Jim Seltzer Named Volunteer of the Year as part of the Providers’ Council 2023 Awards of Excellence
Jim Seltzer, a volunteer at ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm, was named Volunteer of the Year as part of the Providers’ Council 2023 Awards of Excellence on October 2. The Providers’ Council is the largest association of human service agencies in Massachusetts.
Jim has volunteered with ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm—a vocational training program for individuals living with developmental disability, autism, brain injury, and/or mental illness—since 2014.
As a skilled mushroom hobbyist and a clinical psychologist, Jim recognized early on that work that engaged the farmhands’ large motor functions could be therapeutic and satisfying. He proposed starting a log-grown shiitake mushroom site, which would allow farmhands to lift and handle the logs, use tools, track the progress of each log’s output, harvest the mushrooms, and distribute them to area restaurants and markets.
Since beginning this work in 2014, the mushroom operation has grown to 4,000+ logs, making ServiceNet the largest producer of log-grown shiitake mushrooms in western Massachusetts. Jim has supplied logs from his own land to further support this effort, paid loggers to cut additional logs from the farm’s felled trees, and much more.
In this past year, volunteering approximately 300 hours, Jim completed the largest greenhouse ever for the farm and assisted in expanding the mushroom-laying yard at the farm’s secondary location. In May, he co-facilitated a successful multi-day management retreat for Prospect Meadow Farm managers who were gearing up to open the newly completed vocational and production center.
“Jim is such a fungi! He is a wonderful, kind soul who uses his skills to foster curiosity and build learning moments for our clients,” said Natelie Dunn, a site manager at Prospect Meadow. “His knowledge and love of mushrooms is infectious as he helps teach our community about mushroom growth and harvesting. He has endless patience and provides pathways for our clients to do jobs independently and, more importantly, confidently.”
Always ready to step up for a new project, listen to and reflect with staff, enliven retreats and meetings using his facilitation skills, and serve as a role model of consistency and dedication for the farmhands, Jim has proven to be a valuable and irreplaceable resource to ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm and the agricultural community of the Pioneer Valley.