Stuart Moore lives in northwest
Williamson County, and is a
student at Lipscomb University's
Institute for Sustainable Practice, in
addition to being a writer and
advocate for planet-friendly

Back                                                                                                                                              September 2012
Adam and Sue Turtle live in Summertown, Tennessee. They live simply. They work hard on their 48-acre farm raising
crops to eat and to feed their fowl and rabbits. Then they eat their fowl and rabbits. The farm is one big closed loop.
Sustainable living demands this.

Nothing is wasted. Even feathers shed or plucked are composted. Nothing is wasted. The large garden is fortified to
repel any competitors. Being at the top of the food chain has its privileges, and responsibilities. It is the responsibilities
that concern the Turtles most.

They cultivate food to survive, but just as importantly, they cultivate their minds, hearts and souls to thrive. In 1981,
they founded
Earth Advocates Research Farm. When asked, what specifically are you attempting to do here, Mr.
Turtle responded, “Trying to be an advocate for the earth. I’m trying to learn what constitutes good stewardship. How
do we implement it?  How do we share it?  How do we infect others with it?  There is no simplistic answer.”
Like all couples that live and work together, Adam
and Sue Turtle have worked out their important and
separate roles to create a seamless existence. It
appears to suit Sue just fine to let Adam do the
talking, something he is supremely suited for.
Thoughtful and articulate, exceptionally well read,
and passionate about life on planet Earth makes
Adam the perfect front man for all they achieve and
convey to anyone interested in learning from their
vast experience.

Adam fell in love with Tennessee in 1950. He was
nine. He didn’t stay too long, because he was on a
summer camp trip. The return took 20 years and
permanent residence another seven. He spent his  
winter living in a cabin outside of Sparta without electricity or indoor plumbing. Living primitively for many years
conditioned Adam to the rhythm of the seasons.

“What I was accruing was insight, understanding, skills and appreciation,” says Adam. From 1979 until 1991, Nobody’s
Mountain was home. It was in 1991 that he and Sue purchased their Summertown farm. That was the first piece of
ground that Adam ever owned. “We bought a dead school bus, built an apartment in it and lived in it four years while
we built the house in our spare time.” Adam can build most anything, and he recognizes the interconnectedness of
most all things.  
"The minute you separate 'me' from the universe,
you are estranged by definition ... "
The Turtles are well versed in the principles of permaculture, which they apply to their farm. In 1981,Adam attended
the second permaculture workshop held in this country. He is no Johnny-come-lately to anything.

For instance, bamboo is recognized as an excellent renewable resource for construction and myriad other uses; the
shoots are edible in early spring and high in protein “I started growing bamboo in ’79. Now I am one of maybe half a
dozen world authorities on temperate bamboo, because I’ve spent 33 years studying it. I’ve grown over 300 kinds. It’s
the most useful group of plants on the planet, within some climatic parameters. Anything that can be done with other
forms of wood can be done with bamboo,” Adam shares. The Turtles actually grow many different species of plants—
enough to list in three notebooks—that they sell or give away. It is all part of the research that fuels their passion for
sustainable living and nurturing the planet.

In 1969, while motoring on a mountain road on his motorcycle in the Catskills a deer landed in his lap. Three months
of rehabilitation consisted of doing nothing but recovering. “I couldn’t read, I couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t drive or work.
It was forced meditation. All I could do was reflect on things, and I came away with some conclusions,” shares Adam.

Those conclusions required years of trial and error living that made him the human being he is today. “I set out to
discern what constitutes good stewardship and I realized early on there are no teachers. There are no schools. There
are no books that answer the question. There are many (sources) that contribute. Sustainability is non-linear.
Sustainability begins with attitude. So my first advice to people is, if you have never experienced a vision quest, go on
a vision quest. Find out who you are! What’s dear to your heart? Then you have a solid foundation on which to build
a life. If you don’t know who you are, you are bouncing from one crisis to another. Building consciousness is always
Job One. It has to be Job One or you are going to screw up. Hurrying is what you do just before you screw up,”
declares Adam.
There was more to his philosophy. “The minute you
separate 'me' from the universe, you are estranged by
definition, and therefore, fearful, because you don’t have
the security of participation. I am part of the universe.
What do I have to fear? Nothing! The only thing in my
entire life I’ve ever been scared of is my ability to screw
up, because I am very familiar with it! The concept of
sustainability is rooted in materialism and it implies
magical thinking to create a static condition that can last
forever. There is no such animal. Human beings … their
greatest asset and simultaneously their greatest liability
are that they are capable of believing anything,
frequently in the face of overwhelming evidence to the
contrary. We are the only species on earth that can lie to
ourselves. We are constantly supposed to be challenged
and winnowed. How else can any system, any system,
persist? Sustainability requires reflection. I live an extremely nuanced life. What if the purpose of life is to experience

Adam and Sue Turtle know how to live. They have lived both with little and with abundance. They give freely of
themselves to the universe and the universe gives back. They are neither young nor old but simply are. “I don’t
either want to live nor want to not live. I want to give a worthy account of myself while I live. Duration is not an issue.
Quality is,” declares Adam. And he means it.
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