Longtime Paonia organic farmer Jack D’Orio passed away on Oct. 8, 2019 in Las Vegas at age 77.
He was born John “Jack” Charles D’Orio in Aurora, Illinois on August 28, 1942 to Bernice and John D’Orio. He is survived by his sisters, Cindy Serrano of Sacramento, CA, Jane Tappan of Cameron Park, CA and JoAnn Feil of Duncan, Oklahoma, their spouses, seven nieces and nephews, stepchildren Jeffrey, Jay and Jill, their children and Sheila Day, his loving partner of 4 years.
Jack received a B.S. degree from UC Davis and a M.S. from the University of North Carolina. He was a 4-H counselor and a Farm Advisor for Inyo and Mono counties in Eastern California. He then moved to Colorado and spent years farming land owned by others and working as a crop extension agent for Colorado State University while tending his own crops, originally in Eagle County.
One of Jack’s greatest achievements was starting Hillside Acres, a large “small” organic farm in Paonia, Colorado before organic was in vogue. He started with a 10 acre lot of mostly horse pasture and created a thriving and self-sustaining organic farm, which is no easy task. Facing the reality of not only having to perform the daunting task of farming but also selling spectacular produce, Jack in turn spearheaded the Aspen farmers market in the late 90’s with the belief that “a lot of little guys are able to get up and do something.” As grandad of the Aspen market, through the years, Jack’s produce stand always seemed to have a long line of people, half of which you wonder if people grabbed a bag of his deliciously sweet carrots just to socialize with him. He had a knack for making people smile. He felt he provided his customers, including many local Aspen restaurants, with the best produce they have ever experienced due to his scrupulous farming practices. His knowledge of science, gardening and mechanics coupled with his tireless work ethic, innate kindness, cleverness, laid back attitude and creativity blended together to create a near ideal small farmer prototype.
Jack saw life a bit different from the normal status quo and successfully created a space that just felt special. Hillside Acres attracted workers, volunteers and visitors from all walks of life. One such was Tyson Schneller who moved onto Hillside Acres from a city with zero farming background and was mentored by Jack for nearly a decade.
After working himself into the ground at seasons end he would take his RV out west usually to his favorite spot, Death Valley, where he would write short stories and poetry, listen to music, and pick on his guitar whenever the inspiration was there. He enjoyed his surroundings, meeting new people, and when called upon, would use his skills to help others. In 2014, when Jack retired from farming, it was no surprise he became a full time motorhome traveler. While on a trip to Death Valley, Jack met a lovely lady who enjoyed the same outdoor adventures. Jack and Sheila traveled together to the Sierra, Death Valley and other National Parks until his death.
Jack will be dearly missed by many. To honor his memory, grow some veggies, pick some flowers, munch a carrot and remember his old adage, “Buy local and know your farmer.”