Single mom and cancer survivor Jane Lee Rankin’s engaging, thoughtful memoir, Farm Family, details her experience rising from novice alpaca farmer to accomplished owner of Apple Hill Farm and the inner peace she discovered as a result.
“I’m pregnant. I’m single. I’m thirty-seven,” writes Rankin of the realization in 1998 that she wanted the baby growing inside her, despite objections of others. Not long after that, she found herself looking at an alpaca at the State Fair, feeling that “energy flowed freely between us.” Finding her calling in that “big brown round eye,” she bravely bought a farm in the North Carolina mountains. With a toddler, chickens, four alpacas, a puppy, and a new barn, she began to learn the ways of the land and animal husbandry.
Rankin loved her growing menagerie, but soon encountered the harsh realities of her calling. A mountain lion killed four of her flock, and a Christmas ice storm paralyzed the farm; walking was perilous, but Rankin managed to find and feed her animals as apple branches shattered and fell around her.
As she persevered, Rankin’s love of animals and farming became the tonic that healed childhood wounds. Living with an alcoholic mother (who died when the author was 25) had caused her to become “angry, resentful and rebellious,” she writes. Her critical father’s hurtful words when she dropped out of college at age 19—“When are you going to grow up to be the person you were raised to be?”—haunted her into adulthood.
Happily, Apple Hill Farm eventually became a tourist destination offering animal tours, related classes and seasonal events. “It truly is a blessed life,” concludes Rankin.
Rankin’s clear, rich prose evokes vivid visual images. Her relatable, vulnerable style allows readers a window into the author’s soul as she recounts the challenges and victories of farming.
Farm Family is an enchanting, inspirational read. City folk and farmers alike will relish following Rankin’s journey to healing and success.
Also available in e book and hardcover.