Langton Green — Community Innovation at work

Often when we think of innovation, our minds jump to technology or bold, new breakthroughs. We love those things. Yet, sometimes, innovation is sparked by things that don’t require high-speed internet — but yet leverage more fundamental things like kinship, humanity and creativity. And maybe a goat. 

Here’s the story: I recently paid a visit to Langton Green Community Farm — a 13 acre farm that belongs to Langton Green, a nonprofit residential community based in Annapolis, Maryland. The organization supports adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with housing, customized services, and dedicated caregivers to allow their clients to live the lives they choose with the highest degree of independence.

The farm was more recently acquired to offer vocational training and work opportunities for interested residents. We’d heard a little about the kinds of activities and programs that happen on the farm and I was eager to learn more.

 

 

With John Iaquinta, Langton Green’s lead Firesoul and Director of Operations, and Dani Ierardi, Farm Program Manager as our guides for the day, I was afforded a front-row seat to witness some true Firesoul-ery at hand.

While I could fill pages of details, I’ll highlight a few of the creative ways this team works to best serve their vulnerable community during this crisis — but also the greater community they live among. To me, it’s that kind of goodwill that distinguishes a Firesoul — a kind of contagious compassion that often transcends the goals at hand; working to knit people, nature and community together in deeply creative and collaborative ways.

 

Sustainable Farming with Purpose

Langton Green has converted their 13 acres into not only a source for sustainably-grown food for their organization — but also serves as means for its individuals to gain workforce skills and training. Moreover, the produce that is harvested is also shared with local nonprofits serving people in need — and is also available for sale as a stream of income. 

“There’s a certain new freedom, new independence for individuals that comes from going to the farm and working there. It’s a more level playing field, a switching of roles: instead of being cared for, they’re now caring for something.”

– John Iaquinta, Director of Operations

All creatures great and small.

Langton’s community extends beyond people and plants —  goats, chickens, pigs and Langton’s newest farm worker, River, the dutiful dog are residents of this bustling network. They serve many roles — food production (over 13K eggs per year!), therapy (goat yoga), and, well, the critical business of general joy-making. 

 

A platform for creative expression, learning and wellness

The farm is a hub of programming and activities aimed to serve their residents and beyond. Pre-Covid, one could typically find arts activities, live musical performances, educational and vocational programming for the local county school system, goat yoga (yes, this!), Zumba sessions, and more joyful and therapeutic events and activities as opportunities and ideas emerge. 

Over the last year, Langton Green has successfully adapted online programs — led by Program Manager Denise Miller — the ideator behind programs that work to transcend ordinary zoom-learning. The natural world has effectively been brought to life virtually with classes on chicken anatomy and goat knowledge; herb-growing at home; yoga and art classes, and zoom tours of the farm. A new farm manager, Mallory Bryant, will support these efforts.

Diana Davis, their Director of Community Supports, is their star yogi, beekeeper, and animal assisted therapist. She hosts “coffee chats” on Tuesdays where the topic varies from binging TV shows to random acts of kindness. Langton provides weekly hands-on activity kits to the individuals they support, for example: seedlings provided for planting classes, craft kits, and even tea/coffee for coffee chats and munchies for movie nights.

More recent safe and socially distant happenings have included vegetable and sunflower planting, a fancy-dress goat visit and pumpkin delivery to Langton Green’s residential complex, and a flower arranging class. Langton Green also worked with The Annapolis Club to assemble deliveries for Comfort Cases, a non-profit that provides backpacks full of comforting items to children entering foster care.

 

What’s In Store
(Hint: a new Sacred Place!)

Their incredible staff has also utilized this time to implement several improvements and enhancements to the site, including continued work on the forthcoming Sacred Place that features art windows and peace poles guiding visitors on a path through garden beds and animal pens.

Through an enhancement grant in 2020, Langton Green was able to receive six backless Nature Sacred benches, lovingly designed and crafted by our Horticulturalist, Ron Ammon. 

This journey through the site culminates in a meadow vista with an adjacent field that will be home to a performance stage for Music Therapy partners to provide neurodivergent artists the opportunity to engage in empowerment-focused music experiences. This natural amphitheater will also offer a broad view of the landscape for visitors to the Nature Sacred bench. 

More enhancements and work at the Farm have included renovation of a ranch house to provide a heated, watertight, indoor facility that will house a kitchen and gathering area for programs and other needs on the farm.

 

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