Gould Farm, MA

Forest Statement
by Robert Rausch

Gould Farm, the oldest psychiatric rehabilitation center in the country, was established in 1913 by Will and Agnes Gould. Located in Monterey, Massachusetts, the farm presently consists of about 630 acres, of which over 500 is forested. Old photos from the turn of the century depict an open landscape of pasture, hayfield and tillage. The steep-sided hills were wooded coppice cuts that provided firewood and fence posts. As the many charcoal “pits” remaining today attest, the owners once leased out these woods for the production of charcoal to feed hungry local iron-making furnaces.

Much of the cultural and natural history of the Gould Farm woodlands is revealed in the stone walls, spreading pasture trees, chestnut stumps and old homestead foundations. Also reminiscent are the wells, old roads, ancient sugar bushes concealing arches where sap was once boiled, test diggings for iron deposits, and old barbed wire and chestnut fence posts.

Benton MacKaye, forester under Gifford Pinchot, regional planner, author of The New Exploration, and founding father of the Appalachian Trail, was a friend of Gould Farm. In a letter to Mrs. Gould dated May 29, 1945, MacKaye gave the following advice to her regarding the Gould Farm forest:

Two quite definite and opposing policies may be set up. Between these a definite choice should be made and held to, unless there is to be incessant confusion and misunderstanding between proprietor and woods’ boss. Such has been my own observation covering forty years of forestry experience. The policies aforesaid seek the following objectives:

1) Maximum yield of lumber. This requires letting the best trees grow to financial maturity (when annual growth begins to lag) and then cutting them all down. This means (usually but not always) cutting an area absolutely clean and preparing for a second crop. It means cutting holes in the forest rather than keeping it intact.

2) Optimum psychological influence. This may sound like a fancy term, but it has in forestry a definite technical meaning. There are two opposing outward influences at work on the human mind. One is that of the city street, subway, electric sign, and radio. The other is that of the forest path or of unmolested nature. Each has its use. For purposes of psychological rehabilitation, the forest influence is uppermost. It is the environment of calm as against that of confusion. To obtain this fully on any given acreage of woodland requires keeping the forest canopy intact and letting the best trees grow to their climax in old age.
… For the purpose of the Gould Farm, I should suppose that policy (2), not policy (1), would be most appropriate. Properly developed it could be made the basis of a therapy all its own. Methods of woodcraft and kindred pursuits, to fit the temperament of art or science, have been worked out and tested. For such activity of body and mind I am unacquainted with any better opportunity than the one afforded by the natural setup of Gould Farm…For psychological as well as practical ends the Farm might well promote an extended “Forest Mindedness.”

Today, Gould Farm’s woodlands are crisscrossed by a network of hiking trails and wood roads that are also used for collecting maple sap and firewood. “Diane’s Trail,” named in memory of my wife Diane Rausch who died of cancer in 1992, is open to the broader public. Largely a wetland trail, it has allowed many individuals and groups to learn about this unique habitat. In fact, our Model Forest woodlands have nurtured the lives of many in need. Gould Farm is a community of about 100 individuals of all ages who hike, ski, explore, and find solace in these forests.

In the last 30 years there have been three forest management plans and several linked commercial harvests. Moldering stumps reveal even earlier harvesting. The harvests have always been done with care and concern for this valuable resource and the community it serves. Consequently, we have protected our trails and saved specimen trees and majestic pines with a sensitivity that has fostered a respect for the forest. This has ultimately led to Gould Farm’s Model Forest designation. There have been several forestry-related events at the farm over the years, and we hope to have more in order to further the forest program and continue to develop MacKaye’s “Forest Mindedness.”

Gould Farm’s status as a Forest Stewards Guild Model Forest has, I believe, added social meaning – touching the lives of all that stay and pass through our family of helping friends. Benton MacKaye wrote years ago, “Gould Farm is no mere ‘charity’; it is a potent social force.”  Joe Zorzin, author of Gould Farm’s 2006 Forest Stewardship Plan, agrees that “the primary land-management objective is for the property to be a healing environment for its guests.”

Photos courtesy of Gould Farm and Robert Rausch.

Forest Statistics and Documentation

  • Acreage: 500
  • Forest Type: northern hardwoods, red-oak, white pine
  • Model Forest Manager: Robert Rausch
  • Primary Uses: rehabilitation, recreation, fuelwood, timber, maple sap
  • Affiliations/Links: Gould Farm, Walking the Berkshires

Downloads of documents and maps