We've been researching and contacting many farms throughout the country about internships and WWOOF possibilities (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). We feel a need to go learn with others who are and have been doing small local farming. Also it would give us a very good taste as to wether or not we really love the farming life or not. We hadn't had much luck because most of the intern positions had already been filled as it is getting late in the season.
We also spoke briefly about our plans to the local couple (Bill and Kelly Parker) who run a small farm on the edge of town here in Gunnison. They recently moved their operation to the Van Tyle Ranch which is over 500 acres at the base of the Palisade cliffs along the Gunnison river. We have helped them out on numerous occasions when they lived 17 miles east of town and have traded a couple of WeatherPORTs for their products. They do raw milk, yogurt, butter, eggs, chickens, cows, pigs, goats and lambs. Their small operation is growing by leaps and bounds because of how close they are to town and the overall demand for local foods. We have become closer friends as they are Catholic and have 3 kids, one of which goes to school with Tabor. We mentioned to them in passing that we were packing up and heading out to go find some full time experience. They encouraged us and wished us well.
Then last Monday morning we got a call from Bill and Kelly with an invitation to come be full time interns for the summer. Wow! We didn't really expect that at all. We told them we would talk about it and get back to them in a day or two. Then we joined them for dinner Wednesday night and talked with them about their plans and how they thought we would be a great fit and addition to the farm. Not only do they need our help but they offered us the opportunity to start our own enterprise at the same time for the duration of the summer. This could include a goat dairy for milk and cheese, garden, bees, chickens and other possibilities. We get to use their land, equipment and everything in exchange for our daily commitment and help. We felt it was on opportunity we couldn't pass up. It couldn't have been better timing and to have them welcome the whole family to participate was exactly what we were looking for. We told them we would be there the next morning to start.
Thursday morning was our first day. Most days we will be working about 2.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the late afternoon. The rest of the day is open for us to work on our own enterprise, do other work, help mom with her projects or whatever else. We have really jumped right in. We are already taking care of of over 250 meat chicks, 45 turkey chicks, 40 piglets, a few hundred egg laying hens, a dozen sheep, 3 goats and also helping with the bottling of milk and cleaning and collecting of eggs. In addition we are in charge of moving the electrical fences around to form small paddocks and the creation of animal shelters. There is also a heard of 100 cattle that we will occasionally be helping out with. Oh and did I mention haying possibly! It will be a great learning experience!
We are committed through the summer to helping them. We will continue our searching and praying about moving out of Gunnison and taking our experience with us to start our own operation on leased land or purchased land.