Durham animal rescue farm achieves tax-exempt status

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DURHAM — Deb and Carl Schwink’s love for animals has brought them from Wisconsin to New Hampshire to Maine, where they now live alongside 18 sheep, six llamas, five chickens, two cats, four dogs, and two 700-pound pigs.

With the help of their 13-year-old son, Benjamin, the Schwinks run a 20-acre farm called Graze in Peace Farm Animal Rescue and Learning Center at 591 Pinkham Brook Road.

Graze in Peace serves as a space for domestic and farmed animals that have been abandoned, neglected, or faced euthanization, to live out their lives in a natural and peaceful environment.

The Schwinks provide medical treatment, vaccinations, and rehabilitation for their rescues, many of which suffer from arthritis, loss of vision, and infection.

“We started taking in animals (at our farm) in Wisconsin and found out there was a niche for it,” Carl Schwink said.

The Schwinks’ farm was certified as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit by the IRS on June 9.

Under the exemption, any donation or grant collected or income earned for the farm does not incur tax. Individuals who donate to the farm are also now able to deduct those donations from their taxable income.

With this stamp of approval, the Schwinks are now working on writing proposals for various grants to support the farm.

“Most organizations who fund (nonprofits) like (Graze in Peace) want their money to go to a 501(c)(3),” Deb Schwink said. “There are a lot of good places we could team up with now that we couldn’t before.”

In their proposals, the Schwinks are requesting funds for infrastructure improvements such as perimeter fencing, field sheds, a real barn, a community yurt and garden, a handicapped parking area and a trail system. Until then, they feel they are at capacity with 40 animals.

“Before we became a nonprofit, (our) only serious source of funding was a day job,” Carl Schwink said.

Carl works from home as a computer engineer for D.E. Shaw Research, a privately held biochemistry research company based in New York City. Deb Schwink has taken online writing classes at Southern Maine Community College and also has studied graphic design. She has used her expertise in writing and design to create a website, a Facebook page and the GoFundMe page for Graze in Peace.

The couple’s GoFundMe page raised about $1,200 last year, which they put toward a tractor.

With more help and funding, the Schwinks said they would like to turn Graze in Peace into a “care farm” for vulnerable people, including troubled teens, the elderly, foster children, and people recovering from addiction.

“People can come and interact with the animals or with the gardens in a therapeutic setting,” Deb said. “It benefits both local people in the community and the animals.”

According to the Schwinks, care farms are common in the United Kingdom, but only a few exist in the U.S., all on the West Coast. As for being the first on the East Coast, Deb said they will “make it up as (they) go along.”

“(The care farm) could happen this year, or it could happen next year,” Carl said. “It all depends on grants.”

About a dozen volunteers help the Schwinks with upkeep of the farm and care of the animals. Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick also donates animal feed.

On June 24, the Schwinks invited volunteers and friends to their Summer Solstice Celebration as a way to celebrate all of the hard work put into keeping the farm running.

“We just needed a fun break … the volunteers work so hard,” Deb Schwink said. “We didn’t want to have a fundraiser, we just wanted to have a fun night.”

They plan to hold another event on their farm in the fall to raise money through ticket sales. For now, they are focusing on writing grant proposals, turning an old shed they bought on Craigslist into a chicken coop, and giving all of Graze in Peace’s residents the care and love they deserve.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Deb, left, Benjamin, and Carl Schwink with the baby of Graze in Peace farm, a spunky 8-month-old llama named Midnight. The Durham farm is now home to 18 sheep, six llamas, five chickens, two cats, four dogs, and two 700-pound pigs.

Bob Marley, foreground, is one of the oldest sheep at Graze in Peace in Durham. Before being shorn, he had long, dreadlock-like wool, much like that of the Jamacian singer-songwriter. Behind him is Hacienda, who gave birth to her healthy baby, Midnight, in November.