An East Setauket farm’s way of life has been under attack, and its owners are fighting back.
An online petition with more than 2,000 digital signatures spurred protestors to take to Benner’s Farm in East Setauket this week with hopes of convincing its ownership to save 2-year-old Minnie the cow from slaughter to feed the Benner family, which has lived there for 40 years. But Bob Benner said the outcry was misled and not in-step with the sentiments of those actually living in the Three Village community.
“There have been literally thousands of people who have supported us and a majority of them live right here in the community,” he said. “The people that are trying to impose their values on us do not live here. We’re talking about a national group of people who have a direction — they’re trying to tell us how to live.”
The group Benner mentioned included names from all over the United States that made up the online petition calling for Benner’s to keep Minnie as a pet. A private Facebook page, “Save Minnie from Slaughter,” was also launched and collected more than 700 followers within days.
The entire debate started on April 2, when Jean Benner was taking a birthday party group on a common educational tour around Benner’s Farm, answering questions about what it is like to live on a farm. One mother, Kimberly Sherriton of Commack, asked about the fate of the cow, and was told it would be used to feed the Benner family. Sherriton offered to help Minnie find sanctuary where she can live out her life.
“Jean tried to explain the difference between an animal on a farm and a pet, explaining that our farm was a homestead where we raise animals for meat, as it has been since 1751,” Bob Benner said. “We grow and produce food for our family on our property.”
The next day, Sherriton and Bob Benner continued the conversation via telephone, ending in disagreement, the farmer said. Since then, the Benner family has been “inundated and harassed with phone calls, Facebook posts, bad reviews and threats all aiming to change our mind,” Bob Benner said.
“She is used as the face of the farm for all their educational programs, birthday parties and festivals…the events are too numerous to name,” the Change.org petition said. “She is quite personable and has been a wonderful animal ambassador for the ‘farm.’ The public was led to believe that this was a resident cow.”
Protestors with signs setup at the farm over the weekend, drawing attention to the East Setauket spot more commonly known for its peaceful landscape. But the Benner family said that while it was saddened by the public outcry, it was also touched by the support coming from Three Village natives.
“They understand that we care for the animals we raise, and also understand that some of them are being raised for meat,” Bob Benner said. “In part because of our farm, the families who spend time with us are able to have this connection to where food comes from. We are sympathetic that many people today do not have a direct connection to their food source. We get it. There is a disconnect for people, and that is hard. But we are farmers, and we do have that connection to our food.”