustrated guide to living respectfully with and among dogs, goats, squirrels and other creatures. It includes instructions on how to interact with a cow and make a cat toy out of a toilet-paper roll.

When the Stewarts bought their Jersey spread, plus a nearby property where they live with their two children and numerous pets, it was expressly to provide sanctuary for abused farm animals and raise awareness about their plight. The idea was inspired by a visit to Farm Sanctuary, a 175-acre Upstate New York shelter that rescues abused farm animals and promotes vegan living.

Tracey has similar goals for Bufflehead Farm (named for a type of local duck). When it begins welcoming rescues in the coming months—the Stewarts are awaiting approval to establish the farm as a nonprofit—the menagerie is likely to include cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys and pigs. Once the animals settle in, the farm will be open to the public—including school groups—by appointment.

“What we have going for us,” says Tracey, “is that we’re an hour outside the city, and we’re near a lot of schools.”

The Stewarts were awakened to the principles of Farm Sanctuary during a vacation on Long Beach Island, just after Tracey became a veterinary technician. “I found this book the previous renter had left behind,” she says. It was Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food by Gene Baur, president and co-founder of the New York animal haven. When the couple later met with Baur, Jon recognized “there might actually be something” to the vegan lifestyle, says Tracey. (Jon has since become vegetarian.)

Jon, who grew up in Lawrenceville, came up with the idea for the move from Manhattan, says Tracey, a Philadelphia native. “I was saying how I was in love with fostering animals, that I was happiest when I was able to give sanctuary. He said, ‘What if you could do it sooner than later?’ From that moment on we were online, and we found this farm in 10 minutes.”

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