Forty-five Years of Stewardship: Bob Rausch
Much the way the forests help to hold the memory of an area through their old stone house foundations, buried artifacts, and carbon capture, institutional memory and tradition are often held by a handful of individuals. These folks invariably come to hold that legacy through their vision, commitment, work ethic, and sheer longevity with the organization. They become the roots of a place and are often referenced when speaking about the present, past, and future. At Gould Farm, names that may spring immediately to mind are Will and Agnes Gould, Eleanor Goodyear, Harriet Phillips, Rose “Roma” Foreman, The Rev. Hampton E. Price, Kent Smith, the Colts, the McKees, the Burkharts, the Stuckers, and Bob Rausch.
A 45-year serving staff member, Bob Rausch is very much a part of the landscape of Gould Farm. Bob cites the pull of community and “people who take investment in what they’re doing” as the reason that he’s stayed on. “When I came, I was 31 years old. Prior to that, I’d moved around a lot. The Farm felt like home and even now, at midweek meetings, I find myself melting into that sense of home and relaxing. There’s something therapeutic about community life: work, place, and people. I never really thought about going anywhere else. There’s a lot of support.”
A 1960s graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a degree in biology and a minor in psychology, Bob later obtained his master of education degree through U-Maine before serving in the Army for 2 years, stateside. He held a variety of jobs following the army, but always returned to the idea of working in nature – crediting his upbringing for his love of the outdoors. His father took him on fishing and hiking trips, and Bob said he “fell in love with my home town [of Cumberland, RI – then much more rural]—through exploring the area.”
One of his first jobs out of the service was working with Nature’s Classroom at Potters Place in NH. He worked there for two sessions, living in a community setting. Of the experience, Bob shared: “I found it very exciting working with children in the out of doors,” fondly remembering taking the campers on day hikes up to the Mount Kearsarge fire tower and the construction paper thank you cards he received from the students at the end of each session. During his next job as a teacher at a small private school in Claverack, NY, Bob also made it a point to engage the students in outdoor pursuits, building an on-site garden to integrate into the curriculum and activities of the school.
Bob had decided not to go back for a 2nd term, and it was in talking to his local barber that it was suggested that he look into Gould Farm because of his educational background and love of nature. “I just wrote a simple letter to the Farm, as you did back then, and I got a reply.”
Initially hired to work with the outdoor program at Gould Farm, Bob first filled a vacancy as a residential advisor for 17 months beginning in 1978. He then worked seasonally with the garden crew and would spend the colder months working in the forest, particularly during maple sugaring season. He recalled work program manager, Joe Burkholder, calling out the morning’s assignments—"chicken & eggs”, “beef & barns”. A 10-year staffer of the Farm, himself, Bob noted that Joe had a great influence on him personally.
During the 1980s, Bob served on the Farm’s newly formed trail committee (along with Loul MacIntosh and Hugh Chapman)—naming, marking, and even developing additional paths. “We would go out with crews of guests—with crosscut and buzz saws—and do projects. I could hardly wait until the afternoon when I knew that we’d be going out.”
Fridays during the fall and many other times throughout the year, guests could break away from the work program activities and join Bob for fishing or day hikes. “I had my topo map and we’d say, 'Let’s go climb Halls Hill or Mount Hunger'. Once we even bushwhacked our way to Tyringham!” Pausing, Bob offered that he wanted to give recognition to the staff who are continuing these traditions—like transition counselor, Liz Halla-Mattingly.
Bob also took guests from the Farm out to work on Appalachian Trail maintenance projects —working on a 3.1-mile section of trail that he’d adopted in 1989. He speaks with pride about how Gould Farm has opened itself up to the wider community, through annual events such as the Housatonic Heritage Walk, gatherings of foresters and land conservation professionals, and the occasional harvest festival. Although the majority of the Farm’s 10+ miles of trails are used privately by the guests and staff as places of contemplation and recreation, Diane’s Trail, named in honor of Bob’s late wife [who’d served as an on-call volunteer in the nursing office at the Farm], is open to the public and features meandering wetlands and woods trails. Always keen to highlight the contributions of others, Bob pointed out that the trail loop was completed thanks to a grant from The Forest Stewards Guild and that the current rounded bridge—which welcomes hikers at the start of the trail—could not have been built without the design, supervision, and hands-on work of local, Jon Greene.
While conservation practices and stewardship had long been part of the plans and daily workings of the Farm (dating back to Appalachian Trail Founder Benton MacKaye’s recommendations to Agnes Gould in the 1930s-40s), nature had its say in 1995. Already certified through the American Tree Farm System in the 1980s, Bob noted that the impetus to join the Massachusetts Forest Stewardship Program came about after the tornado of ‘95 leveled ~100 acres of trees in the area—remembering mobile sawmills set up all over the property. [He credits consulting Guild forester, Joe Zorzin, with shaping much of the Farm’s
practices.] In 2005, Bob was also a part of the decision to place a 200-acre Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the property's northern portion through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, safeguarding the land in perpetuity. A year later, in 2006, the Farm was awarded the designation of being one of just 26 (now 28) Model Forests in the nation by the Forest Stewards Guild—in recognition of its professional, comprehensive management plan.
The landscape, with its 700+ acres of fields, forests, outcroppings, and wetlands, is the physical body of Gould Farm’s therapeutic community—creating a backdrop for meaningful work, group and solitary interactions with nature, and healing. It is thanks, in no small part, to Bob Rausch and his 45 years of service that this land and way of life have been preserved for future Gould Farm guests and community members.
While still working with the Forestry & Grounds (F&G) / Campus Crew team, Bob now lives in Monterey with his partner, fellow Gould Farm Archive Committee member, Barbara Swann. Bob noted that he and Barbara had known each other for years, as she was the person who dispensed fishing licenses as Monterey Town Clerk, and that they became reacquainted and great supporters of one another years later.
Having had the pleasure of sitting down to interview Bob about his time at the Farm, I wanted to capture and share other colleague’s reflections on Bob and his service. And I couldn’t agree more! - author, Kelley Ellsworth
“Bob has a way of lulling one into an almost meditative state, sharing a simple weather forecast, wisdom from the forest, or fascinating history about the Farm and the Monterey community. There is great depth to the pools of information he has to offer, and the cadence of his pleasant voice can be very soothing. Then, out of left field, he cracks a wild joke that totally knocks me off my feet. I usually don't even realize I'm laughing before he's moved back on to the rest of his story.” - Nathan Yaple, Gould Farm Work Program Director.
"For me, Bob is really an example of what Gould Farm is all about. Bob has a deeply kind and egalitarian spirit that comes across in all his interactions with staff, volunteers, and guests, and he models how to treat other people as human beings.” - Lewis Trelawny-Cassity CSL, HIC, Gould Farm Maintenance Team Coordinator.