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Stetson School Fresh Start Organic Garden


Stetson School, 455 South Street, Barre, MA 01005
Started in 2013
Website Coming Soon!

About the Stetson School, an Affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation

Stetson School is a nationally accredited, fully licensed, Chapter 766-approved Residential and Education Treatment Program for male youth and young adults, ages 9-22, with sexually problematic behaviors, complex developmental difficulties, chronic mental illness, and autism spectrum disorders, who have suffered from severe trauma. Recognized as a national leader in the treatment of sexually troubled behavior, Stetson School offers a continuum of supports and services to the high-risk population with a family-focused, individualized “culture of recovery.”

At Stetson School, our highly-qualified staff of educators and clinicians provide supports that speak to an individual's entire mental health and developmental needs. Our goal is to provide tools that can be used throughout a lifetime. Stetson School fosters empathy and a strong alliance between our treatment team and educators, the child and the family to ensure success. Our focus centers on strength-based and culturally sensitive services with the goal of supporting family stability, successful reunification and permanency. Our flexible program options specialize in safety through quality assessment and individualized treatment plans, which work toward a safe return to the community.

Our beautiful country setting, located on 200 acres of land in Barre, Massachusetts, provides a therapeutic, safe and secure placement for young men which promotes accountability and healing. At Stetson School, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to become a confident, capable adult, and a productive member of the community.

The mission of Stetson School is to support youth and families and help them to form healthy and secure family connections, overcome adversity and traumatic experiences, build social competency, and develop emotional and behavioral self-regulation skills. The overall mission of Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates is to promote and encourage the empowerment of people with significant challenges so that each may pursue their highest possible degree of personal well-being and independence.

About The Stetson School Fresh Start Organic Garden

The Stetson School Fresh Start Organic Garden was established in 2013 by students at Stetson School as part of a service learning class project with the goal of providing a team-oriented, therapeutic enterprise on campus.  While a classroom of about 10 students takes primary responsibility for the garden, each of the school’s sixty students has an opportunity to get involved in the project in some way. Students help to plan the 6,000 square foot garden, and during the season help with planting, maintenance, and harvesting more than 30 different types of crops.

This innovative project has been instrumental in helping Stetson School fulfill its mission in creative ways.   During the first season, students shared some of the produce with classrooms as healthy snacks and also provided the cafeteria at Stetson School with fresh, organic produce to incorporate into meals. Students hope to expand offerings to students in the second year, adding donations to residential units where students will improve their independent living skills by learning how to cook healthy meals with the fresh fruits and vegetables provided to them.  Additionally, produce from the Fresh Start Organic Garden is sold to staff and external parties to help sustain the project. Students also plan to partner with local soup kitchens and food banks, donating produce to give to those in need in their community. Lastly, students have developed an extensive and rewarding relationship with a local organic farmer, who donates time, seedlings and materials each season. Students in the service learning class visit her farm to help monthly, and Stetson has added her farm as a work site for the transitional age youth it supports.  

Fresh Start Organic Farm

Stetson School has been fortunate to receive a number of grants to help support and expand the Garden, including funds to purchase a rototiller, install drip irrigation, and construct a hoop house near the main plot in 2014. Efforts during the second year include the addition of a 2,400 square foot plot for perennials.

Students learn by doing, and having a sense of ownership in what they do and accomplish. Students participating in the Fresh Start Organic Garden not only have the opportunity for hands-on lessons in agriculture and their position in today’s food system, but this service learning project provides them with a therapeutic environment that helps strengthen their ability to work together, improves their self-esteem, enhances their knowledge about healthy eating and empowers them to learn how to give back to their community in a meaningful way.

Students participate in all aspects of the garden, including planning, planting, maintenance, harvest, and delivery. Furthermore, some of the students participate in a food system curriculum which makes classroom connections with their practical experience.

Practice Area

People with intellectual disabilities

Measure of Success

Improves client services

Percent contribution to agency’s revenue (if applicable)



Shawn Ilinitch at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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Stetson School, an Affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation

Founded in 1899

Budget Range

$9 - 15 mill


Central Mass

Clients Involved