When he first visited the Allaire Community Farm with his grandmother a few years ago, Zac Clifton fell in love with it.
“The farm is a nonprofit that works with kids and adults that have disorders, kids who have gone through trauma and veterans who have PTSD,” Zac says. “It’s mostly run by volunteers.”
The community farm in Wall Township, N.J., offers equine and animal therapy, using horses, goats, cattle, donkeys and pigs. Two animals that were adopted last summer — Charlotte and Willow, a pair of Juliana pigs — needed a winter home. The 12-year-old First Class Scout with Troop 31, sponsored by Goodwill Fire Co. No. 2 in Spring Lake, N.J., who had started volunteering in the farm’s petting zoo, wanted to help.
“We had been looking for an opportunity for a Star Scout project,” Zac says. “They said, ‘Our pigs need a place to stay warm for the winter.’ They had been staying in an outdoor pen.”
For the Scouts BSA ranks of Tenderfoot through Life, Scouts must participate in service projects. For the Eagle rank, a Scout must plan, develop and give leadership to a project.
Building the pig house
Zac talked with the farm’s owners about the need for a pig house. He had experience working with tools; he had helped build a treehouse before, and he had earned the Home Repairs merit badge. Still, this would be an undertaking.
To house both animals, the pig house would need to be a 4-by-4-by-4-foot shelter. It needed to keep the pigs warm and protect them from the elements. And it needed to have easy access for the owners so they could clean the interior.
“I thought it’d be a big project, but I have a great family that’d help me,” Zac says.
With the help of his mother and father, he drew the design plans. They researched the materials Zac would need, how much time the project would take and also its cost. Balancing time for school and extracurriculars, he could get it done in four months — just in time for winter.
“We built the floor first; we insulated it — we got the good stuff, the spray insulation,” Zac says.
Zac’s father, mother, grandfather and sister all helped build the pig house. Even though he finished the project in November, he went back to add a slanted shingled roof and make adjustments — a windbreak needed to be removed and the structure also needed a more accessible door so the farm owners could easily change out the hay inside to ensure mold wouldn’t grow.
“The farm owners were very grateful,” Zac says. “It’s really nice to help other people out. I felt like I’d done a good deed.”
And how did Charlotte and Willow like their new home?
“The pigs sounded excited, as far as I could tell,” Zac says. “They’re super friendly and they love to chat — I don’t know what they’re saying, but they love to chat.”