Arkansas-based farmers Jennifer and Rodney Barrett recently began transitioning their chicken and cattle farm to a vegan mushroom farm after learning about the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. In 2011, the couple began a journey to better health after Rodney was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and Jennifer was suffering from arthritis, depression, obesity, and hypertension. As part of their journey, the couple tried a three-week plant-based program. “When that program was complete, I felt like a whole new person,” Jennifer said. “My mind was so sharp and clear. In addition to that, I was sleeping like a baby. I had so much vitality and energy and joy. We both did. It was revolutionary … but, it raised a million questions.” As they learned more about the vegan lifestyle, they began to question their last 18 years of raising animals to be killed for food. “It was so frustrating to know that all of this suffering and death and decay—this holocaust situation—was so unnecessary but still existed,” Jennifer said. “I started to see the chickens differently. I’d never really looked at them as individuals before, but my heart started to break when I would see their terror and suffering. Suddenly I saw them as birds, not products.” The couple have since canceled their poultry production contract and stopped breeding and selling cattle, and began to transition to mushroom farming with the help of former rancher Renee King-Sonnen of the Rancher’s Advocacy Program—which offers support and innovative solutions to farmers transitioning out of animal agriculture.
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