"It originally started with the thought that we wanted to move out of the city and do a little more simple living,” says Annette Thurmon, an ICU nurse, wife to Jared (our Adventist Review Ministries marketing director), soon-to-be mommy, and, well, farmer.
The couple, who have lived in the Greater Atlanta area for a long time, decided to find a parcel of land far from the city. “We had looked for a long time and we just couldn’t find anything that stood out. Then we found this little piece of land out here—about an hour out of Atlanta—and we felt God opened doors for us to move here,” Annette says.
Their little homestead—called Azure Farm (www.azurefarmlife.com)—boasts an interesting collection of animals and a fruit and vegetable garden that supplies the Thurmon family with a variety of yummy and nutritious things to eat (the Thurmons are vegan). On their five-acre plot sits a beautiful farmhouse and three “tiers” of land that are home to seven alpacas, two miniature donkeys, four ducks, nine chickens, and two turkeys. A couple barn cats round out the “family.”
Their 24 raised-beds garden, which looks like something out of a magazine, yields cucumbers, corn, onions, sweet potatoes, string beans, squash, peppers, and tomatoes (they grew seven varieties last summer, just to see which ones were best). If fruits are more your thing, the Thurmons have apple, peach, cherry, and pear trees—courtesy of Jared. “He planted them all,” says Annette. “I can’t say I contributed to that—poor Jared dug like 30 holes by hand.” Oh yes, they also have 50 blueberry plants! Azure Farm is certainly sounding like a pretty nice place to be—in the summer months especially!
While Annette is still taking a few nursing shifts weekly, farm life certainly comes with a lot of work. Days start with feeding all the animals—grains for the alpacas and donkeys, and sometimes leftovers of whatever Anette and Jared have enjoyed for breakfast. The ducks need their little food stations filled, and the donkeys always enjoy a good brushing. You have to keep their living areas tidy as well.
“You basically have to feed them once a day, sometimes twice in winter depending on how cold it is,” says Annette. “You make sure they have enough hay and fresh water; and you clean out their areas.” The animals also nibble on grass 24/7, so there is always lots of hay for them. In order to keep crowd control for the alpacas, boys and girls are separated. Annette says they originally started with four alpacas, one of whom was pregnant, though the two farmers didn’t know it. Now they have seven—so, yes, alpaca crowd control is important.
Aside from caring for fresh produce and all the critters who look to them for food and shelter, farm life—especially with regard to animal care—has been spiritually educational. “We’ve learned so many lessons about God and how He cares for us, just through animals. It’s pretty awesome.” Annette adds, “Animals can withstand such cold and extreme weather, while we can’t. We’re just the worst. I think, I wonder if God made us so that we know we have to depend on Him? The animals don’t know that. He takes care of them too. But if we were able to just do things all on our own, why would we need protection or divine intervention?”
Annette documents life on Azure Farm through her Instagram account @azurefarm, where 10,000 followers get a peek at the day-to-day of caring for animals, enjoying the simple things of nature, plant-based nutrition, and learning about what God has to teach us through all of that. It’s an active, healthy, back-to-basics lifestyle that she and Jared hope to impart to their little one, who will no doubt have quite a childhood with miniature donkeys and alpacas to run around with.
This social media presence is also a great space where Annette connects with others interested in the same lifestyle. “At some point,” Annette says, “I’d love to teach classes and have events, sharing with people how they can grow food, and other workshops. This is something we would like to pursue more.”
Through the farm’s website one can also access printables, recipes, and a blog; and if you look around, it’s quite easy to see how all of it put together provides a really unique witnessing experience. While farm life may not have always been a lifelong goal, it now presents a new and purposeful direction for the Thurmons. “We feel as though this is our calling, and now we’ve adapted to it,” says Annette. “Now I think our purpose is to share that with other people; to encourage others, to show them and say, ‘Hey, it’s really cool, you know.’”
Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review.