Did you ever read “Charlotte’s Web” as a kid? Do you remember the opening scene of the story — the one where Fern rescues this tiny baby piglet, whom she names Wilbur, from an untimely death? Did you ever wish you could be more like Fern?
Well, there is a real-life Fern living on a farm in northern Snohomish County, only her name is Judy Woods, the founder and director of Pigs Peace Sanctuary, a place where pigs find a home of their own.
“It all started simply enough,” said Woods as she walked around her barn, reaching out to pat a pig. “A friend could not keep her pig. A pot-bellied pig.”
At that moment, Woods agreed to take the pig, who she named Fern.
“That was 1992,” she said.
Then, a couple of years later came along a second rescue, a male pig she named Wilbur who otherwise would be euthanized. Woods, a full-time nurse in those days, brought him back to her 6.5-acre farm in Arlington. Shortly thereafter she formed Pigs Peace Sanctuary, structuring it as a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing swine of every kind — big and small.
The sanctuary has been running non-stop, with Woods at the helm for 27 years. The pigs keep coming, and Woods welcomes each and every one. The sanctuary is currently located on 39 acres just east of Stanwood, one hour North of Seattle. Pulling up to the gate, the first thing you see is a sign which reads, “Love lives here.”
You may also notice how clean this farm is for Woods works diligently to ensure a welcoming, natural environment for all the pigs who call this farm home. The pigs have an abundance of room to roam. The fields and enclosure areas are set up in a way for the pigs to decide where they wish to be and where they desire to sleep. Sometimes they choose inside the barn, snuggling together as a group. (Did you know a group of pigs is called a Sounder?) Sometimes it’s in a single housing unit which offers a bit more personal space.
Woods sections off areas for the elderly or convalescing pigs as well as there is a special “wing” for the newborns and their mamas.
“Every single one has a story,” she said, pointing out each pig by name as she threw them a couple bucket loads of carrots.
Woods has dedicated her life to these pigs.
“I am at their beck and call 24/7,” she said, joking.
Everything about the farm is individually funded, with Woods investing her life savings into it when she bought the Stanwood property. “Why did I do it?” she rhetorically asked. “Because I love pigs, and pigs are very misunderstood animals.” Much of this funding comes from individual folks of like-minded belief, like Woods, that there is a better way to live if you love animals.
Part of her mission revolves around not only educating the public about pigs but also about how to live a vegan lifestyle, one that is both sustainable and humane. Another branch to her mission and a segment of the nonprofit is a little grocery store located in the University District titled appropriately enough, Vegan Haven. A grocery store was not originally in Woods’s plan, but when the opportunity arose, and funding became available, she seized the opportunity to create a source of continual income for the ongoing care of her pigs, for a portion of every purchase will help the animals.
What is so great about this store is that everything in it, down to the candy bar and snacks, is all vegan. So if you are vegan, know someone who is vegan or even moving to a more plant-based diet, then shopping at this little grocery is a delight! There is no need to scrutinize labels, for it turns shopping into what is known as a “smorgasbord” to quote another animal friend from “Charlotte’s Web,” the beloved Templeton the Rat.
Due to concerns with the pandemic and working to update the store for safe, in-store shopping, Vegan Haven is temporarily closed but they are optimistic to opening once again, very soon. The best way to support the sanctuary and help the pigs is through their website with a private donation where you can make a monetary gift, purchase supplies listed on their wish list, and even adopt a pig! Better yet, schedule a visit with Woods and the pigs
“Our message here, of love and respect for all animals, is carried away with each visitor,” said Woods as she walked up to one, very large pig named Russ and scratched him behind the ears. “Come visit, and you will know the peace too.”
A donation of $45 is suggested upon visiting the sanctuary.
This article was first written for and published in Seattle Refined Magazine.