Once a Gould Farmer, always a Gould Farmer
Once it touches your life, Gould Farm has a funny habit of sticking. One example of this is in our staff. Nearly half of Gould Farm staff came to Gould Farm as one-year volunteers and subsequently returned - sometimes quickly, sometimes years later - as staff. What’s more, the average tenure of staff at Gould Farm is around 9 years. What is it about Gould Farm that draws people back for more? In this article, we invite you to sit down with CJ Walton and learn about what drew him back to being the bakery manager at Gould Farm.
Staff profile: CJ Walton, bakery manager
“The magic of Gould Farm for me is how it’s part of this interesting food economy. There is an interconnectedness here around food. Food connects us to people, to the community,” CJ reflected, as we sat at the picnic tables behind Main House.
As we chatted in the late April sunshine, we shared a lunch of salads containing microgreens harvested the day before by guests on our garden team.
CJ first heard about Gould Farm when he was a student at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, where he studied biochemistry, specifically the enzyme chemistry of protozoans. He then first came to the farm in 2000 after choosing not to pursue graduate school. He had worked good service jobs throughout college, thus “...taking a staff position in the kitchen wasn’t too much of a stretch,” he shared.
“My first visit to the farm was on a Wednesday and I got to experience community meeting. Community meetings at Simons Rock were also on Wednesday. The sense of community and that ritual felt very familiar to me.”
Some readers may remember CJ. He was the bakery manager of the Harvest Barn until 2013. He took a 10-year hiatus to work elsewhere as a baker and a mechanic, first fixing coffee and restaurant equipment and then running his own business. But he missed the meaningful work and the community at Gould Farm. The realities of the pandemic combined with the stresses of caring for aging parents made the importance of these elements even more salient in his life.
CJ always loved being a work program leader at Gould Farm. Helping guests develop skills and insights around their personal learning styles so they could go on and apply these lessons outside of Gould Farm was always a joy for him. In the bakery, CJ points out, there are a lot of systems and mathematics involved: scaling recipes, sequencing ingredients properly, and participating in the workflow of the day. Creating a supportive environment in the bakery that invites each guest to learn and join the routine is one of the many things that drew CJ back.
And CJ’s return could not have been better timed with the anticipated reopening of Roadside! As a part of the new vision for the Cafe, there will be a baked goods display. CJ dreams of filling that display with croissants and breakfast danishes as well as supplying Roadside with the buns, bagels, and bread that will be a part of the regular cafe menu.
CJ also plans to continue the production of value-added items such as jars of our maple syrup and homemade dressings. Although the Harvest Barn will not reopen as a mini cafe and storefront as it existed before the pandemic, all that creative energy and sense of hospitality will be put into our Roadside Store and Cafe where you will be able to pull over for a pancake or maybe a coffee and croissant in the near future.
Welcome back, CJ!