Given the popularity of Humans of New York, we think it's only time that the pigs of Arkansas get their moment of fame. And for that reason, I would like to introduce you to Tofu, an earless pig that resides at Sunset Farms, a sanctuary for farm animals in Cove, Arkansas. Rescued from a pool of blood after his mother was slaughtered in the meat industry, Tofu is lucky to have found a home with more than 100 other rescued animals. At Sunset Farms, Tofu lives out his life doing the things all pigs desire to do: wallowing in the mud, forming close bonds with other pigs, and receiving ample belly rubs.
Unfortunately, Sunset Farms is experiencing severe financial challenges. And that’s where this GoFundMe comes in. It’s my hope that you will read what I have to say, watch and listen to the media coverage of Sunset Farms, and then financially contribute to Sunset Farms Sanctuary. You can meet some of the animals (including Tofu!) on Arkansas PBS’ recent piece about Sunset Farms
. And then, you can listen to BBC Radio Ulster’s program Alright Pet?
in which the founder, Helen Demes, discusses the origins of the sanctuary and some of the animals. (For the portion on Sunset Farms, start at 27:48.)
Sunset Farms began in 2017. Helen Demes and Brian Reeds moved to rural Oregon with the intention of starting a sanctuary for cats and dogs. A United States Air Force veteran who worked in the intelligence community for more than thirty years, Helen left a six-figure salary to devote herself to saving animals. While Helen and Brian imagined they would be focusing on cats and dogs, they soon found that people were dumping unwanted farm animals on their land. Given this reality, they pivoted and taught themselves what they could about farm animals.
In a recent Facebook post, Helen called attention to the scope of the mission at the sanctuary: “In 5 years we have saved 38 cats, 12 dogs, 3 Guinea fowl, 321 chickens, 72 turkeys, 2 emus, 51 cows, 290 sheep, 91 goats, 5 horses, 32 pigs, 2 squirrels, 5 alpaca.” Many of the animals Helen and Brian have rescued were seriously abused; some were "extra" babies (for instance, lambs) who were thrown in piles and left to die when the farmers decided that the mothers’ had too many babies; others were simply found wandering down the road with serious injuries. Here, I specifically mention the lambs, as we had the honor of helping to bottle feed some of the baby lambs in January of 2021.
In 2021, Helen and Brian moved their family of animals to Arkansas. Climate change very much informed this decision. In September 2020, we first became familiar with Sunset Farms when we learned that a farm sanctuary in Brownsville, OR needed help with a mass evacuation of their animals because of approaching wildfires. Meg’s dad, Geoff, took his truck to help move some of the pigs. Although all of the animals survived, Helen and Brian were understandably desirous of avoiding a repeat of this scenario. Helen explains, “We made an incredibly difficult decision to leave the West Coast because of climate change that has resulted in droughts and fires. Moving an entire sanctuary of 142 animals on a 2200-mile journey was daunting. Our priority was the animals, so we made the decision to hire a moving company to move all of our worldly possessions while we concentrated on getting the animals safely to their new home in Cove, Arkansas.” Tragically, Helen and Brian were the victims of a widespread, fraudulent endeavor in which a moving company took movers’ money, put their belongings in storage to sell, and then disappeared. Because of this scam, Helen and Brian had to use their limited savings to repurchase items.
Helen and Brian have been struggling to make ends meet. All farm sanctuaries are dependent upon generous donations. The people who run the farm sanctuaries must spend every waking moment caring for animals, and it is therefore up to the goodwill of others to ensure that sufficient income arrives to help pay for food, supplies, and veterinary attention. Because of their profound financial challenges, Brian took a job as an over-the-road trucker (although he would MUCH rather be taking care of the animals). While this job helps support the farm, it also leaves Helen as the exclusive caretaker of the animals. Helen recently secured a loan that will enable them to pay for hay over the winter (and like everything else these days, the price of hay has shot up enormously), but she will need to $600/month to pay back the loan. It is my hope that this fundraiser can cover six months of these payments.
We hope that you will feel moved to contribute to Sunset Farms. Any amount will be helpful. And we also hope you will look into visiting and volunteering at farm sanctuaries wherever you live.