Timberlake Earth Sanctuary is a place for gatherings and connecting with Nature, a land stewardship project, and an outdoor wedding venue situated in the piedmont region of North Carolina. Here we carry the vision of healing the human-earth-divine relationship by living in accordance with principles of interdependence.
We strive to be a safe space, live simply, act responsibly, create beauty, and experience the wonder and magic of the living world.
Timberlake is a place where people come to be inspired, to renew their spirits, and to remember we are all part of One Earth Community.
Boyd and Carolyn Toben purchased Timberlake Farm in 1967 as a way of exposing their children to woods, lakes, pastures, and farm life. Although they had no previous experience in land stewardship, they longed to raise their children in a place where they could retreat from 20th century consumer culture and, as a family, connect and develop a relationship with the earth. From the very beginning, Timberlake was a sanctuary for the family.
Over the years, the family’s vision for the land evolved. Restoration efforts were undertaken. Fences were built, and roads were added. The farmhouse was completely renovated, and a three-acre pond was excavated. A four-mile trail system was constructed with bridges, overlooks, and benches. There were encounters and adventures with creatures of all kinds as the family shared hardships and struggles, triumphs and joys. Little did they know, as they were shaping the land, the land was shaping them.
Following Boyd’s death in 1999, the family began understanding how fully their relationship to the earth had transformed them. The seed they planted in their own family by intentionally engaging in a relationship with the natural world was expanded in 2000 when Carolyn, inspired by Thomas Berry, author of Dream of the Earth, cultural historian, and a dear friend, created an experiential nature program at Timberlake. Extending an invitation of Earth Connection to children in local schools, or other groups, Carolyn founded a non-profit called the Center for Education, Imagination, and the Natural World. The Center’s mission was to create programming and practices for children, teachers, schools, and families that provided direct, personal experience with the natural world. Then, in 2001 they made a commitment to put the entire 165 acres into an easement with the Conservation Trust of North Carolina (CTNC) to protect it in perpetuity from the ravages of overdevelopment that they were witnessing all around them.
The 2008 recession changed everything. A serious decline in financial resources forced the Toben family to look into alternative revenue sources to continue the work of caring for the land. Staying true to their vision of bringing more people into a sacred relationship with the earth, the family decided that a wedding business was a sustainable solution.
Our first wedding was held in 2012; we’ve now been hosting these important life events for over 10 years. Basing our wedding practices on Thomas Berry’s understanding that “relationships are the primary context of existence”, a wedding here on the land provides an opportunity for the couple, family, and friends to experience this sacred rite of passage surrounded and lovingly embraced by the natural world.
The year 2020 brought even more changes! To further the work of healing the human-earth-divine relationship, the barn and hayloft were completely renovated to create a warm and welcoming retreat center. The addition of 13 platform tents provides expanded overnight accommodations. This new space, called Timberlake North, offers opportunities for additional nature programming and allows special groups or wedding guests to enjoy extended time on the land to deepen their connection with the earth and each other.