Very often we get asked, what brought you to farming? How did you end up in Paonia? The story starts with us individually finding our passions and ending with us finding our home here together. Let's start with Mr. Gray: Raised in the suburbs of Phoenix, with no ties or history of farming in the immediate family, I initially started college at Arizona State University with goals to become a high school English Teacher. On a whim, I left Arizona with nothing but a backpack and a car and drove east with an old friend. We left without a plan, but with bright eyes towards what was to come.
My friend, Danny, heard about a program called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and we gave it a shot. The first destination was in Florida, a first year farmer that called his land "Back to Earth". We spent six months haphazardly throwing seeds into the ground, clearing brush to create room for gardens and meeting people also in search for something more. Danny and I then continued our search into working on a farm with livestock in Montana and Idaho. We spent three months on a large-scale, 800 ewe ranch learning about animal husbandry. We stayed up late nights taking care of newborn lambs, cleaning out pens and eventually herding sheep.
After just short of a year traveling around different farms, we returned to Arizona to finance this new found dream of one day owning our own farm. After returning to the hustle and bustle of Phoenix, working several part time jobs and trying to save up money, we did a little research on educational farming programs and found The Living Farm in Paonia, CO. I put in an application for their long term internship program, visited for a weekend and suddenly we were on the road once again. We participated in The Living Farm's internship program, which transitioned into Paonia becoming my new home.
My wife joined me a year after I moved to Paonia and together we purchased the former intern house along with about 2 acres from the Gillespie family. We are now proud to say we have begun our dream of farming with pastured poultry, vertical strawberry towers, a raw goat milk dairy and Chewy the farm dog.
Mrs. Gray helps with the farm, but also has her own passion that she has been able to continue on here:
I moved to be with Jacob in May 2014, before we got married in September. I was hired as a Special Education Teacher at Delta Middle School for Significant Support Needs students. I continued my studies at ASU and before graduation, I visited Paonia enough to fall in love with the area as well. I waited for an opening for special education teachers in the area, and once the position was posted for Delta Middle School, I applied right away. I flew up for the last time for an interview, and was hired a week later. Once I graduated, Jacob and I drove up from Arizona and I officially made Paonia my new home as well.
Now I spend my days with my severe needs middle school students and special education team. I then come home to our little farm, helping with our animals and learning what it means to be a farmer's wife. As a young couple, new to the North Fork, Delta County area, we are finding a strong sense of community and home with my teaching and our farming endeavors.
We hope that this site and blog brings new information and resources to those in our community. Our goal is to produce quality, healthy, sustainably grown food here in the Western Slope. This will be our third season with broiler chickens and strawberries, and first year with the goats. Please stay tuned for updates, stories, trials and tribulations, as well information on how to access our products!