THE VISION FOR TOUCHSTONE FARM
THE NEXT 40 YEARS
Touchstone Farm is poised in 2011 to continue the 40 year long tradition of caring and commitment, warmth and welcome, hard work and dedication. It will offer a powerful ”sense of place” with a strong invitation to “belong” for all who arrive at the farm gates. Touchstone will stand as a sanctuary, a beacon of goodness, combining the best of old values with the best of new possibilities. Individuals from all walks of life, and with all abilities, will be drawn to the promise of a brighter future. In our fast- paced world, Touchstone will offer renewal and refreshment to the people of all ages who arrive seeking a haven in which they can reconnect with their best selves, horses and farm animals, gardens, and the land itself. Drawing upon the farm’s rich history as a way station for weary travelers and those in need, as well as its long tradition of human connection to the farm and its surrounding lands, a heightened sense of hope will bloom. A deepened dedication to all that is decent and right with the world will be restored.
The entire farm will serve as the centerpiece for this welcome and replenishment with carefully designed programs and a creative calendar of events throughout the year, maximizing the potential of the farm without jeopardizing the well-being of the staff, horses, or the land. Pony Farm will continue as the summer specialty riding camp for girls. Horse Power will continue as a therapeutic horsemanship program specializing in serving individuals of all ages who experience physical, mental, or cognitive challenges. “Barn Yard Buddies”, a summer day camp for individuals with challenges will continue its happy tradition of providing summer fun and enrichment to the campers, young and old. Touchstone Farm Riding and Driving Lesson Program will continue the teaching traditions of the farm, serving those wishing to ride and drive in a skill-based, year-round program for those seeking either recreation or competition. “Horses for Heroes” will continue to offer both therapeutic riding and driving for our veterans who are returning from active duty, and need the welcome of a farm and safe re-entry with a horse to help heal. The Horse Power Instructor Training School will begin its 10th year of training those seeking national certification to become NARHA therapeutic horsemanship instructors.
As an essential backdrop and support to all of these successful programs, Stepping Stone Lodge remains the centerpiece of the meeting and lodging space for these programs striving to fulfill the mission set forth by the Founder, Board of Directors and Staff. Stepping Stone Lodge will continue its valiant history as a place to reconnect with the simplicity of life while being surrounded by peace, beauty, local food, and a renewed connection to self, family members, or fellow travelers. This peaceful and joyous space is most conducive to the rich experience of exploring. Whether guests come striving for a more balanced life, eagerly wishing to deepen family ties, or daring to learn new business or therapeutic methods, the sky is the limit at Stepping Stone Lodge, where dreams begin and ideas are launched.
Our vision is based on our enduring commitment to Pony Farm, our residential summer specialty riding camp. Cherishing its long history of membership and accreditation with the American Camping Association and Certified Horsemanship Association, Pony Farm has offered a top-flight summer camp experience for girls 8 to 14 year after year. Perhaps due to the length of time during which the summer camp has operated, or the lifelong friendships that have been fostered during barn chores or lessons, or on trail rides or camping trips under the stars, or whispering after “lights are out”, summer camp is the cornerstone of Touchstone Farm. It is the polished gem of the farm, having started the legacy of this farm 40 years ago.
Through these years, summer camp has remained central to the mission, vision, and values of the farm. It is with great pleasure and delight that every summer we welcome back not only second-generation campers, but also second generation staff members. The daughters of the original campers are as eager to enter the driveway to start their camp experience as their mothers were many years ago. With the same songs, same ceremonies, and often the same daily schedule, the fun and meaning of living as one great big happy family remains unchanged throughout the years. The sense of timelessness and permanence seems to create a pull that is felt year after year by all who return to experience Pony Farm. Magic does truly happen at Pony Farm, some of it by design, and some of it by just showing up!
Adding to the fun and feeling of the carefree summer months, “Barn Yard Buddies” summer day camp brings joy and delight to the whole farm community. Having begun several years ago, Barn Yard Buddies is now a permanent part of the summer vacation for many of our Horse Power riders who come during the day to “their” farm. With daily themes, lots of time with the horses and farm animals, digging in the dirt, building fairy houses, and enjoying the streams and fields surrounding the farm on all sides, our Barn Yard Buddies and their loyal volunteers join together creating life long memories of happiness. Joy in movement, freedom, fresh air, friendship, and a sense of belonging to their “farm family”, pervade the summer air.
During the school year, the barns and rings are filled with students of all ages and abilities who are learning good, solid horsemanship and riding skills, while developing a life-long “love affair” with horses. Whether riding in the Horse Power or Touchstone Farm Riding Lesson Programs, each and every rider enjoys the healing, healthy power of the horse. Some ride for the sheer fun of it all, while other’s ride for therapy and healing. Still others choose to lease a horse to deepen their experience of horses and expand their equine connections. Yet others decide to try their hand at local competitions, mastering both equitation and showmanship. Regardless of how students find themselves at the barn doors, all leave with a happy heart and a smile on their face.
As Touchtone came into being, our visioning process led us to realize that the Touchstone Farm Riding Lesson Program had to become year around. Not only did this offer a full season riding program for our local students looking for a ‘horsey home’, but also allowed them to participate in horse shows, both here at the farm and in the local area.
Horse Power and Touchstone Farm also offer a Driving Lesson Program. The dirt roads and arenas abound with horses and ponies being driven by people who are experiencing the magic of yesteryear’s lore of carriage driving or the modern day thrill of competition. The therapeutic driving is geared to those who either prefer to drive, or for whom the process of riding is too painful or dangerous. We are delighted to be able to offer the therapeutic driving as yet another way to enjoy and benefit from horses. For the able bodied drivers, lessons are geared towards independence aimed at being able to go down the road for a pleasurable drive with friends and family members. The lessons also progress to clinics where the finer arts of driven dressage, cones courses and marathon cross-country driving are featured. For the most brave and strong-hearted of our drivers, competition looms on their horizon, both at home and on other farms, as they enjoy the many challenges and rewards of competition.
Yet another meaningful, core program of Touchstone Farm is “Horses for Heroes”. This program embodies our mission to offer a hearty welcome and a measure of peace at the farm to men and women, who have loyally served our country, and returned with mental and physical scars. Surrounded by their loved ones, a cadre of compassionate, competent certified therapeutic riding and driving instructors, and dedicated volunteers, our heroes and heroines all experience the empowerment of the horses and the solace of the farm. Amid much laughter, delicious food and many demonstrations of deep gratitude for their service, our “Horses for Horses” folk begin the long road to successfully reintegrating into civilian life.
Joining the Touchstone “regulars” who come week after week, individuals with a solid commitment to learning how to foster the healing magic of the horse attend our “Horse Power Instructor Training School”. “Instructor-in-Training Candidates” join us for a three month residential stay to learn to become nationally certified therapeutic horsemanship instructors. Through a rigorous course of academic study, professional presentations about disabilities and mental health, clinics, riding lessons, and many hours of hands- on teaching and horsemanship, these elite instructors will gain professional certification with NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association). Upon completion of this course, these professionals not only experience their own sense of belonging to a larger, caring equine community, but know how to partner with equines to build confidence, courage, and capabilities.
Stepping Stone Lodge enhances the experience for both the year-around students and these new professionals, in addition to the larger community, by hosting a rich variety of opportunities for further equine education through clinics, workshops, competitions and hands on experiences that come from daily life on a working farm. These educational and competitive events offered at Touchstone Farm will all be geared towards increasing knowledge about learning, teaching, riding, driving, showing, and strong animal husbandry. The goal of these specialty opportunities is to promote a lifelong love of being in ‘community’ with horses, farms, nature and the earth itself. With an emphasis on locally grown food, fresh air, plenty of exercise, and good old-fashioned hard work, our vision is to offer the often hard-to-find experience of living a healthy, balanced life with meaningful connections to one’s self, one’s community, and the larger world.
Rounding out the seasons at the farm are the programs and specialty offerings at Stepping Stone Lodge. Few can enter the main room with its cathedral ceiling, hand hewn logs, wrought iron chandeliers and fieldstone fireplace, and not experience a sense of awe and inspiration. With comfy bedrooms, delicious home-cooked food, rocking chairs on the porch, and a friendly face in the kitchen, a wide variety of programs successfully happen at the lodge. Mothers come away with their daughters to experience that special bond. Fathers leave their laptops at home to come enjoy time on a horse and time away with their children. Families renew their love for each other during fall and spring weekends of hiking, riding, picking from the gardens, bonfires, sleigh rides, or just plain rocking on the porch enjoying the birds singing.
People who want to have some ‘time out’ to explore a new career, discover a new path for their life, receive a ‘shot in the arm’ for their business, or increase their well-being though rest, exercise, yoga, or meditation, gravitate to the lodge. Again, the lodge is one more place of welcome and renewal at Touchstone Farm.
Our vision is that the Lodge and possibly the Homestead, a large building on the property, could both grow in ways to successfully welcome more people who are seeking that “special” place. Stepping Stone Lodge and the Homestead could become a spiritual center for those wishing to deepen their faith. They could be gathering places for families as they celebrate milestones like weddings, anniversaries, birthdays or religious rites of passage. It could be a welcome “get away” for folks to enjoy some quiet in restful surroundings, and the simple pleasures of life on a working farm, with the fresh eggs, warm bread out of the oven, a green salad straight from the gardens, or a quiet stroll at sunrise after being awakened by the crowing rooster.
This vision shines strong and true, bright and beautiful. It is within our reach as we begin the next 40 years of Pony Farm, Horse Power and Stepping Stone Lodge. As Touchstone continues the joyous legacy felt by countless individuals and families, horses and farm animals, who have found their way to our farm gates, I, as the Founder, have every confidence in the team that is assembling to carry forth the mission of the farm long into the future. Touchstone will thrive and flourish under their strong leadership, gentle guidance, and committed management.
Words like sustainability, succession planning, transparency, fiscal responsibility, land conservation, equine welfare, and stewardship will become a firm part of the legacy of love and belonging on which the farm was founded 40 years ago. Shared leadership of board members and management, which draws on the strengths of all members of the team, will insure the successful implementation of this vision, while empowering the mission and cementing the values of Touchstone. This team, complemented by competent staff who are committed to this common mission, will insure excellence in the daily care of students, campers, animals and the facility. Sound Strategic Planning will set the course, straight and true, for the future. Solid Business Planning will enhance the bottom line, while honoring the wishes of donors, students, staff, animals and fellow businesses. Consistent, careful, and accurate financial record keeping and reporting will assist all members of the farm team in helping preserve the financial health of the organization. Solid fundraising and decision-making will strive toward creating a solid Fund Balance, thereby insuring continual cash flow for all farm operations.
It is my vision and deep desire, as the Founder and current Executive Director, that Touchstone Farm will officially come into being on January 1st, 2011. This start date will mark the 40th year of the beginning of the farm under my leadership. These 40 years have been my immense joy and represent my life’s work. I have been passionate in creating this farm and have stayed true to my original firmly held beliefs that this farm could be different than other farms. It has been my mission to create the place of warmth and welcome that it has become for so many. When visitors return year after year and speak of their experiences, their stories remain in my heart and keep me going forward, “everlastingly at it”! As I reflect back over the last 40 years, I am proud and pleased. I feel honored and cherished for my life’s work.
However, it is time to make some changes that are essential to insure this legacy lasts long into the future. The time is now. The right people are in place. The Mission, Vision, Values, and Strategies have been honed with a consultant and over 30 people giving solid input. The right professionals are ready to guide us forward. The funding is being sought. The budget is prepared. The programs are being honed. The facility is able to sustain the existing programs, while welcoming new programs. The horse herd is in place, with thoughtful changes being made, to be ready, willing and able to do their job of creating life-long horse lovers and human beings who are strong and resilient.
As I marvel at all of the work and commitment that has gone into preparing for the successful launch of Touchstone Farm, most of it generously given, I am deeply moved. I feel certain that my life’s work has not been in vain. I am confident that the “feeling” that has kept people coming back again and again will continue to flourish, made even better by the professionalism and dedication of the people providing the services and the experience. I am delighted by the improvement of the financial management. I am heartened by the long-range planning being done on all fronts. I am overjoyed by the quality of the staff we are attracting and the dedication of the long-term staff that have been here for many years. With a strong board of governance, a smart group of advisors, carefully selected committee members, and a growing list of dedicated customers, Touchstone Farm cannot help but succeed for another 40 years and beyond.
It is my sincere wish to step down as the Executive Director in the near future and when the time is right. I want to fully live into being the Founder and “spirit keeper”. I want to support the work of the staff and board as they continue to build Touchstone into all it can be. I also want to be a significant part of a development team that will create new programs to meet pressing needs. As a part of this team, I want to become the Development Director, thus committing myself to working diligently to find the funding to insure the financial success and long term viability of Touchstone as it fulfills its vital mission.
As the Founder and Development Director, it is my belief that with the Vision, Mission and Values Statement adopted and heartily confirmed by all of us, we are now free to move resolutely into the future. Touchstone will flourish and grow as new programs are identified and improvements are made in a well-designed and orderly progression over the next two or three years. With a strengthened senior management team, a carefully selected staff and board of directors, and a solid Business, Marketing, and Program Development Plan, I feel confident that Touchstone will operate with a Fund Balance. Once this reserve is in place, it will be time to implement the final step for Touchstone Farm.
This step is to begin a Capital Campaign to have Touchstone purchase the 28 acres of land upon which the farm sits, thereby cementing the legacy. Currently, I am the sole owner of the property and all buildings. It is my intention to take a significant role in this Capital Campaign in two ways. First, I will devote myself to build the team that will work together to secure the funding for this purchase. Secondly, I will become a “lead donor” by reducing the sale price of the farm by a meaningful amount.
I sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that we can achieve this Capital Campaign to purchase the farm and ensure the legacy of Touchstone for our grandchildren and their children. We possess the will, wisdom, and work ethic to make this happen. With teamwork and training, we have the talent and the vision to preserve our important mission and essential values for posterity. I welcome you to this incredible team. I welcome you to join in our dream for the future. I heartily invite you into the Touchstone family, which is imbued and inspired by the possibilities at our fingertips. Thank you for your time, talent and input as we make our dreams become reality.