“When pigs fly” is what Cindy Brenneke told her brother years ago when he asked when she would return to the farm life. Yet, her love for animals did exactly that. Cindy grew up on a farm in Taos, Missouri, with her family. When she moved out at 17 she swore she would never live on a farm again. She enrolled at Truman State University where she earned her industrial science degree and then began working as a graphic designer and became the owner of two gym studios in St. Louis.
But Cindy has always had a passion for animals. As a little girl she had dreams of being a veterinarian. When she did finally decide she wanted to return to her true calling, she only started off with a few farm animals to begin a small weekend petting zoo in Owensville. From then on Cindy’s small zoo turned into an ever-growing animal sanctuary, petting zoo and home to the largest pig museum in the U.S. when she considered expanding to a new farm two years ago. And as fate would have it, she was able to get the perfect place all within five days.
“I was doing the little weekend farm thing and then God tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘you’re going to get a bigger place,’ and I was like, ‘Oh no I’m not, this is it,’” Cindy said. “So then I was like ‘well God if I get a bigger place this is what I need’ and I listed off like 10 things and I was very specific about what I wanted. Well I told some girlfriends about it that night and I said you know what the place probably doesn’t exist and if it does I can’t afford it, but I said, ‘keep your eyes open.’”
That night someone sent Cindy a listing for the place where Where Pigs Fly Farm is now, which she would have never found because she wasn’t looking within that price range. That following Monday, she looked at the place and it had everything on her checklist. She called the Realtor, who met her Tuesday.
“I came in, looked at the house and was like holy cow it’s perfect for the pig museum, I had all the buildings I needed for the animals, I had everything I needed,” she said. “I went down to the Legends Bank dressed in shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes. I walked into the bank and applied for the loan and this was a pretty big loan. Then they came out to my farm on Wednesday, they called me on Thursday and they said we’ll give you the loan for the full amount but if you can get the price down, get the price down.”
Cindy stopped by the Realtor’s office, gave her earnest money and submitted her bid.
“Normally you know when you submit a bid for property, you argue back and forth, ‘nah uh.’ She called me on Friday and she said your bid’s been accepted,” she said. “So I always say it was God’s wish that this is what I do.”
The new Where Pigs Fly Farm, located in Linn, has helped Cindy go from caring for roughly 50 animals to now being able to help nearly 600. This includes a wide variety of species such as dogs, cats, sheep, goats, cattle, a llama, an alpaca, regular and mini-sized horses and donkeys, peacocks, ducks, geese, rabbits, Patagonian cavies (which are a rabbit-like animal typically found in Argentina), guinea pigs, ferrets, a variety of birds and, you guessed it, pigs, lots and lots of pigs.
On top of being able to care for such loving animals, Cindy also loves being able to teach on the farm. Where Pigs Fly Farm is a popular field trip destination for schools across the state including New Bloomfield, Ashland and St. Louis. Children get hands-on experience with small animals near the barn and large animals while enjoying a hayride through the pastures.
“We tell them about the pigs and all the different animals and how to feed the animals and how to treat the animals,” she said.
Cindy has also managed to build an animal clinic where she works closely with local veterinarians and veterinarians from Missouri State University to care for the animals on the property. She has hopes to one day open the clinic to the public to offer low cost spaying and neutering.
While most of the animals on the farm are permanent rescue residents, there are animals available for adoption such as cats and pigs for those looking to expand their families. Cindy also works actively to find permanent and foster homes for homeless pets on the farm’s Facebook page at facebook.com/Where-Pigs-Fly-Farm-Pigs-Aloft-Museum.
The animals aren’t the only attraction at the Where Pigs Fly farm. It is also home to the second largest pig collection in the world and may soon become the largest. The collection started with Ross and Susi Honsa, as it was Ross’s dream to hold the world’s record number of pig collectibles. However, before Ross could complete his collection, he passed away of cancer and wished that his collection be put on public display.
Three years later, Susi learned about the Where Pigs Fly Farm when her sister heard an interview with Cindy on the KEZ 99.9 radio station located in Phoenix, Arizona. When Susi contacted Cindy, she asked if she would accept Ross’s 14,500 piece collection. Touched by Ross’s determination and love for pigs, Cindy decided to not only to display his collection, but to keep collecting pigs until they hold the world record title. Since then, Cindy has received pigs from visitors as well as thousands of pigs from other collectors. The house on the farm currently holds more than 30,000 pigs.
Cindy finds publicly displaying the collection truly magical. When she receives calls from collectors who want to add to their personal museum collection, she learns how much it really means to them. She once drove all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to pick up pigs from a collector named Barbara Alt, whose life joy was collecting pigs and watching rainbows. Sadly, Barbara passed away from brain cancer shortly after giving her collection to Cindy. A few months after her death, friends of Barbara came to see her collection. Cindy recalls it beginning to rain outside as the friends looked over the collection, but as soon as they started leaving the museum the rain stopped and formed a rainbow in the sky.
“It was a special moment and I think it let them know she was happy,”Cindy said.
The museum’s collection has become so large it has also set to spread to the barn’s loft as soon as they can raise enough money to fix up the space. Having the second largest pig museum and one of the largest petting zoos in Missouri, the farm also attracts visitors from around the globe.
“We’ve had people from Finland, Japan, France and all over the world,” Cindy said. She recalled one visit when two men from Finland stopped by to see the museum earlier this year. “They were all excited and stuff so I’m like, ‘So why are you guys in this part of Missouri?’ and they said, ‘To see the museum!’ and I said, ‘Really?’ ‘Yeah, we’re road tripping across America and this is one of the sites we had to see,’ they said.”
Cindy also recalls a visit from a Canadian couple that accidentally took her peacock for a ride on their RV.
“They had spent the night here and he was roosted on the top of their RV and then so they take off down the highway,” she said. “So of course they’re going by people and people are waving them down and stuff like, ‘You’ve got a peacock on top of your RV!’ So they get all the way up to the Conoco, which is like three miles up the road, then they call me and are like ‘We’ve got your peacock on our roof.’ … They just turned around and drove back here and even when they got back here he still didn’t want to get down, so they actually had to crawl up the RV and chase him off.”’
Where Pigs Fly is not currently government funded, so they rely mainly on funds from visitors and the hard work from volunteers to maintain the museum and take care of the animals. Fundraising events like their annual Spring Fling they recently hosted in April also goes toward raising money for the animals vet care at the farm’s clinic.
If you’re looking for some family fun, the farm can also host events such as birthday parties, reunions and sometimes even weddings. For more information about the Where Pigs Fly Farm and museum, you can visit www.wherepigsflyfarm.com.
Hours of Operation: 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday
Admission: $3 per person (includes food for animals)
Overnight camping is available if reserved in advance.
Directions from Jefferson City: Take Highway 50 east approximately 23 miles through Linn. You will see the big barn sitting high on the hill on the right hand side of the road, just three miles east of Linn Technical College.
Questions? Call or text 314-241-3488