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In Rural Union County, Web Designer Finds New Life As Free Range Farmer

It's 6:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, and Jeremiah Mathews is finishing his second cup of coffee and preparing for the weekly task of rotating thousands of chickens around the farm.

The 29-year-old has only recently become a full-time organic farmer, walking away from his career as a web designer.

"I sat at my job and was like, ‘Is this it? Is this the climax of my journey of 22 years, that I’m going to sit at this desk and do work for someone else?' I think there’s more," he said.

Together with his wife, Beth, Mathews left Jacksonville for Raiford, Fla. in Union County, where they run their 240 acre organic farm. The stress of owning 9,000 chickens, goats and cows can be overwhelming at times, but it has brought them closer together.

"I think I learned after sitting at a computer for 50 hours a week, that it's better to be stressed all the time, this overwhelming stress, than it is to be bored," he said.

Beth Mathews quit her job in pharmaceutical sales to focus on the farm. They work together from dawn to dusk managing the farm.

"I think this farming venture has really affected our relationship in a positive way in that we've been through so many challenges and we still love each other and love working together." she said. "It's nice to go through some of these challenges and come out still loving the other person."

They have to constantly overcome new hurdles, but are happy living off the land and hope to raise their family there.

They want to eventually grow fruits and vegetables along with their livestock so they can live solely off their own land.

Looking to the future, Jeremiah Mathews said, “I feel like if my kid doesn’t understand how to go to the grocery, I feel like I have done what I wanted.”

Meghan Mangrum is a reporter and editor with WUFT News. She can be reached at 352-392-6307 or news@wuft.org.