of men that live among cattle
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and
mauls, and the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out. "
~ Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
Pam asked me to blog a little more about the Farm where I work, but I am not really sure where to begin, so I guess I will blog about some of the things here that make us unique.
First, our Farm's history:
In the nineteen-teens, the founders of the Farm borrowed $1,000 and made a down payment on a farm in western Massachusetts. Eight people arrived with the founders and quickly discovered that there was a great deal of work to be done at the Farm to make it a livable place. The work and tasks were shared by everyone; others soon appeared, offering their labor in exchange for respite from their own trials and tribulations. (Back in the early days of the Farm there was no distinction between mentally ill persons or social outcasts as they were also thought of then--today we call these persons, "guests.")
Today, the Farm combines clinical practices with valued work and community life, but the original Farm vision remains intact; the Farm maintains a philosophy of believing that every person has something valuable to contribute to the community, regardless of the mental or emotional limitations they may face.
The way that we combine clinical needs of the guests with work and community life is by being a work therapy program, which in this field is rare. Guests come to the Farm with the expectation that aside from having their mental health taken care of (through meetings with Therapists/Social Workers/Medical staff who coordinate meds and therapy, etc.) they will take part in a work program. Work program is vital in the sense that we help the guests learn life skills: managing their illnesses and being able to hold a job, learning skills in specific fields (farming, kitchen, restaurant work, etc.) and also learning to not be isolated in their disease. (The client base we serve covers schizophrenia, schizo-effective disorder, bi-polar disorder and depression.)
The farm is unique too in that it is the first mental health program of its kind in the U.S. But the Farm is also unique in that not only do our guests live in residences here, but the majority of staff and their families do too, making it a true community. Staff and volunteers make a small income here, but what we reap is the benefits of community: 3 meals a day (as well as a stocked kitchen to do your shopping in); fresh vegetables from May-October/November from our own gardens; livestock which provides us with beef, pork, (turkey for Thanksgiving), eggs, milk and cheese; as well as a beautiful landscape: proximity to the Appalachian Trail, many locals trails on and off farm (the Farm has 18 hiking trails), and the ability to get to so many cultural events in this culturally stimulated county we live in.
Here is a pic of one of my favorite Farm trees. Enjoy Spring all!