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Nestled in a quiet suburb outside of the bustling city lies a place where rescued farm animals spend their days basking in the sun and enjoying the warm summer breeze. As one of the first farm animal sanctuaries in Minnesota, Spring Farm Sanctuary provides a place of refuge for the abandoned and abused, and it all started the day the sanctuary’s founder, Robin Johnson, decided to pick up a copy of Jenny Brown’s book, “The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight For Farm Animals.”

A vegetarian for 27 years, Johnson was already passionate about animal welfare but felt she needed to do something more. After reading the book and feeling inspired, she decided to open a farm sanctuary. “It was the natural thing for me to do,” said Johnson, who used funds from the sale of her cupcake business to help make her dream come true. After nine months of searching, she finally found a property that she said “felt like a sanctuary” and shortly after, Spring Farm Sanctuary was born.

All In a Day’s Work

How This Minnesota Sanctuary Is Working To Rescue Abused Farm Animals

The thought of starting a sanctuary was intimidating, but Johnson was up for the challenge. Since the property didn’t have an existing barn, the first step was to build a place to house the animals, followed by fenced-in pastures so they would have space to graze and explore. With helpful advice from other sanctuaries and extensive research on how to properly care for farm animals, she was able to start accepting animals and officially open her doors to the public.

Over ten animals have found homes at the sanctuary so far, including two Hereford cattle named Pete and Scruffy, a pair of chickens named Wilma and Betty, and two sheep named Manny and Michelle. Volunteers come in twice-daily shifts to clean the animals’ living areas and provide them with food and clean water. They also spend time petting and brushing the animals, spoiling them with treats, and giving them interactive toys to provide enrichment. The work is labor intensive and far from glamorous, but they’re rewarded tenfold with the love they receive from the animals.

Saving Lives One Animal At a Time

How This Minnesota Sanctuary Is Working To Rescue Abused Farm Animals

The animals at Spring Farm come from a variety of backgrounds: several were rescued from backyard butchers or places preparing the animals for slaughter, while others were surrendered when people could no longer care for them. Many of the animals were in poor health and required medical care, but of all the animals rescued so far, Libby the pig was by far in the worst shape.

After being rescued from a backyard butcher where she was living in deplorable conditions, Libby soon fell gravely ill. There was one night in particular where they thought she wouldn’t survive, and Johnson recalled talking to Libby and pleading for her to hang on. At that very moment, Libby opened her eyes and Johnson knew she would be okay. After being rushed in for emergency surgery it was discovered that Libby was suffering from a life-threatening infection. Thanks to the dedicated veterinary staff her life was saved, and she continues to get stronger with each passing day.

A sweet pig that lifts her head in curiosity the moment people enter her stall, Libby looks at visitors with the same love and excitement as a dog welcoming their human home from work. She loves having her nose stroked, gently nuzzling her way further into your hand as she stares at you with soulful eyes that have a story to tell. Libby is happy and safe, a feeling that Johnson wants all animals to experience.

Teaching Compassion

How This Minnesota Sanctuary Is Working To Rescue Abused Farm Animals

“My mission is to get people to live compassionately,” said Johnson, who transitioned from vegetarianism to a fully plant-based diet a year ago and hopes to inspire others to do the same. She believes that through interacting with the sanctuary animals, people can establish a connection that will change the way they think about food. “Just because we’ve always eaten animals, doesn’t mean it’s right,” said Johnson. She understands that not everyone will want to jump into plant-based eating right away, but she explains that even cutting down on meat consumption can help save animals and protect the environment.

Johnson and the animals at Spring Farm are already inspiring change, and whenever things seem overwhelming she’s given little reminders that it’s all worthwhile. “I want the animals to have the best life possible,” said Johnson.  As you look around the sanctuary and see pigs happily nibbling on grass and rooting in the dirt as dogs playfully romp in the yard nearby, you realize she’s accomplished just that, and so much more.

Visit Spring Farm’s website for more information about their weekly tours and volunteering at the sanctuary.

All images source: Spring Farm Sanctuary

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