Both my husband Danny and I (Sandy) lived in or very near large cities all our lives, but we're also hardcore nature lovers! So along with our young son, Will, we spent as much time as we could camping and enjoying the great outdoors. I also always dreamed of living on a farm. ALWAYS. As a little girl I used to insist that God must have meant for me to grow up on a farm, but there was a mix-up in Heaven.
My soul ached for the simpler life. Every single thing about homesteading was right down my alley. (Well....except harvesting our own meat. Can't exactly say that will ever be "down my alley"!) In fact, when Danny proposed to me back in 2000, I coyly replied, "Yes. But ONLY if you promise that one day I'll have some chickens in the backyard, a few ducks on a pond, and the hope of moving to a farm in the future." Our first backyard chicken actually found us just a few years after we were married---she showed up in our Tucker, GA yard one day, and decided she was home. A few years later we eagerly added a few ducks to our backyard flock...and promptly regretted that decision. Yeah. Ducks aren't meant for small yards so close to neighbors. (Seriously, though, if you live in the suburbs DO NOT get ducks. Just don't. Bless their hearts.) Thankfully we were able to rehome the ill-fated quackers with some new friends who were lucky enough to have an actual farm.
In 2004 a gorgeous baby boy, Will, completed our family. As he grew, we noticed that he struggled in ways most other kids don't have to. He was diagnosed with autism at three years, and we slowly learned to release the son we'd expected to raise and joyfully embrace the son we were actually blessed with. His autism does present challenges and sometimes even heartbreaks, but it has also transformed us for the better and infused our lives with a joyful innocence that we wouldn't trade for the world. And we whole-heartedly believe that autism is a difference to be explored, understood, and embraced; not a curse to be shunned, feared, or eradicated.
A few years ago we started farm-sitting once or twice a year for those friends who adopted our ducks; and Danny and I began to notice something very compelling. The longer we stayed at the farm, the more calm, centered, and engaged Will was. It eventually became clear that the chaotic, noisy Metro Atlanta life was affecting Will in ways we'd never even considered. Up until that time, farming had remained one of those dreams I'd casually bring up ever so often, only to have Danny reply, "Maybe one day...if we can ever afford to retire". As much as Danny loved the great outdoors, he was happy living in the Atlanta area and simply escaping to a farm ever so often. But when he began to witness the transformation Will went through during the longer farm-sitting stays, even Danny started imagining a permanent move. (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus!)
In 2016, we realized the time was right (for a host of reasons), and we took a major leap of faith. We sold our home in GA and ended up finding our own little piece of paradise down here in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. (It's just 90 minutes from downtown Atlanta, when traffic's good.) We have 28.3 acres with a perfect balance of untouched woods and aged pastureland, not to mention a 2 acre pond stocked with fish. Every single day we encounter mother nature at her best and constantly pinch ourselves to make sure it's really real! We chose the name Will's Eden because it honors the reason we came here in the first place and reflects exactly how all three of us feel about this farm.
We're a very new farm, and still doing a lot of learning and growing. One thing we're certain of is that anything we do should be as close to nature's way as possible; so we plant using organic, sustainable, nature-friendly practices. We've also applied those same principles to how we raise our poultry. Currently we have about 300 chickens, 40 Guineas, 60 Turkeys, and 35 ducks. (Read more about our poultry and their feed/habitats when you click on the "Farm Fresh Eggs" section of our products lists!)
In addition to the poultry, we also have 2 pet dogs, 2 Livestock Guardian Dogs, 11 cats, 4 pet Goats, and a Peacock! Why a peacock, you might ask? Well, even though Will was totally on board with moving to the country, any kind of change is tricky for him and a transition that major was downright nerve-wracking. We wanted to give him something supremely exciting to focus on in hopes of easing that transition anxiety---and there was nothing on this earth Will wanted more than his very own Peacock! It did the trick, too. Will made the transition from city boy to farmer without a hitch!
Raising, growing, and making things is only half of our vision for Will's Eden. One day we hope to create a place of nature-immersion and spiritual/physical respite for others, likely in the form of a sort of “camping bed and breakfast” where we even provide meals made with the food we grow. I’ve also been learning a great deal about foraging for, and using, wild plants both for food and medicine. Once I’m qualified to do so, I’d like to take what I’ve learned and incorporate it into some sort of program for visitors here. And it’d be AMAZING if we could also give families affected by autism a chance to come here, far away from the overstimulating city environment, and just be completely free to be themselves——a place where parents don't have to spend hours pre-planning in an attempt to avoid socially awkward situations. Because....hey, we get it. We've been there. A LOT. We also know that there is nothing more amazing than to witness our children being welcomed and embraced for who they are inside, rather than being judged for how their bodies happen to behave. It's hard for families affected by autism to find a "safe place" to relax outside of the home. We'd just really love to be that place for people someday.
We welcome anyone who wants to visit and see for themselves that the feathered ladies who produce our eggs and meat are truly happy and healthy, and that our gardens are growing without the use of any chemicals. (Just give us a little notice, okay? Farm life is BUSY, and housework often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. 😬 Just keeping it real. 😂)
(Will presented this sign to us about six months after we moved here. Because autism creates communication barriers for him, the fact that he chose to send us this little message means everything!)