We’ve been talking a lot about rest, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting anything done. One of my favorite things to do during periods of rest is to consider transformation and contemplate big changes in my life.
Life is seasonal and so you might be processing a major shift, or preparing for one. We spoke to one of our friends, berry farmer Jay Dunbar about his transition to farming. He speaks beautifully to the excitement, and the setbacks, of choosing a new direction for life.
Tell us what you're up to in life, what is important to you, about your farm, family/friends:
Professionally, I’ve been a bit of a shapeshifter in this life — going from academic and non-profit careers to food and beverage work to what I am now — an organic berry farmer and small-batch jam maker.
Most of these changes have come from a desire to learn new things — to grow and evolve — and with farming I’ve found a place where I’m learning something new all the time. (And growth is the name of the game)
But work isn’t everything — I love time with my friends and family, I love to sing and play music, to explore and daydream.
When did you shift to farming? What inspired this change?
The shift to farming began when I moved to Winston-Salem in 2008. My buddy Eric Jackson and I started raising chickens in the back lot of Krankies Coffee and experimenting with permaculture design concepts with our micro-farm. A few years later we leased his family’s farm in Pfafftown, NC (now FairShare Farm) to continue to study and practice.
I was inspired by many experiences and people as I explored this path, but the real impetus came after attending Slow Food’s Terra Madre in Turin Italy in 2014. I met so many farmers/artisans from all over the world growing food and making amazing products, helping their communities, and preserving traditions. I knew I couldn’t afford to defer my dream any longer.
And I think the artist in me saw farming as a deeply creative expression — connecting and participating with these life-supporting processes — every year feels like a performance and I get to be, if not the director, then at least a stage hand!
Changing your life is always difficult, what was one of the greatest challenges that crossed your path during this journey?
Moving up to Virginia was a big emotional challenge — I knew I wanted to do it, but the thought of leaving the cultural comforts of my Winston-Salem world was scary. I really value my circle of friends and creative collaborators and knew that pursuing this dream was going to involve sacrificing some of that.
Can you describe a moment of fulfillment in your life as a result of the choices you have made?
I think it’s the little things that bring fulfillment for me — in the orchard I have the opportunity to observe so many life processes — it’s a total sensory experience which changes with the seasons. I’m very grateful to feel a part of it.
Of course, there’s also that sense of accomplishment that comes with making a sale or sending out a shipment, and pleasure in seeing someone enjoy our berries or berry products.
Do you have a JE bandana? If so, which one and why?
I’ve worn a bandana nearly everyday since I started farming, but when I put on one of my JE bandanas, I feel a little something extra.
Anything else you'd like to share, or have our readers?
My little piece of advice — When faced with setbacks and disappointments, remember that they are giving you the opportunity to transition to greatness.