Behind every awesome idea stands an awesome pig. Or so veterinary surgeon Karen Phillips would argue.
Her work at both the Western PA Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League opened her eyes to the growing number of unwanted farm animals. Inspired by Isaac, a stray pig found on the Pittsburgh city streets in mid-winter, Dr. Phillips founded the Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary in 2013. Hope Haven’s mission is to rescue neglected pigs, goats, sheep, and poultry who have been surrendered at animal shelters, confiscated by local humane agents, or saved from factory farms. It took Karen over three years to find a property in Franklin Park with enough pasture land for a farm whose proximity was close enough to the city to entice visitors. She spent an additional year clearing the property (an old junkyard), acquiring proper zoning, installing the barn and fencing, and filling out the paperwork to become an official non-profit organization.
Karen applied for an Awesome Pittsburgh grant, requesting funds specifically for an orchard in Isaac’s memory. Unfortunately, Isaac only lived on the sanctuary for two months before he died from a neurological disorder. He was a wonderful ambassador for the farm, and a new fruit orchard will honor him and ensure that he continues to inspire and educate all who visit.
The plan is to situate the orchard next to a pond. A variety of fruit bearing trees will be planted, i.e. apple (a pig favorite), pear, and peach. The orchard will provide nutritious fruit for all the sanctuary’s deserving animals and will help control feed costs. In addition, the trees will act as protective cover to over 30 ducks and geese who frequent the pond. The fruit trees’ substantial branches will shield them from predators such as hawks and owls. A natural walking path through the trees will be part of the visitor experience, expanding the sanctuary’s tours out of the barn and onto the land.
Says Awesome Trustee Leah Helou,
“This project really spoke to me because there is such a strong need for places offering sanctuary to farm animals who are turned over to shelters. Karen’s idea to plant an orchard that will help feed more than 80 animals, give them shelter from predators, and beautify their haven is fantastic. This is such simple and pure project, and yet it meets several needs and provides critical sustainability to Hope Haven Farm.”
The grant will enable the purchase of large, mature fruit trees from a reputable local nursery, and will pay for planting and maintenance equipment and organic insect sprays and fertilizers. In order to ensure a proper installation of the orchard, Karen plans to collaborate with the knowledgeable staffs at both Grow Pittsburgh and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation.
Karen shared her unbridled enthusiasm with all the trustees after she found out she had received the grant:
“We are extremely excited about this opportunity to strengthen our non-profit sanctuary, nourish our deserving animals, and educate and enlighten a Pittsburgh audience. We are very appreciative for the opportunity to bring this project to fruition, and we are honored to be the first animal-oriented project funded by Awesome Pittsburgh.”