I met Jared McIntosh and his family back in early April when they came to take a tour of the Old School Farm. Although he had been employed before, Jared’s parents, Ralph and Virginia McIntosh, were looking for something new and more rewarding for their son. Ralph had helped on a farm growing up and believed that this would be a positive environment for Jared. When I first met Jared, he was very quiet and shy, deferring to his parents when addressed and not making eye contact. I confess that I was a little concerned if Jared was truly interested in working on the farm. After the tour, Jared’s parents told us they really wanted this experience for their son. So, we set up an assessment day for him for, 2014. I’m happy to say my concerns were, as usual, unnecessary and premature.
Jared arrived to his assessment with his caregiver, on time and ready to go. He began his day with a firm hand shake, eye contact, and a big smile. He was confident, outgoing, and ready to get to work. Now, as much as I love the Old School Farm and want everyone else to experience and love it like I do, it’s not for everyone. The work can be hard, sometimes tedious and monotonous. The sun is hot and the ground is hard. But, that’s why these assessment days are so vital. The farm managers, Rachel and Mary Lindsay, choose an array of common tasks taken from an average day on the farm, from the tedious to the preferred, and pack them into a nice 3 hour package. Jared’s assessment consisted of weeding an entire row, mixing soil and making soil blocks, planting cucumber seeds, and preparing a new row for planting. And, he knocked it out of the park. He worked steadily down the row weeding, asking questions when he was unsure of what to pull out and what to leave, smiling, laughing, and joking. He listened to the farm managers when they explained how to mix the soil and paid close attention as they demonstrated how to use the soil blocker tool to make perfect little rectangular beds for the seeds. He took great time and care to place tiny cucumber seeds in every little block that he had just helped create. And, he finished his day strong in the field preparing a new row for those cucumbers he had just planted, using a shovel to turn over compacted soil and removing any grass and root bundles. Long story short, we all agreed that Jared was an excellent candidate for the farm.
Jared’s now been working 3 days a week on the farm for almost a month, and he’s come a long way in a short time. He’s helped plant hundreds of summer fruits and vegetables: tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, and watermelon. He’s weeded, mulched, harvested, and, just recently, petted his first chicken. He’s painted and helped assemble picnic tables and learned how to use bamboo to make roosting poles for the chicken coop. He almost always has a positive attitude, good work ethic, and an infectious smile. He’s recognized around the office for that smile. Now, we still have a long way to go. The farm is young. The days will get hotter. The weeds will keep growing, and the work won’t stop. But in a short time, Jared has made himself a valuable asset to the farm, and, I think, has in turn benefitted from the natural teaching environment created by the farm. I’m so blessed to be a part of this experience and so excited to see Jared and the Old School Farm reach their goals, together.