By Jenny Dwyer

When I set out on my drive to meet Jenny and Darrin Drake, the owners of Peaceful Pastures, I wasnâ€TMt sure what to expect. Unlike other farms I had visited that were set up for agricultural tourism, Peaceful Pastures is dedicated to producing the finest all-natural, pastured, grass-fed meat—and I knew this visit would offer a completely different perspective into the daily life and passions of a farmer.

After winding around the country roads of Smith County, I arrived at the base of the property. I turned onto the gravel road and the hills unrolled before my eyes, speckled with small moving dots. Packs of lambs, cows and dogs came into full focus as I parked. The uncharacteristic 70-degree temperature set the tone for what I would discover to be one of the most unexpected treasures of Middle Tennessee farming.

Jenny Drake greeted me with a wide grin, outdone only by the rambunctious spirit of her prancing porch dogs. Before heading inside, we walked around the perimeter of the farmhouse and barns that are more than a century old. As I absorbed the sheer breadth of the property, the variety of its living creatures and the infectious spirit of their owner, I realized this would be an interview unlike any other.

“Well the funny thing is, when Darrin and I met, I was a vegetarian,” Jenny began as I started to unpack my computer on her kitchen table. “It was for reasons of humane treatment of animals, but when I saw the way Darrinâ€TMs family raised cattle, it changed my perspective completely,” Jenny said.

How did this animal-loving vegetarian become the owner of a farm that direct-markets all-natural meat? Well, as I mentioned, the story is quite unexpected.

“My parents spent their life trying to get off the farm and I spent my life trying to get back on it,” Jenny explained. “I grew up in a subdivision in Kentucky, but my fatherâ€TMs parents still lived on a rather primitive farm in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Growing up visiting my grandparents, I fell in love with the farm lifestyle in general—the ability to take each day as it happened.”

Growing up on a farm in Indiana, Darrin had a similar passion for farm life. He and Jenny were set up on a blind date while he was visiting her town in Kentucky. Both master degree recipients with a love of animals, it was a match made in heaven…well, eventually.

“When we first met, we were thoroughly unimpressed with each other,” Jenny candidly recalled as Darrin sat in the back office and let out a smiling sigh. “We kind of just looked at each other—he thought I was much too skinny and pale and I thought he needed a haircut and had really fat fingers.”

The two turned the corner thanks to Jennyâ€TMs delicious blackberry cobbler. They first spoke in July, met in August, were engaged by October and eloped on Valentineâ€TMs Day. And as you can imagine, Darrin even managed to change her mind about eating meat.

After they got married, Jenny moved onto Darrinâ€TMs farm in Indiana, a successful beef and dairy goat business, which later grew to include 50 meat-birds. When an opportunity in public health came about for Jenny in Virginia, they packed up all their animals and turned the page to a new chapter. Or so they thought.

Only 18 months later, the current Peaceful Pastures property, which the Drakes had tried to purchase before moving to Virginia, became available again from a timber company that had purchased the land from a five-generation family. The deal finally went through and the Drakes picked up and moved again, this time to their dream farm.

Twenty years later, Peaceful Pastures sells beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey. All of their animals spend their entire lives on pasture. The cattle and sheep are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. The Drakes do not use any pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, GMO feed, animal by-products or soy. All of their products are gluten-free and contain no preservatives or artificial ingredients.

While the farmâ€TMs offerings and delivery style has morphed over the years to adjust to demands and economic limitations, the integrity of the business—why it exists—has stayed constant.

“When we first started this business, our core values were: number one, we would practice the Golden Rule; number two, we would raise animals the way God intended them to be raised; and, number three, we would do our best to keep our products affordable for families,” Jenny said.

The staff at the farm, a humble crew of two additional full-timers, one part-timer and seasonal interns, are treated like family.

“I think the best kept secret of our farm is how much we love and value the people that work for us,” Jenny said.

The Drakes are equally passionate about getting to know their customers on a personal level to best meet their familiesâ€TM needs.

“My favorite aspect of what I do is to help people who are trying to eat consciously and ethically choose what we offer that fits the way they cook and their budget—even if it means they donâ€TMt buy all their meat from us,” Jenny said.

But what brings the Drakes the most peace?

“When we go out onto the farm at sunrise or sundown and listen to the animals—to them stir and chew and live the way God intended them to live,” Jenny said.

And with that, I drove away from Peaceful Pastures, reminded that the unexpected can sometimes be the most blessed path.

Twitter: @PeacefulPasture

Instagram: jennypeaceful