Hereford may be the home of the Bulls (high school football team) but it's a pig that will be one of the main attractions at the 13th Hereford Fall Festival on Oct. 20 and 21.
Jeff Lambert, founder of Whispering Rise Farm and Animal Sanctuary, in Freeland, will bring Rosie, an 11-year-old Vietnamese potbelly pig.
He'll also bring lots of information about his nonprofit animal sanctuary where 20 potbelly pigs sleep, eat and root around in a fenced-in area.
Lambert hopes to spread the word about his pigs and maybe find somebody among the 10,000 expected festival-goers who would like to adopt one of the bovines.
The Freeland resident's appearance with a potbelly pig at the Hereford Fall Festival is the culmination of a three-year project.
Lambert, retired from a career in child welfare, had always wanted to create an animal shelter and thought he would focus on dogs. That all changed when he visited an animal sanctuary in Utah in 2009.
"I saw potbelly pigs and I just fell in love," he said. He attended a weeklong training session in Utah and became certified to run an animal sanctuary.
He and his wife, Bonnie, who is principal at Loch Raven High School, live in a house on 6 acres that is zoned for agriculture. By March 2011, he had created the nonprofit Whispering Rise Farm and Animal Sanctuary. He fenced off a wooded portion of the property, built some A-frame huts and then put the word out that he was ready for some pigs.
"I was like a groom on his wedding day sitting in the dressing room waiting to come out," he said. "I was so nervous."
Last October, he got a call about a piglet and two adult pigs in West Virginia that needed a home. He bought a cat carrier for the piglet, two extra-large dog crates and brought Gordy, Willie and the piglet, Jonathan, to their new home.
"Willie and Gordy spent the first three years of their lives living together in a small enclosure about the size of a large pickup truck bed," Lambert wrote on the Sanctuary's website where he asks people to sponsor the pigs. "Willie now loves belly rubs and enjoys pumpkin treats. Gordy is still working on learning to trust people."
Lambert now has 20 pigs. He expanded the fenced area to 100 feet by 200 feet and is building more huts to house the animals.
He drives to Wegmans in Hunt Valley twice a week to pick up extra produce and stops by Brown's Orchards in Loganville, Pa. He feeds the pigs twice a day with a combination of pig food pellets, oats, fruit and produce.
"They love fruit the most," Lambert said. "They'll eat a peach and spit out the pit and they'll suck on an orange, then drop the rind on the ground. They don't like sour things like onions, cabbage or kale."
Kim Willard, of Monkton, and her son Andrew, 12, have visited and helped feed the pigs while the Lamberts were on vacation. Willard is a teacher at Hereford High School and heard about the pigs from Bonnie Lambert.
"What I liked is that Jeff was as interested that Andrew have a positive pig experience as he was about the pigs," she said.
A typical potbelly pig weighs between 75 and 150 pounds and will live about 15 years, he said.
"I'm prepared to keep them for life, but I'm happy to have them adopted," Lambert said. So far, one pig has been adopted.
His ultimate goal is to educate people about potbelly pigs, raise money to help pay for their upkeep, and encourage volunteers to spend time with the pigs.
"They can make wonderful pets if given the proper living conditions, socialization and diet," he said "Sitting inside the enclosure with the pigs on a beautiful morning is a peaceful and reflective experience."
For more information on Whispering Rise Farm and Animal Sanctuary, go to http://www.wrfas.org.