Claire & Rusty Orner

Next Big Chapter Volunteer

Claire & Rusty Orner

We found out about the Farm 20 years ago. The executive director of Gould Farm back then, Brian Snyder, came to be our executive director at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). We were lifetime members of PASA and grew within that organization to be educators and business advocates and eventually board members, and found out about the Farm from Brian.

We were looking for opportunities in our next big chapter of life. The location of the Farm was a great fit – we knew the area and our youngest son, Ashton, started attending college in Massachusetts. During this summer of 2020, we signed up to be Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) volunteers – with Gould Farm actually being our second choice (with the Asian Rural Institute in Japan being our first choice).

On December 1, 2020, Japan closed its borders because of the pandemic and on December 8th, Gould reached out and asked if we were still interested in joining the community. It was all extremely serendipitous!

Rusty: In anticipation of this next chapter, I was really attracted to the food that was coming off the Farm – that was very appealing to me. Fresh milk, vegetables and fruit from the garden, maple syrup, pork and beef… local and sustainably-raised food had been our focus for the past 25 years at Quiet Creek Herb Farm and School of Country Living, so that aspect of Gould Farm really struck me. We could continue growing, harvesting, making value-added foods and educating others that food is medicine.

Claire: Gould Farm’s service component met our other goals, as well. Working in a therapeutic setting drew me in. Working together with people side by side has always been a theme of our professional work at Quiet Creek and in our global assignments in Guatemala, Ghana, France, Spain, and Jamaica. Coming to the Farm added a new intentional dimension of building relationships through whole, traditional foods.

Rusty: I’d really encourage couples to consider coming here as volunteers. You can bounce things off one another: ideas and impressions, and work together as a team to bring your skills to the community. It’s a nice adventure to explore together.

Claire: I really like the model of Gould Farm – the clinical side, the work program, the community activities, the mentor/mentee aspect of new people coming to the Farm, and the whole food system component. The value-added aspect, like making kimchi, cheese, and yogurt are part of all that. And the whole composting cycle. It’s a “cradle-to-cradle cycle” , agriculturally speaking, instead of cradle-to-grave. We didn’t come here to change anything, but to enhance and be a part of what’s already going on. This resonates with our values of modeling sustainability in all we do.

We see Gould Farm as a learning community with a strong hub and all the spokes. Not to mention the 700 acres of beautiful woods full of mushrooms, fiddleheads, bloodroot, and wildlife! We love being in the woods every day after work year round.

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