Gould Farm, a residential treatment community serving those recovering from mental illness in the hills of Monterey, Massachusetts, has been honored by the Forest Guild with designation as a model forest. On Friday, September 22, over sixty people gathered at Gould Farm to celebrate this remarkable achievement. Across the entire United States, the Forest Guild has recognized only 22 model forests, each exemplifying "high quality, regionally or locally outstanding silvicultural practices and thoughtful logging techniques that make excellent silviculture possible."
Guild certified model forests do more than just focus on best management practices for timber production. The ecological complexity of the forest, not simply its capacity to generate timber, is highly valued by the Guild and a requirement of model forest designation. Model forest management supports and encourages many attributes of the ecologic function of healthy woodlands, among them:
Soil integrity and productivity - including structure and composition as well as soil organisms, by such means as providing adequate return time, utilizing site sensitive harvesting equipment under appropriate conditions, and appropriate silviculture, as opposed to artificial inputs. Hydrological quality - including aquatic habitat and nutrient loads, by such means as riparian buffers, harvesting network design, and appropriate harvest levels. Diversity - including a range of non-game species-types such as songbirds, small mammals, soil organisms, and pollinators, and with emphasis on the natural biological richness of the forest, by maintaining or promoting a range of site-appropriate structures and processes through silvicultural and other techniques, as well as through avoidance of approaches such as chemical applications and plantation monoculture where they tend to minimize diversity.
Gould Farm has many ingredients that make it a superior example of the finest kind of ecologically responsible and sustainable silviculture. The facility itself has been in existence for nearly a century and is America's oldest therapeutic community for people with mental illness. The farm includes over 650 acres of woodlands and farm fields and guests are actively engaged in caring for the land as they care for themselves. Farm products include maple sugar - the woodlands include an excellent sugar bush - cheese, herbs and vegetables. Some of the facilities heat with wood and include timber cut and milled from the property.
A guest at the Farm wrote of his experience living in this community in New York City Voices:
"Here, there are forty guests. That's what we call ourselves having manageable mental afflictions. This place is a very special place. It's a self-sustaining farm. We make our own furniture, we drink our own milk, we eat our own vegetables and we eat our own meat. We are in a sense an American kibbutz. The only difference is that we pay to come here. We pay and we work for free. I once asked a guest how he feels about these working conditions. He said: "It just gives us a certain unique view on work...
It's beautiful up here. I mean it's awesome (by the way the farm is one square mile). It's so pretty up here it's unfathomable. Sometimes I think that since some of our inner selves are horrific, we deserve this outer beauty. A good trade-off I guess."
This ethic of caring for people and stewardship of land is demonstrated in how Gould Farm manages its natural resources. It has a property manager with 28 years of tenure who knows every inch of this square mile of land. They have placed agricultural preservation restriction easements on much of their farmland to ensure that it remains available for agricultural use in perpetuity. Their consulting forester, Joe Zorzin, was a Guild Forester for many years and still does conscientious, Guild-style forest management. They have one of Massachusetts' few certified master Loggers implementing the plan. They are in this for the long term, and managing in forest time rather than for the quick return.
Walking through the woodlands of Gould Farm reveals a healthy mosaic of forest communities, multiple age classes and rich species diversity. There are nurse logs and standing snags as wildlife habitat and sources of forest nutrients. There are beautiful cherry, oak and maple stands that another forester would likely have marked heavily for harvest but which here are encouraged to grow larger instead. There are areas when millions of board feet have been logged and the forest is still ecologically rich and healthy. Gould Farm deserves this honor and clearly can be a regional model for silviculture of the very highest quality.