HANOVER COUNTY — For two men who served time in prison, the road to reentry led them to White Oak Farm on Ash Cake Road in Hanover County.
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Richard Bartole and Ronnie Nuckols both served part of their sentences at State Farm Work Center, working in the State Farm Dairy. Both now have jobs with Thomas E. Stanley and Son’s Dairy. Joel Stanley oversees White Oak Farm. He hired Richard Bartole nearly six years ago. The New Jersey native had never seen a cow up close until he arrived at State Farm. When he arrived at White Oak Farm, he brought with him a wealth of dairy farming experience. Bartole had an immediate impact on the dairy farm including the care of the animals.
“When I came here, it was like riding a bike. I never forgot,” explained Bartole. “Most of this herd I raised from babies.”
Joel Stanley admits that when he hired Bartole, there were some initial concerns about hiring an ex-offender.
“But once he got here,” explained Stanley, “and I realized he picked up a whole lot and they really taught him well, it wasn’t so hard getting the next one in.”
The next one was Ronnie Nuckols, who arrived at White Oak Farm shortly after his release in 2018.
“They said they had a good man over at State Farm that really knew how to operate equipment and could feed,” added Stanley. “He jumped right in and wasn’t scared to work. We did not hardly have to train him at all which is good because we do not have a lot of time to train somebody. The very next weekend he was feeding cows by himself.”
Bartole and Nuckols work together, ushering nearly 200 dairy cows into the parlor each day. They also clean and maintain the sheds and feed storage areas among other tasks. The opportunity at White Oak has given both men a firm foundation on which to stand as they look to create their own pathways in society.
“The 29th of April, I started my schooling doing all of my online classes to get my Dairy Science degree,” added Nuckols.
For the Stanley family, hiring two ex-offenders has proven to be a winning decision, providing them with the skilled and experienced workers they desired but had found it increasingly difficult to find.
“I really need and depend on somebody who has got the knowledge and the background to help me carry it on to the next generation,” said Stanley. They deserve a second chance and we’re happy to give it to them.”