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Volunteer who stayed on as a staff member

Colby Wadel

I found out about Gould Farm because I joined Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) after college. BVS has over one hundred projects, and when I was looking through their booklet, Gould Farm jumped out at me immediately. I was drawn to the Farm because I could tell the organization valued community living, creation care, and mental health recovery– all things I am passionate about.

I spent time watching videos and looking at pictures on the Farm’s website before I made my decision. Seeing the beautiful Berkshire forest, the farm animals, and hearing about Gould Farm’s unusual approach to recovery helped me decide it was the right place for me to do my volunteer work.

I was a full time volunteer at Gould Farm for two years (2019-2021). I originally committed for one year, but after a few short months at the Farm I knew that one year was not going to be enough time. The community is very complex, and after my first year there I could tell there were still many more growth opportunities for me.

Much of my volunteer time was also during the pandemic, so I appreciated the safety and comfort that the community provided for guests, volunteers, and staff during such a stressful period. My Gould Farm experience was the most difficult and the most fulfilling job I have had. Along with the physical farm skills I gained, I also left with a better understanding of my own mental health and personal boundaries.

When my two-year volunteer commitment was up, I felt I could have easily stayed at Gould Farm for much longer. I had fallen in love with the garden, the animals, the forest, and the people. However, at that point I had been living in community for 6 years (4 years in college plus 2 years at the Farm), and I knew I wanted to have the experience of supporting myself and living on my own as an adult. Ultimately, that desire led me to move back to McPherson, Kansas, where I attended college.

It was very hard to leave the Gould Farm community, but I had a job offer and an apartment waiting for me in McPherson, which made for a smooth transition. I am currently working as a library assistant for the McPherson public school district. Even though my current job and lifestyle are very different from Gould Farm, the communication skills I gained during my time as a volunteer have already proven invaluable in both personal and professional contexts.

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