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Saved from slaughter: How this little piggy got another lease on life

  • Grover the pig is held by Michele Devereaux in Gilford. An animal sanctuary and a farm are working together to spare Grover, a slaughterhouse-bound piglet, to promote local agriculture in New Hampshire. Photos courtesy of Jenifer Vickery

  • Grover the pig stands among other barnyard animals last month in Gilford.



Monitor staff
Friday, October 12, 2018

A jovial little pig is getting a new lease on life thanks to a collaboration between a Gilford farm and a Haverhill animal sanctuary.

This pig’s name is Grover, and all summer and fall he has been a main attraction for visitors to the petting pen at Beans and Greens Farm in Gilford.

But as Grover’s life inched toward a trip to an area slaughterhouse, visitors pleaded with the farm owners to set Grover’s destiny on a new path.

“Our customers really love that specific pig,” said Isaac Howe, whose family owns the farm. “One person was even willing to provide for the pig. When people came to us with that intention, it became obvious to us that our clients love this pig.”

The Howe family started searching online for animal sanctuaries in New Hampshire and eventually made contact with Jenifer Vickery, who founded Tomten Farm and Sanctuary in Haverhill in 2014.

The Howes shared Grover’s story, and Vickery began looking into how she could make space on the sanctuary’s 50-plus acres for one more pig.

They already have 40 rescues on the farm, including pigs, donkeys, goats, sheep, chickens, geese, ducks, horses, cats and dogs.

Grover will join the sanctuary’s other two pigs, Mabel Consuela and Diego Montoya.

“He’s very friendly and rolls down for belly rubs,” Vickery said of Grover. “He had a great first couple of months of life, and he had no idea what he was destined for. It sounds like their clientele got attached to this pig.”

Tomten Farm is a nonprofit staffed by volunteers and operates under the direction of its board. Vickery, who founded the farm in 2014, said the board discussed whether or not “to step up and save Grover.”

Grover’s path to Tomten is unique. Most of the animals arrive at the sanctuary from auction. It is not so often a farmer reaches out to Vickery asking her to take an animal, especially one that would otherwise be slaughtered into meat and sold for somebody’s supper.

“Our specific philosophy is one of welfare; we try to take care and provide comfort to our animals,” Howe said. “Even though some of our animals are raised for meat, those animals should still be taken care of and live a high quality of life. It’s a stark contrast between buying from a local farm and an industrial farm where they’ve never seen a blade of grass. ... We believe in animal welfare for not just livestock but for every animal, and we thought this might be an interesting opportunity to highlight that.”

Grover has not moved to Haverhill yet. When he does, he will be placed in a temporary pen while the farm tries to raise money to expand the fencing around its main pen.

Vickery hopes that this collaboration serves as an example to other farms and animal sanctuaries. She said there is often an “us against them” mentality between the two groups but that they do share common interests.

“Both organizations understand open land is decreasing at an alarming rate, and small farms do promote quality of life,” she said. “Isaac approached us, and that was really refreshing because he came to us and the public came to them. They produce meat while trying to balance that out with animal welfare.”

Howe said this is probably a “one-time thing” for his farm, but he praised Vickery and her team of volunteers for their work in finding a new home for Grover.

“The actual commitment it takes is significant, and what the people at Tomten are doing – they are not making a profit off of this – that needs to be acknowledged,” Howe said of the nonprofit’s efforts. “That’s an amazing thing for people to sacrifice for another living thing to be in a warm and caring environment. They represent the best we can be in terms of raising animals. They’re the real stars here.”

 

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321 or nstoico@cmonitor.com.)