‘Where the magic happens.’ That’s the slogan for Gratidude Ranch, and I can tell you from experience, this place is truly magical.
My wonderful husband wanted to host a summer birthday bash for me – and some of our other June-born friends, but instead of going to a restaurant, he found this hidden gem.
The magic of Gratidude Ranch is just about everywhere at this beautiful Leiper’s Fork spot, in a little nook called Fernvale. The ranch is about 45 minutes outside of Nashville, but so worth the drive. Gratidude Ranch is on about 6 acres of land with a barn, an Air BnB, a creek, picnic areas, campfires and a place to ride horses. There are goats and horses and dogs and so many animals just roaming around, 27 farm pets in all. The ranch is beautiful and picturesque, but that’s not even the best part.
Gratidude Ranch was started by Jason Warner and his partner, deMarco, who moved to Tennessee in 2013. It’s their second baby, the first being S.A.F.E., a non-profit that helps foster children and families in Williamson County. Hearing Jason and his partner talk about SAFE, it’s clear that this is truly their passion, and everything they do on the ranch is to raise money for their passion, helping children. So when you visit the ranch, your incredible experience is benefiting an equally admirable cause.
I got to interview Jason about why he is so passionate about helping homeless kids.
JW: “I was in my early 20’s and I found myself homeless, through that experience really created a passion to want to help other homeless kids when I was in a position to. fast-forward many years, ended up having a successful music career, and through that career really made a platform of teenage homelessness and teenage suicide. So we actually I ended up having twins in 2011 which ironically allotted me time to start this non-profit, because instead of touring we were actually based somewhere and so I started the non-profit called SAFE. SAFE stands for Safe Affirming Family Environment. What we found is the homeless kids that we were serving, and we were serving 60-70 homeless kids a day, we started really asking them questions, and in that conversation we found that the majority of these kids attributed being homeless to aging out of foster care. So it really worked us backwards, saying when you start reaching the homeless demographic, you also realize a lot of them are so far into it that it’s really hard to pull them back.”
NB: So that changed the direction of your non-profit?
JW: “So we said what can we do to prevent the homelessness from beginning? What we found is that when we started offering foster parents a support. Well number one when we started letting the community know that this was such an issue, in Williamson County alone which is where we are based, there are over 100 kids in custody, in state custody, and there’s only 20 something certified foster homes in Williamson County. So they are having to send these kids to other counties, some of them out of state, so we try to be a place where we number 1 educate the community, and number 2 be a resource to those foster families that are certified. We support them through monthly birthday bashes, so we do free birthday parties for foster kids, we do a big annual Easter Egg hunt for foster kids, and we just launched our largest program which is a foster teen camp. We now work with foster teens helping to have a conversation so when they age out they have some kind of awareness for when that happens. The fact is if a kids ages out at 18 it means they’ve never been adopted. There can be a lot of reasons these foster homes aren’t adopting these kids, but the truth is there are foster families who only want to foster they don’t want to adopt.”
NB: It’s a complicated system, and often heartbreaking.
JW: “There are some amazing foster homes out there and unfortunately there are some horrible foster homes where these kids experience just as much abuse and neglect.
To go through life not begin adopted but being foster and then all of a sudden they need support. If these 18-year-olds, when they age out, they can stay in something called EFC, which is extension of foster care. A lot of these kids if they do that they can go to any state college, they can go get a PHD, they can get state medical benefits, but the problem is most of these kids by the time they turn 18 they are so sick of the system, so sick of being in the system they just say they are leaving. And at 18, I don’t know about you, but I definitely wasn’t ready to be on my own. These kids think they can make it but they usually end up on the street or incarcerated.”
NB: So everything you all do at Gratidude Ranch is to support these kids and educate them about their options?
JW: “What we want them to know and with these camps, we let them know even if they don’t want to stay in the system at 18, if you leave, you can come back. Anytime between the age of 18 and 22, you can come back into the system and take advantage of their EFC.”
Gratidude Ranch hosts farm-to-table dinners, birthday parties, school tours and weddings. All the money raised from these events goes to running the ranch and the non-profit.
Y’all know I am all about businesses that give back, so this was right up my alley.
This was probably one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a long time, we had about 15 people piled into a party bus and drove out to Gratidude Ranch. It’s a winding road to get out there, so if you plan on enjoying vino I recommend getting a driver. We got there just before dusk, and the lights around Gratidude Ranch were all lit up, the sun setting behind the barn.
We walked into an adorably decorated and quaint set-up for our dinner party. The food – which is all prepared by deMarco in their home. It’s farm-to-table and it was delicious, I can’t stress that enough. We ate and drank, celebrated with cake and incredible company. We also made it our yearly tradition to celebrate there because it was just that perfect.
And, if you want to attend their big fundraiser and experience all the greatness of Gratidude yourself, their annual Fork & Vine event is coming up, September 28th. Tickets here.
<Disclaimer: As always, this post was not sponsored or paid for in any way.>