A Nurturing Cycle: Stewardship at Gould Farm
When you drive up to Gould Farm, you are greeted by a tall white silo, the dairy herd sunning themselves in the fields, and several utilitarian white hoop houses next to rows upon rows of growing plants. Across the road are our bright yellow beehives. Your first impression is of a working farm.
Sustaining the Farm: Behind the Scenes
What you don’t see at first, as you drive slowly by and up the hill to Main House, are cheese curds being cut in the creamery, bread dough rising in the bakery, and shiitake mushrooms sprouting on logs in the woods. You don’t see our farm team checking on the height of the grass in the pasture before rotating the cows through. You don’t see the garden team saving seeds, or campus crew clearing a fallen tree, or the kitchen team checking on the fermenting kimchi. You don’t see our maintenance team calibrating the biomass heating system or testing the water in our septic lagoons. We are constantly working to maintain the things that sustain us here.
The food and living systems at Gould Farm go beyond sustenance and self-sustainability; they embody the concept of stewardship. We start every day with the belief that caring for the land and animals creates a reciprocal and healing cycle—a cycle where we are nurtured by this place just as much as we nurture it.
Within our community, Gould Farmers strive to find harmony between consumption and production, activity and rest, recognizing food and community as a powerful tools for healing and personal growth. Our goal is to produce as much of our own sustenance as we can, guided by the principles and necessary restraints of stewardship as well as reliance on outside resources.
Each season, we brainstorm ways to lengthen our growing season and maximize the yield of products from our land. We employ the use of greenhouses and cultivate winter crops, press apples for cider, tap maple trees, and incorporate all these products into our bakery and kitchen recipes to be served in the dining room every day.
We understand that healthy soil is the foundation of a flourishing ecosystem, which is why we prioritize soil management, composting, and mulching. By nourishing the land, we create an environment where nature's bounty can thrive.
Sustenance from Unexpected places
Stewardship goes beyond our fields, forests, and gardens. We embrace the value of edible weeds, acknowledging that sustenance can arise from unexpected places. Some staff teach curious guests to identify simple edible wild plants. We foster flower production, recognizing their role in supporting pollinators and enhancing biodiversity. Even our forests are embraced in our stewardship efforts, as we practice forest management, nurturing a biodiverse ecosystem that provides a haven for a rich variety of flora and fauna.
Throughout their time at Gould Farm, guests can witness the interconnection of sustainable practices and the reciprocal relationship between caring for the land and being nurtured by it. Caring for plants, animals, land, and each other becomes a therapeutic outlet—a means to cultivate mindfulness and find solace.
For all of us, tending to the land and animals instills a sense of purpose, restores self-esteem, and fosters a profound connection to the natural world. And sometimes it’s not the popular favorites that enable this connection. Sometimes it’s the unexpected: witnessing the messy process of a cow giving birth, going for a walk with someone on a foggy evening and feeling supported, resting in the shade after a sweaty and tiring weeding hour, or sitting with community members in our wood-fired sauna in the winter and walking back to bed under a dark, starry sky. The opportunities to connect here are sometimes overwhelming!
The Power of Collective Action
By engaging with our community-oriented approach, guests witness the transformative power of collective action. They discover that through daily collaboration and showing up for one another, we build a resilient community. If we each do just a little work, a lot can get done. The bonds forged within this community provide a sense of belonging, foster social support, and lay the foundation for meaningful connections—an integral part of each guest's healing journey and a possible antidote to the isolation of mental illness.
At Gould Farm, stewardship is not just a responsibility or a buzzword; it is an opportunity for personal transformation. Here, the boundaries between caregiver and recipient blur, and the reciprocity of nature is evident.
Finding Well-being in the Ordinary
As we engage in this work together within our therapeutic community, we learn that healing and personal growth can be found in the simplest and most unexpected (and sometimes mundane) of tasks— dumping a colorful bucket of compost onto the heap, overhearing the buzzing bees amidst weeds in the garden, or having a difficult conversation with someone and learning something new. These unforeseen connections remind us that the path to well-being lies not only in the deliberate actions we take and the programming we design, but also in our willingness to embrace the serendipitous encounters that are contained in the expanse of an ordinary day.