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Marley Farms offers animal adventures

Nestled within the city limits of Elba at 2536 Hickman Ave. lies a hidden gem, an extraordinary farm full of life. The captivating sanctuary serves as a haven for both children and families, offering a variety of experiences from a traveling petting zoo to farm visits.

Home to many species of animals, children and adults alike find delight and comfort in the company of the gentle creatures.Two preschool girls scratch under the chin of a patient and curious camel

The farm, owned by Carrie and Jamie Whitworth, started as a heartfelt tribute to their faithful GermanShepherd, Marley. The property has since blossomed into a beloved home for a variety of animals including a camel, sheep, llamas and rabbits.  

What began with the purchase of three animals, Shaggy, Sallie Mae, and Teddy, was just the beginning of the journey. Marley Acres, now home to 50 animals, is a bustling hub of life.

Since a humble beginning, Marley Acres continues to expand and evolve.  “We keep adding pastures and clearing more land,” Whitworth noted.

Each day brings a range of responsibilities that need to be completed. Feeding and watering the animals,maintaining the barn, and taking care of the stalls are the essential tasks. The Whitworths emphasize the important of ensuring the health and well-being of each individual animal.

Beyond the day-to-day operations, Marley Acres has become a place of community engagement andcelebration. Opening its gates to the public this year, the farm began a new chapter.

It first functioned as an educational space open for preschoolers introducing their young minds to the wonders of the farm. Marley Acres provides an interactive venue for events and parties with its petting zoo. A visit to the farm grants guests the “opportunity to see animals you wouldn’t see every day,” Whitworth said.

Now, the Whitworths have added “farm days.” These are tours of the farm with up-close animal encounters, with the next tour scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19. Tickets are available here

The Elba Public Library recently recognized the educational opportunities offered at Marley Acres. With itsdiverse array of animals, the farm was an ideal venue for the summer reading kickoff event.

“Animals are always a hit,” library director Jennifer Amlong said. “It was an outreach event. Kids who knew about Marley Acres were made aware of library programs and vice versa,” she added.

While the farm’s followers extend beyond the local area, Whitworth said more and more people are discovering the farm.

As for the future, the Whitworths envision Marley Acres as more than just a retirement plan. “It will be part of my daily adventure,” Whitworth said.

As a Living Democracy student in Elba, I’ve had an opportunity to learn and grow as I help out on the farm.Mikailie Caulder holds a sheep while it is sheared

From participating in sheep shearing to helping administer vaccinations, each experience taught me a valuable lesson. Shearing the sheep and rams has been the most memorable experience of my time in Elba thus far.

Before this endeavor, I had never witnessed shearing in person, let alone tried it myself.

With the guidance of Jamie Whitworth, it was a learning experience for all involved. I soon realized that shearing is an art requiring patience and precision.

With the sheep lying on their backs, the tireless process began. The hum of shears that followed the natural contours of their bodies filled the air as the wool was shorn.

Bradley Chapman, another local helper in the process, eagerly embraced the opportunity. He did most of the grunt work, wrestling the rams and sheep to get them into the perfect shearing position. Chapman described shearing as “a very exciting opportunity.”

He was quick to take initiative in learning the technique. Chapman said he enjoyed opportunity to “see what farm life could be like.”

Ensuring the safety of the animals is always a top priority on the farm.

Precisely trimming the wool and making sure the animals were always comfortable helped the process go smoothly.

I learned about the art of sheep shearing, but also a lot about myself. Marley Acres, a place of opportunity,submerged me in the farm life. With the help of the Whitworths, I was able to discover my true passion for the animals while learning how to properly provide care for them.alpacas and a baby cow smile for the camera

I am grateful for the countless lessons and opportunities provided by Marley Acres. They have immersed me in a world where passion and purpose intersect.

Tags: Elba

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