Meet Your Neighbor: Ashley Bernal is deeply rooted to Fruita
Special to the Free Press
Denise: How did you come to live in Fruita?
Ashley: My family has lived in the Fruita/Loma area for several generations. My great grandpa, Joseph Bernal, came here from the San Luis Valley to farm. I grew up on the family farm in Loma, and my father and my brother still farm here. The primary crop on our farm is wheat, which is shipped by train to ConAgra in Commerce City. When I was growing up, I would work on the farm during the summers, doing everything from paperwork to cutting hay. I attended Loma Elementary, Fruita Middle School, Fruita Monument High School, and Colorado Mesa University, where I graduated with a major in Mass Communications in 2014.
Denise: What was it like living on a farm?
Ashley: I learned the value of hard work. I also developed a bond, a spiritual connection, with the land. Living on a farm strengthened my family ties. Not only does it take all of us working together to run the farm, but there is a sense of history. My ancestors wanted this land for their family, and we still work the land to maintain their dream. My grandfather, now in his 80s, still lives in the house where he was born and he and my grandmother brought up their eight children.
Denise: Have you ever lived away from the Fruita area?
Ashley: I attended the University of San Diego for three-and-a-half years after I graduated from Fruita Monument. I also attended the Universidad de Sevilla in the south of Spain (in Sevilla) for six months, where I took courses in Spanish including gender studies, photography, history and Spanish literature. I came home January 2014.
Denise: What do you like about living in Fruita?
Ashley: I like the friendliness and the sense of community. I like going to the grocery store and always running into someone to talk to. I really missed that in San Diego. People are so friendly here, even if you don’t really know them. Everyone seems so genuine and caring. My roots are really deep here. I have one brother and two sisters, and about 30 first cousins, and almost all of them live in the area. Even the ones that move away usually end up coming back.
Denise: What do you do now?
Ashley: I still work on the family farm, and I also do some freelance photography. I work at the Copper Club tap room in Fruita two nights a week. A couple of years ago, I worked at the Colorado National Monument in the Education and Interpretive Division, and I will be working there again for six weeks this summer.
Denise: What do you like about the Monument?
Ashley: Colorado National Monument is such a beautiful place; I never take it for granted. I grew up hiking the trails, and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work there and tell others about this wonderful resource in our own backyard. I love being an ambassador and representative for this area. I get to teach and to learn all the time. This summer I will be working with children, and my goal each day is to give each child a wonderful park experience. I want them to go away with happy memories, and I hope they will return.
Denise: What are your future plans?
Ashley: I would like to work at a contemporary art museum, perhaps in Denver or Boulder, to do digital marketing. Eventually, I plan to go to graduate school. I hope to stay in-state, maybe attend the University of Denver, but it depends on finances. I also want to travel. I’ve traveled to 11 countries and all over the U.S., but I would like to visit South America. I’m not sure what my long term plans are, or where I’ll end up, but my roots will always be in the Lower Valley.
Denise Hight is co-author of Images of America: Fruita, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2011. She is currently working on another book for Arcadia, Legendary Locals of Fruita, which will be published in 2016. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Roaring Fork Schools volunteers who have already completed a comparable background check through an approved entity would be good to go.