Have you heard of Esther the Wonder Pig? She’s a pig—the name kind of gives that away—and she’s the subject of a New York Times bestseller book and a social media star. She’s also the namesake resident of the Happily Ever Esther farm sanctuary near Toronto. My wife, daughter, and mother-in-law have been longtime Esther fans. And so, for a birthday, we booked a tour of Happily Ever Esther.
One Media-Savvy Pig
Esther the Wonder Pig was adopted by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter in 2012, under the assumption the rescued animal was a “micro pig.” In under two years, she grew from 4 pounds to over 500 pounds. Rather than get rid of Esther, the trio moved to the country and in 2014 founded the Happily Ever Esther farm sanctuary.
Along the way, Esther has been the subject of the New York Times bestseller Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time, she’s made numerous TV appearances, and has become a social media star—with 1.5 million Instagram and Facebook followers.
Visiting Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary
The farm sanctuary is home to a variety of farm animals, including birds, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, cows, a donkey, and a horse. A few times a month the sanctuary offers public tours and, as we found out, they book up quickly. When we arrived at the farm, its influence beyond the Toronto area and even Canada was obvious, with license plates from as far away as Massachusetts.
We weren’t sure if we would see Esther herself. Even though Esther lives there (in the farmhouse with the founding couple), there are no guarantees that she’ll feel like putting in an appearance. And in the weeks prior to our visit, Esther had made headlines after falling ill and running into red tape over the possibility of seeking veterinary care in the United States.
We were lucky, though. Both Esther the Wonder Pig and Cornelius—her turkey friend (who also hangs out in the farmhouse)—walked out of the house to visit. The 650-pound pig certainly isn’t shy. My kids are teenagers now but still thought it was pretty cool to be seeing the subject of the book and social media posts casually strolling out of the farmhouse. Especially my daughter, who has been a vegetarian for well over a decade.
That was actually one of my fears about visiting the farm animal sanctuary. That there might be lectures about the ethics of raising animals for meat. However, our guides were neutral on the subject. The tour was educational, without being preachy.
While they pointed out the advantages in living conditions the sanctuary animals had over their counterparts raised on commercial farms (as well as their much longer lifespans), there was no guilting of people on the tour on the subject of eating meat. I really appreciated that. I think that going vegetarian as a decision of conscience (as my daughter did) is a very personal choice and one that shouldn’t be made under pressure.
That being said, the farm sanctuary tour and being able to observe the animals going about their lives with room to wander does make one think…
The tour lasted about two hours, including walking trails through forest, a barn tour, visiting several large pastures that are home to rescued goats, sheep, cows, and an inseparable house and donkey team, and a bonfire—which was a welcome finish on a cold, October day. There’s a gift store selling items to help fund the sanctuary, but no pressure to buy anything or to make donations. However, the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary is a registered charity that runs on donations, so our guide did make a point of mentioning that volunteers and donations are welcome.
To book a visit at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, learn more about Esther the Wonder Pig, or to make a donation, visit the sanctuary’s website. And you can follow Esther on Facebook—chances are your kids will get a kick out of the Wonder Pig and her daily adventures. I find the photos and videos of her in the farmhouse are especially entertaining. And make me wonder how they all do it… Two dogs are in our house is enough to be stepping around; the thought of a 650-pound pig sprawled on the floor for a nap is mind-boggling.
The photos in this post were taken with an iPhone 7 Plus equipped with add-on tele and zoom lenses from Moment—look for a review coming soon.