What may be the state’s only vegan Oktoberfest party takes place Oct. 6 at the Graze in Peace farm sanctuary in Durham. The nonprofit, which provides a home to rescued and unwanted farm animals, is hosting its second annual Oktoberfest on-farm dinner, where all the sausages and beer will be vegan. The party features beer from Allagash and live music from folk/rock band The John Cross Project and bluegrass from the MidCoast Boomer Band. In 2017, tickets sold out ahead of the event.

“This year we’re trying to make room for 150 people,” said Deborah Trumble Schwink, who founded the sanctuary in 2017 with her husband, Carl Schwink, and their now 14-year-old son.

Expanding the guest list beyond the slightly more than 100 people who came to last year’s party hinges on one thing: more parking. The Schwinks and the volunteers who keep the farm going have been working on it all summer.

Additional parking is also part of a longer-term goal to make the farm more welcoming to visitors.

“By next year we’re hoping to have our community center set up,” said Schwink. “So we will have kitchen space and a year-round event facility.”

Until then, the party takes place on the lawn with a view of the pastures, animal barns and fall foliage. In 2017, a light drizzle didn’t dampen the Oktoberfest spirits.

“I was amazed by last year’s event,” said board member Jeannine Anderson of Brunswick. “It was raining, but everyone there was happy and content. People are stunned we can take on German food and do it in a fun, vegan way.”

This year’s menu features Tofurky sausages, German potato salad, German cabbage salad, German apple cake and Allagash Hoppy Table, White and Saison. There will be vegan hot dogs for kids.

Greg Dennison, executive chef of the Olive Branch Cafe in Lewiston, will make the German potato salad. He intends to stay true to the dish’s classic flavors (a vinegared potato salad with no mayonnaise) while making it vegan by leaving out the bacon and bacon fat. Dennison and his staff will make a plant-based bacon to replace those.

Some animals at Graze in Peace like to come up and say “hello,” as Strawberry did at last year’s Oktoberfest party.

The cabbage salad is being made by chef Brian Clark, who volunteers at the farm. A spin on traditional German rotkohl – normally, a sweet and sour warm cabbage dish made with red cabbage, apples, onions, vinegar and butter – Clark will skip the apples, turn to olive oil and add “a simple vinaigrette with maple, strong mustard and cider vinegar, and smoked tofu to replace the bacon.”

In addition to the vegan menu, the other major draw of the party is the chance to meet some of the more than 40 rescued animals.

Not all of the animals that live at Graze in Peace are social, but the ones that are come right up to visitors.

Among them, according to Schwink, are: “Cole, our sheep who thinks he’s a dog. He demands attention all the time. Then there’s Strawberry and Lucky, who are pigs. Midnight the llama will be there. If you wear a baseball cap, she will take it off of you.”

It costs more than $25,000 a year to feed and provide medical care for the animals, and grants rarely cover such operating costs. To keep the animals fed and cared for, Graze in Peace relies on the local community. Last year’s Oktoberfest party was their first major attempt to expand that community.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Schwink said, but the response was enthusiastic. “We made twice as much money as we’d budgeted.”

Since then, the farm has hosted a Summer Solstice Dinner, which featured Maine-made vegan burgers from Freshiez, a plant-based butcher.

Yet most days on the farm are filled with long hours of caring for animals and fielding phone calls about other animals in need of rescue.

“There are so many requests for (homes for) pigs coming in every day,” Schwink said. “People think they can get these as piglets, and then they realize they’re a little harder and bigger than they can handle.”

The farm is applying for grant money to build space to house more pigs. Pigs raised for meat are typically killed at 6 months old, Schwink said, but they can live to be 20. The oldest pigs at Graze in Peace are 4 years old, which is so ancient that veterinarians don’t know how to care for them. Caring for elderly animals is a problem faced by few other than farm sanctuaries, since animals raised for meat, eggs and milk are all killed very young.

“Half of our sheep are on arthritis medicine because they’re so old,” Schwink said. “Some of it we’re learning as we go along. We’ve learned from Farm Sanctuary (in New York). Some of it is horse medicine. The pigs are harder to figure out. There are no local vets who know about keeping older pigs. The broiler roosters and some of the pig breeds are having issues with holding up their weight. If the roosters live past a year it will be amazing. They’re bred to be killed at 6 weeks old, 40 days.”

At the Durham farm sanctuary, these animals once destined for the dinner plate live out their natural lives, no matter how long or short. Making this happen takes a lot of resources, some of which will be supplied by the partygoers while they enjoy vegan sausages, vegan beer, homegrown music and a pastoral view.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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