Super Senior: Paul Stone

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 2:35 PM EST
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ORWELL, Vt. (WCAX) - Paul Stone has walked just about every inch of his 800-acre farm in Orwell.

This week, he’s putting in a few more steps. “I’ve been busy outside taking care of turkeys,” Stone said. “Turkeys are very sociable...They’re talking to you.”

Thirty-eight thousand gobblers at Stonewood Farm will soon become the centerpiece of Thanksgiving meals all over the Northeast.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What is your role here now?

Paul Stone: Ahh, helper.

Stone and his wife, Frances, own the land. Their son and daughter-in-law run the day-to-day operation. This is the busiest week of the year for the family and the Jamaican guest workers processing the birds. “It’s a lot of turkeys,” Stone said.

Paul’s grandson, Nathan, is running the scale. He weighs in on his grandfather’s involvement. “I don’t know what he would do if he stopped working though,” Nathan said.

For Paul, getting into the swing of things is not a problem. Inside the house, there’s a quirky feature -- a swing smack in the middle of the house.

The couple “played together” since 4th grade in Virginia.

Reporter Joe Carroll: So, grew up in the segregated South?

Paul Stone: Yes, It was definitely segregated when we were growing up.

They were considered outliers, supporting civil rights when many white people did not. “It’s just what we believed in -- equal justice for all,” Stone said. He was so inspired, he joined the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. “There’s a picture of Martin Luther King, and I’m right there,” Stone said. “This was a culmination of everything we believed in.”

Frances couldn’t make it because she was home with their three-month-old daughter.

After a stint in the Peace Corps in the Philippines with four children in tow, the couple decided dairy farming was their future. They bought the land in Orwell.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Did you have a hard time adjusting to Vermont?

Frances Stone: The cold.

They say they also got a chilly reception for their liberal views. Vermont a half century ago wasn’t so blue as it is today. Also evolving -- the dairy business. The couple decided turkeys would be their future.

The cows left the barn in the late ‘80s. Of course, it was an emotional decision, but what happened a few years earlier was stressful for the couple. Stone was appointed Vermont Commissioner of Agriculture by then Governor Madeleine Kunin.

“It caused a lot of stress for us. Now, I would say, probably in our marriage, that two years, mainly because of that, was probably the hardest time,” Frances said.

Stone spent much of his time in Montpelier and less on the farm. He says he wasn’t cut out managing people. Farming was in his blood. Kunin agreed.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Frankly, she fired you, right?

Paul Stone: That’s correct.

Stone found peace on his land and the turkey business flourished. Back in the barn, he talks turkey. “Everything is a learning curve -- that’s the fun, that’s the fun part of it,” he said. “I love Vermont. I love this farm.”