Olivia Head isn’t an average teenager, and she has no problem admitting it.
“I actually have no free time,” the 18-year-old says. “I unregrettably exchanged the typical teenage lifestyle for what I do.”
Head runs Oinking Acres Farm Rescue and Sanctuary in Brownsburg, where her mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home potbellied pigs and other farm animals. Since 2017 she has rescued 256 neglected, unwanted and abandoned animals. She has taken in cows, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens and peafowl.
Currently on her farm, she houses 65 pigs and a menagerie of other farm animals. Her entire day revolves around providing the best care she can for them, whether that’s medicated baths, washing their bedding, or meeting their physical needs the best she can.
Her love of animals comes honestly. She grew up on a 36-acre farm. Her father is a hay farmer, and was even a rodeo cowboy back in the day. Her mother was always very involved with rescuing dogs and cats. In fact, in nearly every picture from her childhood, Head is with her mom and some sort of animal. Head’s favorite photo is of her as a 1-year-old sitting in a cat crate with a mama cat and her kittens, petting them gently.
While many kids love having a dog or cat for a pet, Head loved her mother’s pigs, whose names were Pixie and Penelope. She tells the story of how her mom was at a flea market 25 years ago, watching some rambunctious kids squeezing a piglet, wanting to take it home. The children’s mother was about to purchase the pig, but Head’s mom whipped out cash, paid the woman, and snatched up the pig to take her home, naming her Penelope.
“My mom was always into broken and decrepit animals,” Head says. “I’m the same. I’ll take the broken and infirm all day long.”
Head was 14 years old when Penelope passed away. She told her mom she wanted another pig. Her mother, adamantly against purchasing animals in favor of rescuing them, encouraged Head to do some research.
In her research, Head found something disturbing. Many breeders were advertising teacup pigs – tiny pigs people could tote around or dress up. The problem was there is no such thing as teacup pigs, and those who buy them are upset to find they actually can grow up to 150 pounds or more.
“Breeders swindle people,” Head says. “It’s like purchasing a Great Dane puppy and expecting it to stay the size of a chihuahua. These breeders overpopulate the market with pigs to make a quick buck. They market that the pigs will stay small and not weigh more than 50 pounds, and that’s a lie.”
As she learned more, she stumbled across A Critter’s Chance, an exotic-animal rescue organization in Hendricks County. There was one pig up for adoption whose name happened to be Penelope. Head immediately applied to adopt her and took her home as a project pig.
“She was the first animal I really got to work with,” Head says. “She had never had any training or socialization, and she was very skittish and scared.”
Head worked with her for almost a year, learning more about pigs than she ever thought possible.
“It’s mind-blowing how intelligent and emotional they are,” Head says. “I fell in love with everything about them.”
She began volunteering at A Critter’s Chance and fostering pigs whenever she could. Soon even that wasn’t enough for her, and the house she lived in wasn’t big enough for the amount of animals she wanted to help.
Toward the end of 2018, she began the transition to her farm in Brownsburg. She slowly began to clean up her father’s former alfalfa hay barn. She was asked to join the board of A Critter’s Chance as a junior member.
At the age of 16 she established her own 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and Oinking Acres was in full swing. Many may wonder how she has had time to help these animals and still keep up in school, but Head has arranged her life around her beloved animals, finishing high school through an online program at Ben Davis High School.
“There’s such a cookie-cutter mold nowadays as far as what’s expected of kids,” Head says. “Why would you want to be like everyone else? As far as free time, I spend it all here. My entire existence revolves around meeting the needs of all the animals that are in my care.”
Even when she isn’t looking, Head finds animals who need her. Recently she stopped into a local farm supply store, steeling herself against looking at the chicks and ducklings. Unable to resist, she finally looked and noticed a duckling who couldn’t walk because of a deformed leg. She asked the manager if she could take him home. Now, Flipper resides with a foster family alongside another disabled duckling named Finn.
In fact, that foster family includes a veterinary technician, who is a friend of Head’s and a fellow animal rescuer.
“We’re doing some cold laser treatments and physical therapy to correct Flipper’s deformities,” Head says.
Head is well aware that she couldn’t do what she does without the farm she was raised on. When her parents had their third child, they decided to sell their farm, but because of the real estate crash in the early 2000s, they weren’t able to sell all of it. They parceled off the house and front yard, leaving the barns and back fields.
Now, more than 10 years later, that’s where Head runs her pig rescue, right on the land where she grew up.
“If my parents had sold it, I’d never be able to do this,” Head says. “It’s crazy how over a decade later, things come full circle. Sometimes it’s hard to find contentment with how things turn out, but it’s a reminder to just bloom where you’re planted, take it day by day, and let the story unfold. I believe everything happens for a reason.”
Aside from caring for her animals, Head is passionate about education. She has a laser focus on the image she puts out of her animals on social media, wanting to depict them as the beautiful creatures God made them to be, rather than how their stigma in society portrays them.
“Pigs in general carry a negative connotation in society,” Head says. “They actually are smart, clean, and deserving of love, care and attention. I try and capture them at their very best so hopefully people can see beyond the stigma.”
Head has plans to grow her impact and outreach, wanting to expand her rescue and continuing her outreach and education on a larger scale. She’d love to add a bathroom, a medical room and a laundry room. She operates on donations and proceeds from charity events, with help from volunteers and the steadfast support of her mother and siblings, who come twice per day to help around the farm.
Head offers tours of her farm on the weekends for a small donation, determined to educate the public on pigs and animal care.
“Being in rescue is mentally, emotionally and physically draining,” Head says. “At the same time, there’s nothing more rewarding than taking in this broken and hopeless little animal and rehabilitating it to the point where it is ready for adoption, helping them bloom into the amazing animal God created them to be. If you want to change the world, you have to start right where you are.”