Written by Madison Van Horn
What do 75 abandoned chihuahuas and a blind alpaca have in common? They have each been rescued and cared for by Maryann Marsh, owner of TMMA Farms and Sanctuary.
About 40 miles outside of Chattanooga in Trion, GA, sits TMMA Farms, a safe haven for over 150 different animals, including llamas and alpacas. From a baby cow with a birth defect, to homeless horses, to special needs camelids, Marsh cares for them all.
Dressed in cowgirl boots and holding an injured chicken as she nursed him back to health, Marsh said her impact among the llama and alpaca community is just as important to her as it is to the animals. “Alpacas and llamas, I think, teach us just as much as we teach them,” said Marsh.
With over 20 years of experience in the industry, owning camelids (mammals of the camel family) and other livestock is not just a hobby for Marsh, it is a lifestyle. “When I met my first llama and my first alpaca, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “We just started out with two and then it grew from there. It’s not a job, it’s an experience.”
The farm has a magical charm to it, with cicadas chirping in the distance, farm dogs roaming the pastures, and livestock with all types of backgrounds. And the farm’s magic doesn’t stop there. According to Marsh, her camelids have a sixth sense for gravitating towards those who need it most.
“During our events and open houses, there’s always that special person or child and they could have physical issues where they need a wheelchair or a mental issue that we may not even be aware of, but something might be a little different,” said Marsh. “I guarantee you 100% that these camelids have a sixth sense for that. They will go right towards that person.”
Last year at the farm’s annual Christmas With the Alpacas, Marsh had the incredible opportunity to connect her disabled alpaca Sampson with a child who could truly empathize with him.
“Sampson is blind and he met this blind little girl,” said Marsh in a reflective tone. “He normally does little jumps and he can sometimes knock over a little kid because he doesn’t know his own size, but he was keenly aware that she was different and if an alpaca can tip toe, he did. He barely touched the back of her head and kind of took her around his pasture. It’s those moments that we know we are doing what we need to do here.”
Marsh certainly has a passion for connecting people with her “babies,” as she lovingly refers to them, and her goal is to continue educating the public about how special owning camelids can be.
“We teach about the farm, raising alpacas, livestock, and the responsibility of owning animals. If we can make a child say ‘I want to be a farmer when I grow up,’ that’s the most rewarding and that’s why we do what we do,” Marsh said.
In addition to events like Christmas With the Alpacas, group tours and off-site educational events, the farm also has planned to premiere its first annual Night at the Sanctuary, which will be a ticketed black tie event to raise money for the future of TMMA Farms.
“The funds that we will get for this event will be able to expand our pastures for more rescues and also expand our walking areas,” said Marsh. “One day we would love to have the farm set up so that you can just go through the farm at your leisure and visit with the animals. We want it to be a magical place for people to visit. We have a lot of big dreams.”
Meet the Storytellers
Mark Drinkard – Assistant Editor
Mark Emanuel Drinkard is a Multimedia Producer at UT Chattanooga pursuing Communications. He specializes in videography and video editing. His passion for helping others drives his lens to frame the unnoticed voices of the community, which can be seen in stories such as “Legacy of Grief.” His work also extends to youth in need, and he has worked as a Photography Supervisor at a resident camp in Colorado. Reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Madison Van Horn
Madison Van Horn is currently studying Communications and Political Science and works as Features editor for The University Echo. Van Horn is experienced in writing, performing, and serving as a leader. While in leadership, she directed a fundraiser that raised over 30k for the prevention of child abuse. Van Horn has a passion for highlighting local people and businesses in the Chattanooga area through storytelling. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Maggie Weaver is a photojournalist and performer based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has over a decade of theater experience and uses her leadership and artistic skills to tell stories about the human experience and raw compassion through her camera lense. Her experiences working in leadership with youth community theater camps continues to inspire her to pursue new stories that bring the community together. To contact Maggie, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Molly Bowman is a senior Photography and Media Art major at UT Chattanooga. Her work has been published within Strike Magazine, where she has served as art director for 2021 and she is a recipient of the Michael Connally Memorial Award. Molly demonstrates high levels of commitment in everything she does in the community, and has a unique, artist approach to storytelling. You can get in touch with her at email@example.com and on Instagram @mollybowmanvisuals.