Being able to serve in this capacity gives me a chance to use so many of the things that I learned at Wheaton, from the creation of ministry plans and philosophies to the ability to preach and lead devotionals that inspire our leaders.Read More
Caleb and I married shortly after I graduated from Wheaton and spent the next eight years traveling wherever the Army took us. We had tossed around the idea of getting out of the military but had not come to a consensus before Caleb left on what would be his final deployment. While serving with 1st Group Special Forces in Afghanistan, he started reading about farming. He called home midway through his deployment and told me that he thought we should consider farming, specifically raising pastured meat and eggs. I was surprised to say the least, but I tried to have an open mind and entertain the possibility.
After further research, prayer, and lots of conversations, we chose to get out of the Army and pursue what was becoming our shared dream. We spent the following two years learning from internationally acclaimed farmer, author and speaker Joel Salatin and his son Daniel of Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. One year ago we struck out on our own and are now in Caleb’s hometown of Jackson, Tennessee. Today, we are proud to serve our community by providing chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and eggs that are both healthy and beneficial to the environment.
One of the greatest joys of farm life has been the ability and freedom to work together as a family. This is an obvious contrast to our experience in the military, where we had little to no interaction with Caleb’s work. Our kids have loved the transition to farming and the excitement of raising all kinds of critters! We also believe that the farm provides a wonderful platform for them to learn hard work, entrepreneurship, patience, and faithfulness; and that’s just a start.
While we are grateful for the decision we made three years ago, our move to the farm has not been an easy one. One of the biggest challenges that we face is the financial reality of starting a business, especially one with significant upfront costs. We have been stretched to trust the Lord in new ways and to rely on Him for everything from the life of our animals to providing customers to purchase our products. The Lord has been patient with us as we learn to trust Him more each day.
Another major challenge has been educating our consumers. In a culture that celebrates and reinforces the concept that cheaper is better, it is an uphill battle to get people to ask the “why’s” about their food choices. “Why is my burger so cheap?” “What does the term ‘natural’ really mean?” And so on. There is a direct correlation between the decreasing price of food and the increased cost of healthcare. Food matters. And the way we grow that food matters. If we began to ask more questions about where our food comes from and the life it lived before it landed on our plate, I believe that we would make vastly different choices.
Amidst the challenges and successes, we are keenly aware of the road that has led us here and all the tools that the Lord has used to prepare us for this season. Our time at Wheaton is at the top of that list, and we share a sense of gratitude for our time there. We believe that Wheaton does a wonderful job at teaching students to think outside the box. Whether it was Caleb’s training with ROTC or my semester abroad with Human Needs and Global Resources ( HNGR), we both felt challenged to go beyond our natural capacity, to improvise, think on our feet, make connections with people, and see it all through the lens of the Gospel. In starting our own business, we rely heavily on those skills and perspective.
Both Caleb and I look back at our time at Wheaton with an almost idyllic fondness, forgetting all the sleepless nights studying and the frigid Chicago winters. But it is the people–the friendships, the teachers, and the coaches–that stick out. It is the group of believers, joining together in pursuit of Jesus. It is the common bond of the Spirit that allows for open dialogue in an academic setting. For us, Wheaton represents a time in our life when we felt safe to ask questions, wrestle, seek guidance, and in the end, be reassured that God is in fact good and faithful and His Word is true.
Capt. Caleb ’05 and Betsy Johnson Curlin ’06 are co-owners of Marmilu Farms in Jackson, Tennessee, where they reside with their four children. Caleb graduated with a B.A. in Communication, and Betsy graduated with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies ( biblical and theological studies / Christian formation and ministry). Photo captions (from top): Margo driving her sisters around the farm; Caleb with a newborn lamb; the Curlin’s second-born, Micah, out for a walk at sunset.
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