Mark and Michelle thought it would be fun to share some reflections of the last few years with you. While we opened our barn doors to our first rescues, Andy and Annie in Oct. 2013, it took over a year of planning and preparation to be able to do so.
What are the biggest misconceptions that people have about operating a farmed animal sanctuary?
That we just hang out in the barn and hug the animals. I don’t think people realize all the work that goes into operating a successful sanctuary on a daily basis. Michelle and I are responsible for daily animal care (cleaning, feeding, medications, etc.) as well as all the aspects of a non-profit business and running a board. The Sanctuary is a business, with the responsibility of living beings. They get sick, need treatments, etc. We don’t lock our doors and close for the day. Michelle and I work throughout the day, nights, holidays, weekends, and we are available 24hrs a day for our residents.
What were some of the biggest challenges over the last two years?
The first winter on the property with 5 newly rescued farm pigs! That winter seemed like the worst winter we could remember and being newbies to the farm life, it seemed extra challenging. We had a water line break and was spewing everywhere with 10inches of snow the ground. Around the farm, latches, chains, door handles were so cold and frozen they were breaking off. It just seemed unreal but we were definitely broken-in!
Also, getting specific support for this type of non-profit, especially in the very beginning! While there are plenty of people who have non-profit experience, there aren’t many who have started one from the ground-up! And even less, that have this specific type of knowledge.
What are some things that have surprised you?
The tremendous support we have gotten from the Bloomington, Indiana community. There has been a dedicated group of volunteer from Bloomington that has been with us the whole way. They were at the property installing fences and gutting the barn when we were not even officially a sanctuary. It has really meant so much to us.
The degree of misconceptions and lack of knowledge there really is about how animals are raised and used for food. Like, how many adults really believe that cows HAVE to be milked, like we are doing them a service. It speaks volume about the myths that we were sold and bought growing up.
What is most rewarding part of operating the Sanctuary?
This is difficult to put into a short answer, but knowing we have created a sanctuary for both animals and humans, in a place most people would not have imagined, is huge!! That we are affecting compassionate choices just by being in existence!
More specifically seeing our rescued residents heal emotionally, and physically, form friendships with other animals, and to “warm-up” to humans. Definitely, seeing the faces of people when they meet one of our 600lb. pigs and they flop down for a belly rub – priceless.