A visit with Bruce, the hemp farm pig
Writer Jackie Bryant and her dachshund spend an afternoon with Bruce, a pig that went viral after surviving the Valley Fire
When I first reported on the Valley Fire hemp farm casualties last week, I expected to leave the story where it was. As a cannabis reporter, I feel strongly about getting cannabis news to the public, especially when it intersects with other impactful news events, like wildfires.
Of course, as so often happens, the internet had other plans.
After I filed the story late one Friday night, I flippantly tweeted a picture of Bruce, the pet pig at Jamul’s No Boundaries Farm, which was one of the uninsured hemp farms that burned to the ground and had been featured in my story. Bruce was too stubborn to join the evacuees — he refused to get onto the trailer — and as the Valley Fire crested the hill and roared towards him, the Campos family, which owns the farm, had to make the tough choice to leave him. To their joy and surprise, Bruce not only survived but he returned to the farm just a couple of days later.
By the next afternoon, I realized Bruce had gone viral. There were already 10,000 “likes” on the tweet. Over the next few days, Bruce stole the hearts of many; local and national news stations, including CNN, began airing segments about Bruce and the tragedy suffered by No Boundaries.
During all of the commotion, Bruce’s owners reached back out to me to share more about his story, along with some pictures. One such picture included a small dachshund and I immediately squealed in delight. I, too, own a dachshund — the breed also popularly known as wiener or sausage dogs. Would Romeo, my dog, and I like to come out to the farm, the kind folks at No Boundaries wondered? I shot back the fastest “yes” via direct message that has probably ever been transmitted across the World Wide Web.
Driving out to No Boundaries’ rural location in the hills of Jamul is an emotional experience these days. Not only is it a shock to see freshly-burned land and structures, but the entire valley smells like a campfire, cementing in my brain precisely the devastation that had just occurred there. As my car crests the hill just before the entrance to No Boundaries, though, I catch another whiff, one that I am intimately familiar with: cannabis. In this case, it’s hemp, which doesn’t contain THC (the stuff that gets you high), but the general basics of the plant are the same, including that unmistakably skunky, dank smell.
Bruce is waiting for us along with one of his “stepmoms,” Brie Alegria, who is part of the family-run farm. Within seconds of exiting the car, Romeo is sniffing the underbelly of this 300-pound national star while I pet his pink and grey dappled skin. A handsome, ruddy wiener dog also sprints up, who ended up being Bruce’s step-brother of sorts, named Darby.
Bruce is estimated to be about three or four years old. He is a rescue pet that used to cruise around a farm in Imperial Beach before he was surrendered to the Humane Society, where the Campos family adopted him to be the resident porker at No Boundaries Farm around two years ago.
Since then, Bruce has become an integral part of the family. It’s easy to see why. He has a very chill temperament, to use a scientific term, and only oinks when he’s stressed. All of the farm animals in his presence, whether avian or canine, seem to defer to his authority, but he doesn’t abuse it.
Bruce does wield a certain power over the property, though.
“Bruce’s favorite job is to just sit there and look pretty, allowing most of us on the property to revel in his beauty,” says Brooke Campos, one of the owners of No Boundaries tells me. “He’s also been very good at unnecessarily aerating/tilling the dirt and soil around our property — we never asked for it but we got it anyways.”
He rises when he likes and he has free reign to roam the premises. He even has his own mud hole, which sits adjacent to his old structure, which sadly burned down. He eats an organic diet lush with apples, squash, grapes, squash, and non-GMO pig food and currently beds down in a ditch he carved for himself under a willow tree, which also sits next to his personal kiddie pool.
The family isn’t exactly sure how Bruce survived — the fire took out four large structures, including a home and the farm’s barn (which housed at least 15,000 small plants called clones) and most of the property was incinerated. The dominant theory is that Bruce slipped out the front gate, which the family smartly left open when they evacuated. The properties across the dirt road didn’t burn, so they think Bruce took cover in a safe spot away from the farm until he deemed it safe to return. He was discovered by a neighbor, who phoned the family to say Bruce was alive, safe and sound.
It’s been a fairly easy re-entry to post-fire life for Bruce, who seemed distant and shaken up the first days, Alegria says, but has returned to his relaxed, quietly domineering self. He even has a new job! “He has been promoted to Farm Manager,” Alegria tells me. “It only seemed right.”
I hang around for an hour or so, checking out the torched and smoked out hemp fields while chasing my overly excited pup as he explores every inch of the property. Romeo is a city dog, and much more stimulated than the other animals, including his new wiener friend Darby, who are obviously used to the property.
Eventually, Romeo decides he doesn’t understand why Bruce won’t bark back or play with him (the answer is that he is a pig). Romeo gets annoyed and starts to growl, trying to get a reaction. It’s at this point that I decide it’s time to go — Bruce has had enough stress in his life as of late, and the last thing he needs is a needy, city-raised wiener dog barking in his face.
Before departing, though, Bruce and I definitely have a moment.
At some point in our conversation, Alegria tells me that he’s been avoiding his mud hole for whatever reason, which is unusual for him. I think he’s stressed out, not only by Romeo, but also by the flurry of activity that has descended on this small farm in the last couple of weeks. He bolts, lumbering in the direction of his old structure and ending up at his mud hole. He walks to the edge, looks up at me for about 10 seconds, gives a big, fat snort, and walks right in. “Happy as a pig in shit,” I think. My work here is done.
To donate to the recovery of No Boundaries farm, which is a legal and county/state-licensed hemp farm, as well as to the rebuilding of Bruce’s pig hut, please check out the Campos family’s GoFundMe here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/no-boundaries-farm-rebuild
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