Talkin’ turkey (and pigs, and goats, and chickens)

Photo By Rick Snizik
Story By Randy Gross 

This is the story of Santosha and Tammy, just a couple of small-town gals growing up on a farm in rural Lancaster County. Wait, what’s that? Oh, right, Santosha and Tammy are actually turkeys. No, not as in duds or losers. These gals are really truly the feather-covered, snood-and-wattle adorned, “gobble-gobble” type of turkeys. And we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Before you hear the story of Santosha and Tammy, and the dozens of other animals residing at Lancaster Farm Sanctuary, you need to hear about two other gals: Sarah Salluzzo and Jonina Turzi, former city kids who grew up to be therapists (Sarah, in the mental health realm, Jonina, in the physical) who would gradually – and quite unselfishly – donate more and more of their time to helping out the Humane Society before finally deciding they wanted to do more than just volunteer. So, Sarah gave up her practice, and Jonina sold the yoga studio part of her business, and the couple purchased a property in Elizabethtown that they converted into a haven for abandoned or abused farm animals. Eventually, they would move to a larger property, just down the road in Mt. Joy, and their growing stable of hooved and beaked residents would soon be home to pigs, sheep, horses, alpacas, ducks, chickens, goats, and … right, turkeys.

Okay, okay, so you’re asking, “is now the time we get to hear about the turkeys?” Patience, please. It may be getting close to Thanksgiving, but Santosha and Tammy would prefer that you think of something other than turkeys for the time being. As in … the other animals being “loved, respected, and protected” on Sarah and Jonina’s farm.

How’s that song go? On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … nine Cornish hens, and a rooster on I-81? So what if it’s not Christmas quite yet. It must have strangely felt like it back on that fateful day in October of 2017 when those 10 birds in their crates fell off a truck along one of the busiest highways in Pennsylvania. You guessed it, those hens and that rooster became the first permanent residents at Lancaster Farm Sanctuary, which means the 7-days-per-week work week that the two partners – and especially Sarah – would have to endure was just beginning. Soon, there would be phone calls from animal enforcement officers and maybe people who lived next to farms, and sometimes even from owners of animals themselves (think Easter time and the need to find homes for gifted baby chicks and ducklings!), all of them seeking safe refuge for animals who, for most of their existences, had just one future destination in their lives: a dinner table.

If Sarah and Jonina didn’t know before what they were getting themselves into, they did now – especially when so many of the neglected farm animals were either injured or in failing health. Among the traumatized residents: piglet Jean Marie who, having fallen off a truck, could barely walk; and Joel, a goat so infected with parasites that he was given a slim-to-none chance at survival. Add it all up, and Sarah and Jonina barely have time to go out to dinner together – “And even if we do,” muses Sarah, “it’s always like ‘I miss the babies!’” She continues, “fortunately, we have a lot of volunteers, plus two full-time staff.” Jonina chimes in, “without volunteers we wouldn’t make it past a week.”

Now? Now is it time for the turkeys? All right, all right already. Santosha’s story intersects with Tammy’s so let’s begin with her …

It was the day before Thanksgiving in 2018, and one of Lancaster Farm Sanctuary’s volunteers was attending a vigil at a slaughterhouse while watching truck after truck full of baby turkeys drive by. On the way home, very much on a whim, she decided to drive to a factory farm, knock on the house door and ask, “can you spare a turkey … one that was left over or didn’t get sold?” The woman at the door was a little confused at first, but once she understood the request she surprisingly agreed to “donate” one bird to the sanctuary. However, when the volunteer went to the actual farm site, the workers were confused themselves (maybe even more so), saying things like “you have to pay 20 dollars,” “do you want the head chopped off?” and “why would you want a living bird?” Once the confusion was cleared up, one of the workers – carrying Santosha by her legs – tossed her not-so-gingerly into the back of the car. End of story? Not quite. Once at Lancaster Farm Sanctuary, there was a mandatory period of quarantine for Santosha (who sadly, as you might see in the photos, has a clipped beak and toes), but on the day she came out of quarantine – her first ever opportunity to walk on real grass – it was quite a memorable scene, as Jonina describes:

“You can see Santosha, tiptoeing out of the barn, and then for the first time hearing Tammy [a likely refugee herself, discovered some time ago by a good Samaritan in Northern PA] while slowly making her way in that direction.” Continues Jonina happily, “and so suddenly Tammy finally has a turkey friend, because she had only been around chickens. And Santosha is finally reunited with other turkeys.”

The two turkeys have been inseparable ever since, and currently are just two of the five turkeys calling the sanctuary home “And who knows,” says Sarah, “maybe a couple more before Thanksgiving?”

Sarah and Jonina – both vegans – will certainly be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday differently than a lot of people in Lancaster County, an area known for its contributions to PA’s meat and dairy industry. Which is why the couple continues to use their property for educational tours (which are announced in late February and sell out quickly) and yoga retreats.  Plus, says Jonina, social media has been a good tool or allowing “people to connect with ideals, and for the animals to have their stories told.” Part of that story has been told through actual stories being read – to the animals! – and the plan is to resume the popular virtual “Bedtime Stories for Animals” this coming winter.

Though they haven’t officially tied the knot yet, Sarah and Jonina are very united in a common purpose – having love and compassion for all creatures – and that love and compassion may very well soon extend to an annual “Feeding of the Turkeys” Thanksgiving Day dinner for their resident turkeys (can you say pureed pumpkin and cranberries?) They agree that they are most thankful for their sanctuary and, says Jonina, “the multi-species family we get to have.” Plus, of course, adds Sarah, “our volunteers, and the people who support our work”

And what are the couple’s goals heading into a new year? “Fundraising,” blurts Sarah instantly. “Oh … and getting people not to eat turkeys.”

To donate, or to become a sponsor of Santosha or Tammy, or any of the other rescued animals, visit: