When the first residents arrived at Darrowby Farm Sanctuary in Jefferson, founders Amanda Glenn and Andy Theriault knew they’d followed the right path.
Their first horse, Jay, was a retired and dangerously underweight draft horse. When a mare followed, arriving at the sanctuary after being listed as “free” online, the two “were calling to each other before she was even out of the trailer,” said Glenn. “It was really beautiful.”
Just four years later, 50 farm animals have now found their forever home at Darrowby. The couple, both of whom grew up in Maine, purchased their N. Mountain Road home in 2018 and founded the sanctuary the following year, when a neighbor donated a tract of land across from their property.
“We’re so fortunate to have all of this,” said Glenn. “We decided that we wanted to do good with it.”
This Saturday, Oct. 14, the sanctuary will host an open house, with plenty of opportunities for visitors to pet the animals, receive friendly goat nibbles and pig snuffles, and learn about Darrowby’s mission while enjoying music and what Glenn promises are “the best cupcakes you’ll ever eat.”
“We want to welcome people and let them know that we’re here to make our community better,” Glenn said.
The 50 animals that currently call Darrowby home include two horses, 21 pigs, six goats, a donkey, steer, and various birds. Glenn and Theriault begin each day with the sizable task of feeding and checking in on all the animals.
“It’s my goal to get my hands on every resident every day,” said Glenn. “And that isn’t just because it’s really nice…It’s also (about) making sure that everybody’s in good shape.”
At Darrowby, she said, the health of residents is a priority.
“Everybody who comes here gets the care they need,” she said.
According to Theriault, such an approach is a vital part of Darrowby’s ethos as an animal sanctuary. Animals come to Darrowby to live out their lives.
“We’re not looking to re-adopt or re-home,” he said.
“We’re not looking to use them for anything,” added Glenn.
Such a life is welcome to Darrowby’s charges, some of whom suffered neglect before their arrival. Harriet, a lively spotted piglet, arrived with a deep-seated fear of humans but has slowly begun to follow the lead of her field mates in learning to trust humans. Arthur, a hefty 300-pound hog, is nearly unrecognizable from the malnourished piglet that arrived at the sanctuary one year ago after being caught at a pig scramble, while Bea, a pig who spent the first five years of her life in an apartment, has found a better suited home at Darrowby.
Theriault stressed that neglect is not the only reason that animals are surrendered to Darrowby. Plenty of “totally reasonable and understandable” factors – like health and financial trouble – can also lead to surrender, he said, especially because the shelter system that accommodates Maine cats and dogs does not have a farm animal equivalent.
Compounding the issue is the fact that family and friends often can’t assume care like they might be able to with smaller pets.
“Your sister-in-law isn’t going to take in a cow for you,” said Theriault.
By providing a safe place for some of these animals to go, Glenn and Theriault hope that Darrowby can ease this process, and, in doing so, help not only the animals that come to live with them but also those who surrender them, who may feel they’ve run out of options. The pair has known from the start that their goal was to “decrease suffering,” said Theriault, but along the way, they have “realized that we’re not just talking about animals, but people, too.”
To that end, the pair is involved in educational efforts, opening their farm to school trips and teaching an adult education class about the realities of caring for pigs, the animal that Darrowby is asked to take in more frequently than any other.
“We were hoping that if we do a course and engage people in our community about what it is a pig needs … we could help people be prepared,” and help prevent further surrenders, Glenn said.
Darrowby operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with donations financing animal feed and care. Moving forward, Glenn and Theriault hope to expand their operation to care for more animals, including by growing their network, beginning a volunteer program, and sourcing more donations. They get calls at least twice a week from people looking to surrender animals, but finances are a limiting factor, said Glenn.
“We would love to be able to say ‘yes’ more,” she said. “It’s completely heartbreaking every time we have to say ‘no.’”
At the open house, Theriault and Glenn are excited to let visitors know they’re there to make the community better.
“We are a judgment-free place for our community to learn about the beauty of farmed animals,” Glenn said.
The open house will be held with snacks and live music from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 216 N. Mountain Road in Jefferson.
For more information, go to darrowbyfarmsanctuary.org or find the farm on Facebook and Instagram.