EVEN VALLEYS, Pa. (AP) — “That’s Winston,” Amanda Clark says by way of introducing the black pot-bellied pig rooting around in grass by the stone lane that leads to her home.

“Sometimes,” she continues, “he doesn’t like men.”

And as I am a man, it seemed best to be cautious. But Winston was wagging his tail – I’m not sure what that means as far as pigs are concerned – and he seemed friendly.

Until he started trying to eat my right foot.

“He does that,” Clark explained.

A sanctuary

Winston lives on Amanda and Steve Clark’s farm in North Codorus Township, not far from York New Salem and Seven Valleys, one of the 40 critters that call the six-acre spread home.

It is the Here With Us Farm Sanctuary, a place where abused or discarded farm animals can live out their lives.

When Winston arrived, Clark said, he had a bad limp. They thought he might have had a sprained ankle, but a trip to the vet proved that wrong. He had broken his leg previously, and it hadn’t healed properly, leading Clark to believe Winston’s leg had been broken by a man and that the pig still harbors some bad memories of it.

Or not.

“I’m not sure why he doesn’t like men,” she said. “Maybe he was abused. Maybe he’s just like that.”

He chewed on my foot before I walked away and sought sanctuary in the chicken pen.

Turning vegan

The seed of the idea for the farm animal rescue was planted about 15 years ago when Amanda was in high school in her hometown, Lancaster. A friend showed her a short documentary titled, “Meet Your Meat,” a 12-minute film produced by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and narrated by actor Alec Baldwin.

She immediately became a vegetarian.

Then, about 10 years ago, she and her husband Steve visited a farm animal sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y. The farm’s bed and breakfast served a vegan menu, and she went vegan, eschewing all animal products. Her husband, who had been a carnivore, turned vegan after he met the cows at the sanctuary.

The visit to the sanctuary put the idea in Amanda’s mind that that is what she wanted to do with her life.

“Visiting the farm sanctuary was an ah-ha moment for me,” she said. “We had rescued and fostered dogs. But this is what I wanted to do. It was a turning point for me.”

Amanda, 30, was working as a hair stylist – her husband, 31, is a machinist – and they lived in the suburbs outside of Lancaster, the development not being conducive to herding goats. (The township frowned upon it, too, she said.)

The first animals they rescued were Patrick and Darby, a pair of goats that had been rescued by the SPCA in Danville, Pa., in July 2018. The goats were neglected, eating their own feces and suffering from hoof rot. She had to do something, so she adopted them. She couldn’t keep them at her home, but her brother, who lives about three miles away, took them in.

Patrick and Darby – their names derived from her brother and his wife’s middle names – were followed in October 2018 by four Cornish cross chickens, birds raised to be broilers. They were among 1,000 chickens rescued from the Philadelphia area. They had been in “horrible conditions,” Clark said, “no food, no water.”

The chickens lived in the yard of the Clark’s suburban home.

If they wanted to keep rescuing animals, they had to take the next step.

They put their house on the market – it sold immediately, giving them 90 days to find a suitable place to house what they hoped would be a growing menagerie.

The looked around Lancaster County and, finding nothing, expanded their search to include York County and northern Maryland.

Then they found the six-acre property off of Tunnel Hill Road. They moved in on March 15 this year and soon the property was home to 40 animals.

Meet the residents

There’s Alice, a goat who came to them in June and was paralyzed by a severe listeria infection. After a nearly month-long stay in an animal hospital and some physical therapy – including spending some time in a goat wheelchair – Alice recovered, now able to trot around in her pen.

Then there are Ronnie and Reggie, a pair of Holstein-Angus calves, rescued from a farm where they were unwanted, and Rufus, a Jersey calf who was placed for adoption after, Clark said, “a group of monks negotiated for his release.”

And then there is Chester, a year-old, 1,000-pound Jersey who towers over the calves. Chester’s story is that his owner, who had apparently been raising him to serve in a petting zoo, went to prison for some reason. Clark doesn’t know the specifics. All she knew is that the owner got sent to prison and left Chester and his pet donkey behind. Clark tried to get the donkey as a part of a package deal, but someone else got the donkey first. Chester, she said, was depressed and missed his donkey, at first. Now, he has the other calves and is much happier, she said.

She and her husband did a lot of research and are still learning. They have a vet who does farm calls, and they handle some of the dispensing of medications themselves. They do all of the work themselves, sometimes with the help of their 5-year-old son, Fin, who enjoys hugging the chickens. (It’s hard to tell how much the chickens enjoy it.)

They operate on donations – the sanctuary is a 501c3 nonprofit entity – and have conducted fundraising for special projects, Clark said. One day, and it may be years off, Clark said, they hope to expand by buying land from their neighbors.

Looking around the farm, it’s a far stretch from growing up in the suburbs to living on a farm and caring for 40 animals.

“It’s a ton of work,” Clark said, “more work than I expected it would be. But I love it so much. It’s what I wanted to be doing. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. This is what I meant to do. I think this is my purpose in life.”

She’s pretty sure of that. Her right upper arm bears a tattoo of a cow and chicken with the legend, “For The Animals.”

She got the ink years before she started the sanctuary.

By Mike Argento / The Associated Press

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