By Christy Ulmet
A recent attack on some of Trevecca’s urban farm animals forced Jason Adkins, environmental projects coordinator and farm operator, to reinforce some security measures on the farm.
On Tuesday, January 6, a pack of four stray dogs made their way into the pigpen and attacked some Juliana miniature pigs. While one pig managed to escape the attack and make its way to a nearby business, four of the pigs did not survive.
Adkins witnessed the attack as he arrived at the farm to work on his daily chores. He was able to chase away a couple of the dogs and a veterinarian sedated the other two with a tranquillizer dart gun so that they could be taken to Metro Animal Care and Control.
The security breech by the strays may have been made possible by a number of factors, Adkins said.
The farm, which is used as an outdoor classroom for the university’s environmental justice students, is enclosed by a chain link fence with electric wire around it. Somehow, the strays were able to find a gap within the fence, which allowed them to crawl into the pen and attack the pigs.
“[The dogs] were pretty highly motivated to get under there,” Adkins described in an interview with The Tennessean.
He also believes that the lack of security dogs for the pigs made them a vulnerable target.
Two Great Bernese dogs are with the animals at all times, keeping the animals from fighting each other, as well as providing a form of protection for the animals. One of the dogs, Leda, who is recovering from extreme weight loss, was away from the farm at the time. Bjorn, a younger Bernese, was tending to the goats elsewhere on campus.
The night after the attack, Adkins chose to stay overnight with the animals to make sure everything was safe. He also reinforced the security measures, fixing loose ends on the electric fence, as well as making sure the voltage is up. Adkins brought a fencing company in to install a bottom rail along the fence to prevent any gaps. In addition, the pigs have been kept in a safe house.
The urban farm has seen tremendous growth in the past year, gaining more than 30 new animals. In addition to pigs, the farm has goats, chickens, bees, tilapia and more. Adkins has taken the lead in the planning of a new barn that will adequately house and protect the animals.
“We’re quite active in trying to resolve the problem. I think we’ve got it solved for the moment,” Adkins said.
Adkins is also seeking to hire a full time farm manager to keep an eye on the animals. Construction on the barn began on Friday, January 16, and is expected to be completed within two weeks.
Booth Jewett, former urban farm volunteer and environmental justice major, offered that the farm take a break from any further expansion by focusing on the current situation with the animals and the new barn.
“[The farm is] a work in progress. The only way you learn is on the job. When something happens, you react. Mastering what you have before you add things is the best thing to do,” Jewett said.
Adkins is working to sell some of the goats in order to help fund the new barn and its amenities, which will help the farm downsize. He hopes the addition of the barn and barn manager will help prevent any future problems.
“It’s a learning curve,” Adkins said. “Farming in the city has a lot of dynamics to it that are learned the hard way sometimes.”