Hello! My name is David Scott, Supportive Employment Job Coach for MillarRich on the Old School Farm in the Bells Bend area of Nashville, TN. The farm was the dream of Rowan Millar and Susan Richardson, the founders of MillarRich, LLC. They wanted an environment where individuals of all abilities could receive day services, job and skills training, therapy, and potential employment. We’re talking rewarding work in an integrated, community-involved environment for competitive wages. They purchased and renovated the Old Wade School in Bells Bend, moved in their offices, and hired two farm managers, Rachel Stubbs and Mary Lindsay Sherrill. They then hired Josh Gibson, our first employee.
We broke ground for the Old School Farm on January 9th, 2014, the coldest day of the year. When I met and began job coaching Josh in January, we were both nervous and unsure of what the future would hold. The Old School Farm property had been abandoned for decades, there weren’t that many tools, and the one to two acre field the farm managers had marked off for our garden was covered with Bermuda grass, weeds, and rocks.
Before the farm, Josh had bounced around from job to job and had mentioned a problem with retention. He was disgruntled with the whole vocational rehabilitation process and had had some negative experiences working with the state. From the first day on the farm, though, I could tell this was going to be and amazing journey for Josh. His first task ever on the farm was dissembling old donated pallets for their wood to make signs. He nailed them together and stained them and Rachel painted them. Those signs are hung up around the farm, and Josh gets a deep feeling of pride every time he sees them.
He learned that day that with just a little support, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. From there, Josh helped build our greenhouse, chicken coop, fences, and raised beds. He’s had his hands in almost every fruit and vegetable in some capacity on the farm, from mixing the soil to planting the seeds, transplanting the sprouts, weeding and watering. He works daily in the field removing rocks, preparing rows, spreading compost, pulling weeds, hoeing, shoveling, and raking. We’ve planted an apple orchard, blueberry and raspberry bushes, and herb and flower beds. He is now working towards complete independence with the chicken care. He feeds and waters them, collects and cleans the eggs, maintains their coop, and helps move them around the field.
Every day is something new, every day is a learning opportunity, and every day I can see Josh’s confidence grow. He has come a long way in only 6 months and still comments regularly on how much he loves this job. We now have most of that 1 to 2 acre wasteland planted and growing with organic fruits and vegetables. It looks amazing. We have begun harvesting for our CSA program and attend a Farmer’s Market every Saturday. People come daily to tour the grounds or volunteer, and we hold events and fundraisers on a regular basis. Josh is a part of all of it from showing people around the farm to manning the stand at the Farmer’s Market. He has also volunteered time to help lay sod and build fences in the courtyard and helped with parking during our monthly Old School Farm Square Dance. It’s an opportunity that I am blessed to be a part of.
We’ve recently hired a new employee, Jared McIntosh, and will hopefully have a couple more over the next few weeks. Jared and Josh have a lot of things in common with their past work experiences, and I am looking forward to seeing Jared grow and succeed at the farm. It is awesome seeing Josh pass on his training and experience to another employee.
I’m not sure where all this will end up. Everything’s really new, but the potential is amazing. I cannot wait to see where the farm will be in the next 10 years. But I know that Josh’s signs will still be there.