Sunday Profile: Jock Jacober lives life on the land
Attending high school in the 1960s in what was then the fairly rural Denver suburb of Cherry Creek, Jock Jacober came to admire the life the kids from the nearby farm communities had.
“It just seemed to me they had it pretty good, taking shop classes and being in FFA (Future Farmers of America). It all seemed pretty sensible to me,” said the Glenwood Springs resident and co-founder of Crystal River Meats with his three sons, Tai, Forest and Rio.
“Meanwhile, the rest of our dads were driving down to 17th Street every day,” Jacober said of the contrasting work life his own father, Gordon, led as a petroleum geologist in downtown Denver.
“He loved the science side of it, but the business side was corrupt,” he added. “He made a perfectly great living, but I think it took a toll on his soul.”
So, Jock, whose given name as the oldest boy among six siblings is Gordon, eventually followed his own path into the construction and ranching trades, first in the southern Colorado town of Arboles and for the past 21 years in the Roaring Fork Valley.
As for his nickname, he explains that his brothers all have Scottish names and his sisters Irish names, so his mom decided to dub him “Jock.”
“I’m the only jock in the history of the world who never lettered in high school,” he jokes.
rancher by chance
Jacober, 68, was introduced to ranching himself while in college at CU-Boulder when he went to work for an import auto mechanic by the name of Don Colbersen, who ran some cattle and had a small farm on the side.
“His real love was farming, and I ended up spending a lot of time helping him with the hay and the cattle,” Jacober said.
Jacober and his ex-wife, longtime Roaring Fork Valley teacher Francie Jacober, were both “back-to-the-landers.” So, after college they hooked up with one of one of Jock’s brothers, Doug, to start a construction business in Arboles.
They used the money they made building houses to eventually buy some land along the Piedra River and, with some help from Colbersen, ranched there for several years until the savings and loan crisis hit in the late 1980s.
“Cattle prices dropped, and building stopped,” he said. That led to the unfortunate loss of their ranch and a brief stint for Jock in the pharmaceuticals business in St. Louis.
As soon as the economy came back, they wanted to return to Colorado, he said.
At the time, they couldn’t re-capitalize the old ranch in Arboles, so looked instead to the Roaring Fork Valley.
“With four kids (including daughter Sierra), we figured it would be a better place to make a go of it,” Jacober said.
“I’ve been really lucky, I think because I chose early in life that money was less important and that you should do work that’s meaningful to your basic survival,” he said.
His arrival in the Roaring Fork Valley coincided with the start of a major development boom, during which Jacober found a niche as one of the early “green” builders in the valley, focusing on energy-efficient strawbale and other alternative construction methods.
“If we engaged our brains as much as we do our hands, we wouldn’t be building houses the same way we have been since the 1950s,” he says of his frustration that sustainable building methods are still considered alternative today.
“It’s not alternative anything, I want it to be considered mainstream,” Jacober said. “Just like eating grass-fed beef should be normal rather than abnormal.”
Along the way, he continued to keep his hand in ranching, working for the late Bob Perry at his ranch along the Crystal River south of Carbondale.
Once his sons were old enough, they ramped up the construction business and had a good go of it until the economy busted again after the Great Recession in 2008-09 and building slowed to a crawl.
KEEPING IT locaL
So, they quit the construction business, took the money they had managed to save and invested it in a new start-up business that seemed destined for success given a new consciousness around producing, marketing and consuming food more locally.
Today, Jacober remains a partner in Crystal River Meats along with his sons, company CEO Tai Jacober and partners Forest and Rio Jacober, along with partner and company President Tyler Moebius.
They now run about 2,500 head of cattle between Forest Service leases in Coal Basin west of Redstone and in Eagle County, in addition to their main ranch in the San Luis Valley.
“We’re selling about 150 a month, and are looking to increase that to 200 to 250 by the end of the year,” Jacober said.
Tai Jacober says his father has been a huge influence in how he lives his own life.
“He not only introduced me to the lifestyles of construction and ranching, but more importantly has helped guide my social and environmental moral decisions,” he said.
“Jock lives true to his utopian thoughts on how the world should be,” Tai added. “This is driven by a steadfast belief in taking care of the environment in which we live and the entire community in which we are a part of.”
Jacober’s sense of community carries over into his volunteerism over the years on various local nonprofit and government boards and commissions, such as KDNK and Solar Energy International, and for several years on the Garfield County Planning Commission.
“Living consciously for me is a standard, it’s not impossible,” he said. “Community is how we define ourselves, and that sense of cooperation is how to build community.”
Even before his latest foray into ranching, Jacober became involved in the effort to protect the region west of Carbondale known as the Thompson Divide from industrial scale oil and gas development.
That same area is where he now grazes cattle along with several other area ranchers who share his view that several undeveloped gas leases in the area should be allowed to expire and no more leases should be issued.
“The only vested interest I had at the time I got involved with that issue is the interest anyone has in clean water and a food source that’s clean,” said Jacober, who has remained active with the Thompson Divide Coalition.
“If the Thompson Divide leases are developed and it starts looking like the rest of the Piceance Basin, it’s going to be a big mess right here in the middle of utopia,” he said. “This is not the place for oil and gas exploration until it’s the last contingency on earth.”
Jacober resides in the house he and his sons built up Four Mile Road near Glenwood Springs, and has been married for the past 12 years to Lynette O’Kane.
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