Iowa Farm Sanctuary: Taking a Stand for Unwanted Farm Animals


Iowa Farm Sanctuary founders Jered and Shawn Camp with their rescue dog Leif

Whether or not we eat animals, most of us still want their lives to be full, happy, and humane. Farm sanctuaries exist in a number of states to provide a safe haven for abused, injured, or unwanted farm animals. Surprisingly, while Iowa has a number of active Humane Society chapters and other animal shelters, there are no farm-animal sanctuaries. At least, not yet.

Jered and Shawn Camp, of North Liberty, are in the process of starting the Iowa Farm Sanctuary. Providing a home for unwanted farm animals to live full, carefree lives, their farm sanctuary will be both a refuge and an educational experience, where people can interact with animals that are free to express their unique sentience and intelligence.

The plight of farm animals in this age of industrial agriculture and factory farms is a hot topic. Jon and Tracey Stewart’s plans to create a New Jersey Farm Sanctuary have been blowing up the Internet. The video of a cow escaping a slaughterhouse through the streets of New York went viral. Pictures of cute baby farm animal pictures may now outnumber pics of fluffy kittens on Facebook.

An Iowa native, Shawn’s interest in farm sanctuaries was piqued after reading My Gentle Barn: Creating a Sanctuary Where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope. After looking for a sanctuary to join here in Iowa, the Camps were surprised to find that the closest, the Heartland Sanctuary, was in Wisconsin. “We were kind of blown away that with all the agriculture out here, there’s not a single sanctuary,” Jered says.

Both passionate animal lovers, the Camps felt called to fill the need. While the Camps have been vegan for the last two years, and vegetarian for four years prior to that, they have no intention of forcing values on anyone. They want to provide a place where people can appreciate the beauty and intelligence of happy, healthy farm animals.

Jered says they’ve received an enormous amount of community support. Even their lawyer did pro bono work to help them set up a federally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit. They’ve created a website and a Facebook page, and have a diverse board of directors with connections all over the area.

The final piece of the puzzle, according to Jered, is finding the right piece of land. They had a farm lined up last year, but the deal fell through. They’re looking, ideally, for a 10- to 20-acre farm within a 30-minute radius of Iowa City, though a farm as small as seven acres could work. They have had a few very successful social-media fundraisers as well as some fundraising events at Reds Alehouse, where Shawn currently works as manager.

The Camps are excited about rescuing animals that need help. Animals with birth defects, those raised by 4-H kids that don’t want to see them slaughtered, animals injured in natural disasters or traffic accidents, and runts and animals past their prime will all find a home at the Iowa Farm Sanctuary. The Camps have already been contacted by a number of people with unusual farm animals that need a forever home, including a calf who opens gates, an escaped hog living in a ditch, and two potbellied pigs whose elderly owner can no longer care for them.

Having grown up on a farm in Utah, Jered understands the work involved in running a farm sanctuary and has a deep respect for the animals. “They’re all extremely complex, sentient beings,” he says. He looks forward to sharing that appreciation with the public. “One of the benefits [of setting up the sanctuary],” Jered says, “is education.” He feels modern society has disconnected us from the human-animal bond. “We really want to educate people,” he continues. “We want to have people come out and see the animals in a different light, as living, breathing beings that deserve freedom.”

The Camps hope to involve local children in the educational component of their sanctuary.

Once farmland is purchased, the Camps will sell their home in North Liberty and live on site, available to the animals 24/7. They hope to be up and running by May or June. After the sanctuary is established, all future donations will go towards food, vet bills, and shelter upkeep. Volunteers will be needed for website maintenance and farm chores, such as mucking out the stalls and feeding the animals. Shawn will work full time at the sanctuary, while Jered will keep his job as a paramedic at the University of Iowa Hospitals, working at the sanctuary on his off days.

For more information or to make a donation, visit Iowa Farm Sanctuary or Facebook.