Todd Morris and Aaron Ward Ball often laugh about memories created on Family Orchards Farm in Molino.
In 2015, Morris found the property for sale by owner on Craigslist. It was incredibly overgrown, and the remains of a house destroyed by fire were an eyesore, but Morris saw the vision and felt he was just the person to restore the place. He fell in love with the pecan groves, rolling hills and pond on the fifteen acres. When Ball joined the project, they knew they had the work ethic to do it.
“ It’s certainly a labor of love to put up fences and reclaim the land from the weeds and care for over 100animals,” Morris said. “There’s always something inspiring going on to generate healing and restoration. There’s always rebirth, the seasons change, the animal babies. A lamb was born just yesterday that we are calling Baby Bella in honor of your magazine.”
The business partners have found that some of their happiest memories are when they open the gates to the community.
They have also found themselves getting creative when necessary.
“I’ll never forget one event we did. We thought it would be gorgeous weather in September and we invited the entire community. Tia Robbins and Madrina Ciano and all their people and all our friends came. It was105 degrees, and we had no place to keep their little children cool,” Ball recalled. “I thought they were going to pass out and die so we got this idea to drive them to the river.”
Ball laughs remembering Aaron Watson and his wife Kimberly plopping their children into the water to keep them cool.
Morris and Ball also enjoy the different experiences they are providing to their daughter.
“We have a 14-year-old daughter, Ruby,” Morris said. “I wanted to give her this lifestyle in addition to a traditional life in town because of the experiences and the exposure and all the neat things that happen on the farm and around the animals. She’s learned a lot about perseverance and hard work. She’ll bring friends out here that don’t have this kind of life. Everybody loves seeing horses and holding animals they don’t get to see very often.”
Ball and Morris have seen the farm be a healing place for many. Recently, they provided a home to a friend of their daughter. The experience has been a growing one with the addition to their family.
“I think there’s a special quality to this land. We’ve been through hard times in our lives, but we know that this place has been very healing for us,” Ball shared. “And we have a hope and a desire deep down to share it with people who are healing, who might have gone through recovery from issues – loss or addiction or post-traumatic stress.”
When a horse named Trouper was born on the farm, it was their first experience having a baby horse and it didn’t go very well. There were lots of complications in the beginning during the pandemic when everything was shut down. They pulled together as a family to raise this horse and gave him a chance. Now he’s three years old and thriving.
Out of a bad situation, there was a good outcome, including an uplifting video with over 68 million views on The Dodo YouTube channel bringing joy to millions around the world.
Attorney Fred Levin, a close friend and business associate, visited the rural sanctuary often during the months of COVID restrictions.“ The week that Trouper was born, he couldn’t stand, and we had to literally hold him up to feed him with a bottle for four days and nights,” Ball said. “Fred and his consigliere, Philip Morris, drove out here in the height of the pandemic. They would pull right up to the fence and look out the window and look at the foal and check in on him.”
Trouper’s recovery created hope and joy even during quarantine. Healing and restoration transcend the physical location of the farm through Ball’s video production business, Media Tech Direct.
“My heart for capturing great stories and documenting the truth about people’s lives is easy to do hereat the farm,” Ball said. “I’ve shot a number of videos and documentaries with Fred Levin, nonprofits and captured other rare conversations that just sounded better with a peacock crowing in the background.”
Morris adds that they jokingly call themselves The Nut Farm and explains how they have expanded in addition to other businesses.
“We raise and sell sheep, horses, chickens, eggs, peacocks and do horse boarding,” Morris said. “We’ve started to promote my line of pickles and anut mix Aaron created. All this can be purchased at our little shop at 1737North Palafox or online.”
If the farm work isn’t enough, Morris has owned a highly respected Pensacola salon, The Parlor Room, for almost 21 years.
“We’re not from big city life,” Ball said. “We really come from hard work; we’re trying to do things with excellence.”