Kristen Gregory: Being UAW-Ford Team Member Helped Kentucky Farming Dreams Come True

May 05, 2023
Kristen Gregory owns and manages Almosta Farm. Click to Enlarge

Ever since she was five years old, Kristen Gregory had dreamed of having her own farm where she would have horses she could ride. Her mother wouldn’t let her get a pet as a child and told her, “When you move out on your own, you can have any animal you want.” 

When Gregory turned 18, her mother – a Ford electrician who retired after 40 years – added her daughter to the lottery system that was used to hire new Ford employees at the time. Five years later, Gregory received the call. With some maternal nudging and years of being reminded what a career with the company could mean, she accepted the role. A second-generation UAW-Ford team member, Gregory began her Ford Motor Company career in 2010 at the Michigan Saline plant where she served as an inspector for Ford Focus dashboards.

When the Saline plant closed, Gregory was presented with transfer options: Chicago or Louisville. “Country was what I yearned for. My whole life, I have wanted horses. I chose Louisville [Assembly Plant] because when you think horses, you think Kentucky.” 

With support from her mom, Gregory transitioned to living in a new city, which proved to be a rough adjustment at first. When Gregory’s manager noticed that she was having a particularly tough day, he encouraged her to connect with the Employee Support Service Program (ESSP) representative at the plant.

Employee Support Services Program (ESSP) — a benefit offered through the UAW-Ford Joint Trust — provides employees with resources to identify and address personal and professional challenges that impact health, wellbeing, or performance. Individuals experiencing such issues can reach out to their local ESSP representative, who will help them connect with professional agencies or private counselors. 

The ESSP representative shared resources with Gregory and helped her register for a specialized program of her choice to help resolve the challenges she was experiencing. Through that program, Gregory was able to connect with other UAW-Ford team members as they identified, explored and supported each other in the various struggles in their lives.  

That was the very first time that I had a taste, as an employee, of the great benefits that Ford provides, and it was really nice to be able to talk to someone who understood what I was going through.
Kristen Gregory

The support helped Gregory renew her focus on what originally motivated her to move to Kentucky: her personal goal to buy a farm. She saved up and bought her place in 2017. 

Named “Almosta Farm” by Gregory, her four-acre slice of heaven is about a half hour from Louisville Assembly Plant. She describes it as “a small piece of property compared to most farms but jam-packed with animals.” In addition to her rescued horse, Beauty, she has two cows (Moodonna and Cowabunga), three goats (Minvera, Betty, and Jellybean), sheep (Horace, Matilda, and Cher), rams (Kyle and Stan), a pig (Frank Furter), and four donkeys (Shamrock, Willow, Spirit, and Harry). 

“Now that I have some of the other types of animals, I’ve learned that they’re just as much fun as horses.”

Another farm fact that surprises visitors: Almosta has a certified tarantula rescue, currently the only one in the northeastern U.S. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she gave presentations at local schools and libraries and has been featured on the news. She hopes to return to educating the public about the creatures soon.

Managing a farm is a learning experience. While Gregory had three pigs in 2022, she is now down to one after learning they were eating her chickens. “You have to learn which animals can coexist.”

Coexistence is, in part, about balance, and Gregory is a champion at finding fulfilment and joy in both the farm and her role at Ford. Chat with her about feeding her animals or working with her paint department team, and it’s obvious she is content with life. Working on the night shift enables her to complete her farm chores before she commutes to the plant. 

While some might shy away from the responsibility of taking care of so many animals prior to heading in to work, Gregory is grateful. 

“The farm doesn’t seem like work to me because I like what I do. It’s not a job when you enjoy doing it,” she said. “I just make sure I stay on a set schedule. Granted, the animals will let you know when you haven’t been out there yet to feed them.”

Her commitment to care for others is visible at the plant, too. Gregory became certified to serve on the Emergency Response Team in 2020. “I wanted to join the team when I first came to Ford. I like to help people.”

Gregory currently works on the polish deck in paint repair where she fixes defects, a task she genuinely likes. “My plan is to retire from the paint department. You enjoy what you’re doing when you like the people you work with – and I like the people I work with. The people make a difference.”