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Visiting local social enterprises, BlueQ and Extra Special Teas

L to R: Nathan Yaple, work program director, Francie Leventhal, kitchen and Roadside manager, Seth Nash, BlueQ co-founder, Sergio Bencivenga, manager of warehouse logistics, and Lisanne Finston, executive director. Photo by Matthew McMahon, farm manager.

One of the many benefits of Gould Farm being located in Berkshire County, Massachusetts is the concentration of creative, thoughtful, and innovative neighbors doing important work for the social good right in our backyard!

On a chilly day in January, a group of our staff visited Extra Special Teas in Housatonic and BlueQ in Pittsfield to learn more about the social enterprise aspects of their companies. We reached out to these folks as part of our creative planning process leading up to the reopening of Roadside Store and Cafe in 2023.

We see the complete rebuild of Roadside as not just an opportunity for a much better physical space, but also as a chance to update and improve upon the guest work program experience. In that spirit, we decided to take a field trip around our neighborhood and learn from folks who have built inspiring programs.

The Triple Bottom Line: People, Profit, and Purpose

Social enterprises are not a new concept; organizations around the globe have been utilizing this business model to support skill development and economic participation opportunities for marginalized groups for decades.

Graphic created by Gould Farm.

At Gould Farm, we run successful social enterprises that provide meaningful work to individuals in a therapeutic work environment that prepares them for paid employment and structured community engagement through volunteer and other community activities. The flagship social enterprise of Gould Farm is Roadside Store and Café, an iconic fixture in the Berkshires for four decades!

Both the soft and hard skills gained through work prepare individuals for community reintegration. And there’s also something that cannot be defined or quantified—through work we become active participants in our lives once again in ways that are unpredictable, enjoyable, and healing.

L to R: Nathan, Lisanne, Cherri Sanes, co-founder of Extra Special Teas, and Francie. Photo by Matthew.

At BlueQ, being a social enterprise means donating portions of their profits to various organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders. It also means a long-standing partnership with Berkshire County ARC, providing employment opportunities for adults with developmental differences.

Extra Special Teas is a non-profit organization and their mission is to "...employ special needs adults paying them at least minimum wage for serving their community in our teahouse as servers, baristas, craft-makers, content providers, and administrators."

Gathering inspiration for Roadside

After their visit, Lisanne reflected,

"I have always admired the mission of Extra Special Teas and their wonderful establishments in Great Barrington and Housatonic. And I love the social consciousness and great products of Blue Q. It was great to visit their sites, learn from these fabulous people and businesses, and be inspired to continue our efforts to marry mission and enterprise at Gould Farm."

These visits, in addition to others in the works, will all go into the hopper of creative thinking as we envision what "Roadside 2.0" will look like. It's an exciting time and we can't wait to relaunch this component of the Gould Farm experience for guests in the very near future.


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