In “This Farm is a Family,” local sanctuary deliverscharming tale of found family

by Shuyler Clark

People passing through Chelsea may notice a farm on the city’s outskirts, its weathered barn proudly proclaiming “Barn Sanctuary” in bold letters. Established in 2016 by Dan McKernan, Barn Sanctuary is home to over 100 formerly abused, neglected, and abandoned farm animals, ranging from rambunctious cows to sassy turkeys. On the farm, these animals live out the remainder of their lives in peace alongside their new friends and human caretakers.

Through private and public tours and online resources, the staff at Barn Sanctuary seek to educate the public on different farm animals, including how they are typically mistreated in the farming industry. The sanctuary also served as the setting of “Saved by the Barn,” a television documentary series that aired in 2020 and gave viewers a look at the lives of the farm’s residents.

In addition to its full-time staff, the sanctuary relies heavily on volunteer efforts. The year 2020 saw the introduction of the (now paid) internship program, through which, carefully vetted candidates can assist in providing medical care, help with facilities projects, and of course, muck the many barns and coops.

For schools and families interested in introducing their children to the nonprofit, Barn Sanctuary caters to children through youth programs and field trip opportunities for students. In addition, young readers will find another option for entertainment through founder Dan McKernan’s new children’s book.

Released in April and featuring art by Denise Hughes, “This Farm is a Family” tells the story of Buttercup the cow’s arrival at Barn Sanctuary and the attempts by her new family members to help her feel at home. The cast features such charming animals as Roy the chicken, Ginger the sheep; goats named Steve, Hugo, and Twitch; Stanley the turkey (rest in peace); Little Dude the pig; and Mike the cow — all of whom found their forever homes at the sanctuary.

Although McKernan’s book serves as a gateway for young readers to learn about the sanctuary and its mission, the story also serves as a charming narrative of “found” family. Buttercup, feeling lonely and mistrustful after the death of her previous owner, struggles to fit in with her new family, something adopted and foster children may relate to. Her journey to acceptance will leave readers feeling proud of her real-life adjustments to her new family as well. The illustrations by Hughes round off the experience perfectly, bringing charm to the cast and perfectly capturing their mischievous personalities.

Readers can find “This Farm is a Family” at their local bookstore. Those interested in helping Barn Sanctuary’s mission in other ways can donate directly to the nonprofit or consider volunteer and internship opportunities and meet the animals in the process. More details can be found at their website,


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