We have just wrapped up our sophomore summer season at the Old School Farm and are in the middle of our Autumn CSA. The tomatoes and squash are gone, the okra, peppers, and eggplant are finishing up, and the greens and root veggies are looking great: turnip and collard greens, bok choy, tatsoi, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, lettuce, radishes, carrots, and beets. And, thanks to generous donations and amazing fundraising events, the farm has grown to include more chickens and coops, bee hives, a larger hoop house, a walk-in cooler and washing station, and a cozy, new farm office, not to mention the increased CSA sales and attendance at two Farmers’ Markets this year.
The Old School Farm Bar and Café have just opened up, and we are now leasing 2-3 additional acres across the road to have more space to plant and grow when spring rolls back around next year. But the most exceptional growth that we have witnessed out at the Old School Farm has been with its employees, Josh Gibson and Jared McIntosh.
Josh has been here since the beginning, back in January of 2014, when the Old School Farm still looked like the abandoned lot it had been for the previous 3 decades. Our now beautiful, 2-acre organic garden was a field of Bermuda grass, weeds, rocks, and pea gravel. We had no buildings, no greenhouse and few tools. But the farm’s founders had a vision, the new farm managers had the experience, and the newest and only employee of the Old School Farm was ready to go to work. With a little help from MillarRich Supported Employment, Josh soon went from, “I don’t know if I can do that,” to “Let’s do it!”
As an important part of the farm team, Josh helped turn an empty field into something meaningful and useful, row by row. He helped to build signs and structures, learned how to care for chickens and nurture seeds, building up his confidence and experience as the Old School Farm took shape. About 6 months later, in the middle of our spring harvest and summer planting, Jared came to work for the farm.
With Josh’s help, Jared was soon working towards independence with chicken care and learning about the life cycle of plants, from mixing the soil and planting the seeds to harvesting the fruit and manning the market stand. He did so well that, towards the end of the growing season, Jared was offered another position working for MillarRich Properties on days he wasn’t working for the farm. On top of becoming independent with organic fruit and vegetable growth and having a hand in almost every facet of the Old School Farm’s evolution and development, Jared is now also responsible for the cleaning of the front half of the MillarRich Office Building and the upkeep of the surrounding grounds.
Josh is coming up on his second year working for the farm, twice as long as any other job he has held before, and Jared just had his one-year evaluation a few months back. Both have earned pay raises, and Jared just recently saw an increase of hours on the farm. We have had several news stations and local television and radio shows, as well as the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities come out to do stories featuring the Old School, and both guys have been miked up and recorded telling the world about the meaningful work they get to do every day. Jared loves to let people know, “I like it. I know how to do everything. I can do anything!”
Josh isn’t crazy about being on camera, but he has done well talking to people about his work at the Old School: giving tours of the farm, helping out with volunteer groups, and speaking with over 900 kids at Rock Springs Elementary School this year about the importance of organic farming and growing your own food. As we continue to challenge Josh and Jared with new responsibilities and higher expectations, they continue to prove what MillarRich has known all along; that with a little support, there is nothing these guys can’t do.