Working farm a dream realized for Montevallo woman

Published 3:14 pm Monday, July 18, 2011

Joyce Darby poses with Lady, a Percheron mare, due to foal sometime in October. (Contributed)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

Ever wonder why there are two separate rows of fencing around the Darby Farm on Shelby County 17 near Montevallo?

Well, the fencing is there to discourage the marauding coyotes and dogs that threaten the very special farm animals.

We learned that and much more when we visited with Joyce Darby.

The fencing is unusual, but the farm owner is most unusual in her excitement about her project.

She came to Montevallo two-and-a-half years ago, after working for many years as a systems analyst for Blue Cross, determined to build the farm of her dreams.

Her enthusiasm for this showplace of organically grown plants and animals is contagious.

Before we left we were ready to tear the nursery-grown plants from our garden and throw out the commercial fertilizer.

Darby showed us around, introducing us to the animals. Each has its own pet name and its own job.

The Nigerian and Nubian goats clear land and donate milk; the chickens provide eggs; the horses and donkeys offer rides, pull and carry; and the lamas and alpacas give their fleece.

“I’m learning to spin, weave and dye,” said Darby, and, “I’m starting to train the llamas as pack animals for day treks. I hope to provide llama treks for family picnics when the weather is cooler.”

We walked through a large barn equipped with solar water-heating, an extremely efficient air conditioning system, compartments for baby animals, and a retail harness room featuring equipment made by the Amish.

Behind the barn there is a large area with all kinds of vegetables in raised beds, flowers and fruit trees. Darby explained that her vegetables and eggs are certified organic and that the animals are raised organically, but because they eat conventional hay, can’t be certified yet.

She also explained that though her farm is income-producing, it is primarily a demonstration farm.

“The purpose of my farm,” she said, “is manifold:  I hope to create quality and safer food for my neighbors. I also want the kids and their families to see the interweaving threads of a farm, how the parts fit into the whole and how we fit into it. I want to encourage the respect for life and the beauty of it.”

The farm’s products are for sale on site every Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

They also can be purchased at the Montevallo Farmers’ Market each Monday from 3-6 p.m. through Aug. 8.

Open Farm Day is the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

For tours at other times, or for information, call 665-4893 or 908-9518. There is a $25 charge for small groups.

Darby is interested in working with schools and groups for visits tailored to their needs.

Catherine Legg can be reached at