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Sustaining family

story by Emily Kask

Tucked away on a winding rural road in mountainous Madison County, Blizzard Hill Farm is a rich, fertile ground where fruits, vegetables and a few animals thrive and grow, but the most important thing being raised on the farm is the Walden family.

After spending years in Augusta, Ga., and beginning their family there, Mark, 41, and his wife, Jennifer, 39, relocated to Madison County in 2010. At the time, Mark's brother was losing his battle with colon cancer.

"We couldn't come up with a definitive answer to why he (Mark's brother) became sick. All we could come up with was living with stress and eating a lot of processed foods," Mark says. "If we don't take care of the small things, it will quickly unravel," he adds.

The move to Madison County allowed Mark, Jennifer and their sons, Talmadge, 11, and Raleigh, 9, to begin a new life based on sustainability and organic farming.

"The reason we are farmers is for quality of life. It's not about making money," says Mark, who works for Grow Appalachia, which teaches Appalachians sustainable and eco-friendly farming techniques.

Harvesting and canning fruits and vegetables make up a big part of the daily routine for Jennifer and Mark, who sell their produce at the Berea Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Talmadge and Raleigh help their parents prepare the stand for the market – one of several activities the Waldens do together.

Moving to the farm has had another benefit.

"Farm life offered more time for family," Jennifer says.

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Brothers Talmadge (left) and Raleigh wrestle in bed after waking up on Saturday morning before going to the farmers market. They have bunk beds, but choose to sleep together in the bottom bunk most nights.

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Jennifer drives her son Talmadge to Foley Middle School in Berea after taking her younger son Raleigh to Silver Creek Elementary. "I don't like getting to school so early," Talmadge says. "I kind of miss waking up around 7:30 or 8 when I lived in Georgia."

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Raleigh takes a drink from a spout at Climax Spring in Rockcastle County. The Walden family go to the spring to collect jugs of drinking water.

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Jennifer processes a batch of berry jam in her kitchen. She cans and freezes a variety of fruits and vegetables to feed her family.

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Mark hugs his sons. A farmer, he also teaches people how to grow Appalachian food.

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Jennifer helps her son Raleigh with his homework in their home.

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Raleigh rests in the lap of his father, Mark, before leaving for school.

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Brothers Talmadge (left) and Raleigh roughhouse in their front yard in Madison County.