For Sarah Solberg, Heartland Farm Sanctuary barn manager, the opportunity to combine helping animals with helping people in her work is a dream come true. She first heard about Heartland in early 2011, while volunteering with Friends of Ferals. Heartland asked FoF to spread the word that they were looking to hire employees and recruit volunteers.
“Upon reading that [Heartland] was a sanctuary for farm animals, as well as a place to help vulnerable youth, I realized that I was reading about my dream job,” Solberg says.
Now a year into her barn manager role, Solberg hasn’t changed her mind. “I can truly say that I absolutely love my job. I cannot imagine a more perfect job for me, and I am grateful every day.”
A typical day for Solberg includes ensuring the animals have fresh food and water, taking them outside, mucking stalls, cleaning dishes, sweeping, and cleaning up the barn. She picks up bedding, supplies, and feed for the animals once a week. In addition to barn duties, Solberg leads sanctuary tours, trains volunteers, and meets with groups of at-risk youth, such as students with special needs, scout troops, and the Boys and Girls Club. She also corresponds with new volunteer applicants and sets up appointments for Heartland’s Farm on Wheels program.
Solberg says she loves the way being around the animals makes her feel, and enjoys seeing other people get the same benefits when they visit the sanctuary. “Being in the presence of these amazing animals is all it takes to make even my worst day better,” she says with a grin.
Rescuing Toby the calf is among Solberg’s favorite memories of her first year with Heartland. “Getting the baby cow was extremely exciting for me because I absolutely love cows. He has been such a welcome addition to our barn, and he has a set of eyes that can melt anyone’s heart.”
Solberg is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and she plans to earn a master’s degree in counseling. After school, she hopes to continue her work with Heartland with an increased focus on animal-assisted therapy.
Cheryl Breuer is a Madison writer and a Heartland Farm Sanctuary volunteer.