Annual Appeal

December 13, 2023

We write to you today to ask for an end of year contribution to the Many Hands Sustainability Center.
Back in 2007, gifted with 12 former prisoners each week as volunteers on the farm, we felt it was time to formalize what has been a burning need for both of us all of our lives, to share with others what we know. And thus, the MHSC came to life.
These are our stated purposes:

  • educate the public about techniques, products, inputs and devices useful on small, sustainable farms,
  • study ways to make small and family farms a sustainable livelihood in the Northeast
  • teach practical skills related to self-sufficient living,
  • demonstrate ways to build community via collaborative work,
  • promote efforts to move toward sustainability in use of energy, materials, and living organisms
  • foster self-respect and competence in young people,
  • encourage connections between people of diverse backgrounds via sustainable agriculture and other environmentally benign endeavors,
  • develop the consciousness that in caring for ourselves and each other we must also care for the earth
  • generate awareness of the connection between healthy food and healthy bodies
  • cultivate the knowledge and personal qualities necessary to create economically sustainable enterprises

Laudable goals, as we ponder them. We have been blessed to own a little piece of paradise here for now 43 years, and it seems that life on the farm only gets better. Our accomplishments under the umbrella of the MHSC in 2023 were roughly as follows –

  • We held 6 very well attended workshops over the year on fruit trees, building a chicken tractor, cooking with a CSA shar
  • food preservation, permaculture systems, and shiitakes. Many thanks to Clare Caldwell, Jonathan Anderson and Jono Neiger who were co-collaborators with us.

Pot luck at fruit tree workshop

Plugging mushroom logs

Food preservation extravaganza

  • The MHSC supported the employment of Kamarin Oleksak, a graduate of the Stetson School in Barre, for a second summer. He has since moved on to work and live with his birth family in the family business and is incredibly happy.

Kamarin pruning apples

  • With targeted donations from all of you, we were able to pay for 7 summer and 7 fall CSA shares to be donated to the Worcester Community Fridges over a 26-week period. Total support came to $3920. This program makes food available to any in need in Worcester, no questions asked, no red tape.
  • We weekly host the kids from Stetson for a morning of work, lunch and community.

Candido and Yohairo moving bird house

  • We hosted several college groups this summer and fall to get some work done and also receive a few pearls of wisdom. This from a Clark University student, “I really got to see for myself the importance of a farmer’s duties and how much they contribute to providing good food. I knew that the farms work super hard but doing the work myself did kick my butt. It made me have a bigger respect for farmers”

Clark Students carrying a heavy silage tarp up the road

kids from the NOFA/Mass Gardening the Community Project

  • Our popular and sometimes infamous weekly newsletter, now reaching about 1000 souls is packed with farming and health tips, links to advice from the outer world, inspiration and opinion (that’s the infamous part!). Our position of Covid won us a book contract with Chelsea Green.
  • Through Chelsea Green we published Many Hands Make a Farm: 47 Years Questioning Authority, Feeding a Community, and Building an Organic Movement. You can get a signed copy of our book by sending $29 (to cover postage) to the MHSC, either electronically or with a check. Or you can come to our book signing that will take place at the Barre Players Theatre, 64 Common St., Barre on January 14 – 2 – 5 pm.

We are a very modest organization, as non-profits go. There is almost no overhead so your donations go right to supporting folks learning how to be more self-sufficient, think for themselves, grow clean and nutritious food (and prepare it), and share it with the world. We are all about people working in community and having a fantastic time in the process. Come join us.

With gratitude,
Julie and Jack and the Many Hands

Make checks payable to MHSC
411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA 01005 978-355-2853;

Donate Online

Skippy, Julie and Jack

Join Us for Organic Fruit Tree Management – February 27, 10:00 – 12:00

Organic Fruit Tree Management – February 27, 10:00 – 12:00

At MHOF we have about 100 fruit trees with some of them as old as 40 years. They are managed in a certifiably organic fashion and both orchards are grazed at least once per year by our turkeys or chickens.

During the workshop, Jack will cover the biology of grafted fruit seedlings (including selecting root stock and variety), requirements for properly siting the orchard (including spacing the trees and digging and protecting adequate planting holes), the tools and equipment you will need, and managing the growing trees for shape, health, and light penetration as well as fruit size, quality and quantity.

In the section on fertility, Julie will discuss mulching, with cardboard and chips, dry fertility according to soil tests, foliar feeding throughout the growing season and the use of sap tests to determine in the moment nutrient deficiencies. We will also discuss care under the trees including grazing of animals, mowing, use of comfrey and undersowing of perennial pollinator plants.

In the portion of the workshop led by Clare we’ll take a walk through the orchards at Many Hands to look at the spacing of trees and work on pruning an apple and a peach tree together. We will cover identifying dead wood, making cuts for good airflow and sunlight throughout the whole tree to maximize photosynthesis, and talk about overall shaping of the tree.

The workshop will be on February 27th from 10:00 to noon, at the farm and via Zoom. Stick around for a potluck lunch if you like, right at the end of the workshop. Register below.

We offer this workshop at no charge and we truly appreciate it if you can donate on a free will basis to help cover costs. Donations can be made via PayPal at or in cash/check the day of the workshop. MHSC is a 501(c)3 and any donation is tax deductible.

Register Here

5 Risky Decisions that Defined Our Lives – Sustaining Our Homestead

43 years ago Jack Kittredge and Julie Rawson were a young couple working and starting a family in Dorchester, MA. During the next few years wemade five risky decisions that changed our life paths and created Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre.

In the past year (2020) many volunteers have come from the city to work on our farm and expressed an interest in doing something similar. In this presentation we will share what we did, the difficulties it presented and the chances we took. Join us to learn about why we decided to move to Central Massachusetts, how we were able to construct an energy conscious house and homestead, build a community oriented organic farm, all while working at home and raising a family.

This is the first of our free monthly series of wide ranging and educational workshops that we will be holding at our farm. This first workshop will help you get to know Jack and Julie and our journey over the past 40 years. We feel we have a rather unique lifestyle that has allowed us to live our lives and raise our 4 children relatively unfettered by socially accepted norms.

We will be presenting our story on January 30, 2021, from 10:30 to noon, at the farm and via Zoom. Stick around for a potluck lunch if you like, right at the end of the workshop.

Register online here

Share the flyer for the event here

Many Hands Sustainability Center in the News

Loree Griffin Burns wrote a lovely piece on the Many Hands Sustainability Center for the spring issue of Edible Worcester. Read it here. Thank you, Loree (and Katie Noble for the beautiful photos, including the one above).

Please Consider a Donation to the Many Hands Sustainability Center

Each year at this time, we ask our farm customers to consider making a donation to support the work of the Many Hands Sustainability Center (MHSC).
Read more