John Halamka: Animal Rescuer and Much More

John Halamka: Animal Rescuer and Much More

Doctor, professor, IT guru, winemaker, sanctuary owner... anything else?


"Chickens are a gateway drug"

Farmer, doctor, educator, winemaker, board member,  innovator. Someone charged with making the world a better place. These are a few of many titles and ways to describe John Halamka, proprietor of Unity Farm Sanctuary in Sherborn, MA. In the daytime you might catch him in the ER as an emergency physician or at Harvard as a medical professor. Most often, though, you’ll find John with his family rehabilitating the mistreated animals saved from factory farms and surrounding areas.

John’s story of farm animal sanctuary work is an interesting one, and he explains it to us like this: “chickens are a gateway drug. My wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and her dream was to own chickens. So we started on a three acre no-limit farmland in Sherborn with a few chickens, and it grew from there. We took in alpacas, then horses, then cows. Now we’re at more than 70 acres and 250 animals.”

People are more receptive to animals

John says most of his colleagues approve of his dedication to the cause, and he says he’s pretty proud of how intersectional his professional life is. “Yes I’m a doctor, but I’m also a farmer and my hands are rough, calloused, and filled with the work that it takes to keep 250 animals healthy.”

John and his family all maintain a vegan lifestyle. And they encourage a vegan diet, though not in the hardline ways we’re used to seeing in the media. “We promote veganism by letting people experience the benefits of what we’ve created at the sanctuary. It’s more compelling than lecturing them on the problems with their lifestyle.”

Nuts and bolts

John has some practical advice for any would-be business owners: “do the planning so you know whatever you’re doing in the long-term is sustainable.” Nonprofits, he explains, certainly aren’t profitable. So it’s important to practice sustainability: environmentally, financially, economically.

John does a lot of the technical work on the farm, but he also performs basic medical procedures on animals that need it most… like performing microsurgery on a chicken’s broken foot. That’s why we’re passing along FactSumo’s anatomy deck (below) with John’s story. And John adds that his business is growing. “You become known in the community as a destination for animals that are in need. In a strange way, we’re a social network grown organically through the community.”

"Nobody's going to remember you for having a Tesla"

Above all, John believes his legacy of optimism and benevolence is what will outlast his presence at the farm: “You won’t find on anyone’s tombstone, I wish I had more time for meetings. No one is going to remember you for owning a Tesla. So that’s what really gives me great joy...the ability to make a difference.”