Ribbon Cutting Event on May 19 Celebrated Prospect Meadow Farm’s New Vocational Training and Production Center
On Friday, ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm celebrated the opening of its new vocational training and production center. The project is the result of a $595,000 grant from the state’s Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, as well as an additional $100,000 in fundraising support.
The upgrades to the facility include a modern, fully equipped production kitchen and food packaging center, dedicated space for the farm’s prevocational program, a carpentry workshop, expanded classroom space, an outdoor covered pavilion, improved building infrastructure, accessible outdoor bathrooms, and more.
The ribbon-cutting event featured remarks by several state officials, including Jane Ryder, Department of Developmental Services Commissioner; Ashley Randle, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner; and Congressman Jim McGovern, Second District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives. Festivities marking the event also included live music by Little House Blues, tours of the farm, a pop-up farm store, hors d’oeuvres courtesy of ServiceNet’s Rooster Café, and more.
In his remarks, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern noted the joy of the farm celebration and compared it to the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“Everyone’s so happy, and the reason everyone’s so happy is because this is a happy place,” said McGovern about the farm. “I can contrast that to where I work, where it’s like one big, constant funeral.”
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Ashley Randle also celebrated the sense of community the farm has cultivated, and noted in her remarks that at the farm, “You are putting the culture in agriculture.”
ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm—a therapeutic vocational farming program for individuals with developmental disability, autism, or brain injury—provides employment support and meaningful daily activities to 80+ participants, many of whom also have mental health challenges.
Since the farm opened in 2011, hundreds of participants have taken part in meaningful agricultural work, received a fair wage, contributed to the local food economy, and been supported in their personal and professional growth as they further explored employment in a variety of workplaces.
“I love my job because it always keeps me busy and I’m able to work with a great group of people,” said Becky Burke, who spoke at the event and has participated on the farm since May 2021. “I used to have trouble asking for help, but now I know if I’m having a hard time, there is always someone at the farm who I can talk to.”
For McGovern, the success of the farm serves as an inspiration for helping people with disabilities build careers, as well as providing an important source of local food.
“What I really love about this place is that this is a place that recognizes that no one is invisible, that every single person is important,” he said. “This really is a place that is a model for communities all around the state and all around the country.”
Read article in Daily Hampshire Gazette