NiCki Brown & Christina Matacotta

Welcome to Sweet Olive Farm Animal Rescue. Nestled in the woods off of Parkview Road in Winterville, Georgia, Sweet Olive is home to over 140 animals and their primary caretaker, Kat Howkins.

Kat Howkins has been an animal lover for as long as she can remember. She held aspirations of becoming a veterinarian growing up, but a failed attempt at Chemistry 121 set her career on a different path. Until 2010, she owned a landscaping business and lived in Atlanta with her partner, Susan, their dogs and some chickens. When neighbors complained about the growing number of canines, Kat and Susan starting looking for a space large enough to accommodate all of their animals. When a local pig needed rescuing, they knew it was time to make the move.

They found what they were looking for in a historic home on several acres of property in quiet Winterville that provided enough space to rescue all the animals they wanted. Over the past eight years, their home has become a sanctuary for an array of animals in need, and Kat cares for them all.

Before coming to Sweet Olive Farm, some of these animals had been neglected or abandoned by their previous owners; others narrowly escaped a more ominous fate. According to Kat, every animal on the farm has a distinct personality and a unique backstory to match.

One of them is Olive, the farm’s namesake.

And Mr. Thelma, the pig that inspired Kat and Susan’s move to the farm.

"It all started with a pot-bellied pig..."

Not to mention the chickens, geese and other birds, many of whom escaped a dinner plate fate.

Taking care of all these animals and tending to their specific needs is not cheap -- some estimates of the monthly costs are outlined below. Sweet Olive Farm is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that relies on charitable donations to manage the cost of its operations.

“We’re pretty much always in the hole,” Kat said. “But I’m always hopeful that it’s going to turn around and I’ll get that big grant from a foundation that will make it so we can really go to the next level.”

Community members can help not only by donating financially, but also by donating their time. The daily upkeep of the farm requires a lot of time, effort and energy; for one person who spends her nights working at a coffee shop and her days filled with manual labor, this responsibility can be overwhelming. Volunteers help Kat with all the daily tasks, including maintenance of the property, running errands and feeding, grooming and spending quality time with the animals.

These experiences do not only benefit Kat and the animals -- the volunteers get to learn about animal welfare and have a hands-on experience with numerous types of animals that they may have never had the chance to interact with otherwise. It also provides an opportunity to connect with other Athens citizens and work together to improve the lives of their neighbors and resident animals.

“Coming out here and hanging out allows people to build a community of animal-lovers and people that want to do good,” said Kat. “I hope they take away a newfound sense of community for like-minded people who are trying to help and save animals.”

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