It started when I gazed into the eye of an alpaca. A moment that felt like minutes changed my life.

I was wandering the Kentucky State Fair, pushing my one-year-old son Will in a stroller.

My days were spent caring for Will, promoting my newly published cookbook, and caring for my ailing lifelong friend and mentor Annie.

As busy, accomplished, and purposeful as my life was, something else stirred inside.

I had recently survived breast cancer. As a solo mom, I feared death and struggled with feeling rejection from my family and Southern upbringing for keeping my son. Yet I felt a burning desire for something else, a desire I could not articulate let alone fulfill at the time.

Then I locked eyes with an alpaca. Fawn in color, her eyes level with mine as we both stood motionless for an extended moment. She was fuzzy like a teddy bear with a depth and power that took my breath away. When our gaze broke, I gently held my hand up as she gracefully bent her head, the soft hair on her nose barely touching me.

That connection awakened my inner questioning of my life as I had known it. All I could express at the time was that whatever was next would involve alpacas.

I surprised myself and everyone in my family and circle of friends when I announced, “I want to raise alpacas on a mountain top farm.”

With courage I didn’t know was in me, I let go of my fears and trusted. At least for the moment.

Will and I took off to North Carolina, found a mountain, and pursued another way of life. Our venture wasn’t easy.

Bitter winters, mountain lion attacks, and inevitable farm deaths gave this solo mom her fair share of challenges.

And yet what Will and I discovered I could never have foreseen:

A real family based on real connections and farm experiences.

15 years later, Apple Hill Farm is home to more than just a few alpacas and animals for our personal enjoyment. We are a family of 9 kinds of animals, 15 fields, 4 barns and many sheds covering 10 acres of mountaintop land.

We are a diverse group of people and animals who work together, each fulfilling a unique purpose and role.

Our common thread as we welcome you to this special place: Our passion to inspire deep connection between animals and the people right around you.

We are open year-round hosting a number of educational animal experiences, but most people who come to Apple Hill do more than visit a farm. They become part of our family.

The 38-year-old woman whose husband brings her for a tour as an acknowledgment for her tireless work over the past year because she has opened a new business while raising a 5 year old boy.

The 19-year-old college student who loves alpacas and comes for the afternoon to take a break from intense studies and wondering what’s next.

The 67-year-old retired man who brings his children and grandchildren to experience a farm similar to the one of his childhood.

A 55-year-old knitter who stops by for eggs and yarn as she heads to her mountain cabin for a weekend of rest.

But what we all hold in common is a desire for a deeper connection to real life and to who really matters – you, farm, family.