Location: Millersville, MD
Charlotte Rich has landed exactly where she is meant to be. Her job as the community farm manager for Langton Green, a position she took on in October 2018, is the perfect synchronicity of her personal and professional experience and goals. Langton Green is an Annapolis, Maryland-based nonprofit that serves adults with intellectual disabilities, providing residential homes and full spectrum care, including vocational training and opportunities for community engagement. In (need year), Langton Green purchased a 13-acre property in Millersville, Maryland and developed it into a community farm in an effort to engage their unique population in an out of the box setting.
Charlotte grew up in Arnold, Maryland on the Severn River and spent her childhood exploring the natural resources of the river, riding horses, raising chickens and working on her extended family’s tobacco farm. She loved playing in the dirt, mucking stalls and being around animals, and even turned her hobbies into a business by growing and selling raspberries, eggs and Dutch rabbits. She also grew up with an autistic brother and she saw firsthand how he struggled socially and how challenging life could be for him. “I have always been Intrigued by people who are different,” Charlotte says. Charlotte not only watched her brother struggle, but endured her own challenges as a highly dyslexic student who learned best when engaging in hands-on, experiential learning. “I can relate to people who think, process and communicate in a different way,” Charlotte says. “I can empathize with them.”
Her educational and professional training also parallels nicely with the farm’s mission and philosophy. She has a BA in environmental studies from Washington College, a Masters in Cultural Sustainability and one in Management from Goucher Graduate School. She also has a teaching background, having spent many years teaching students in Title 1 schools about environmental and cultural sustainability, and a previous job working with the Annapolis Maritime Museum developing an education program focused on oysters. By honoring the cultural heritage of the oyster industry, Charlotte was able to tell both the human story and the environmental one, merging the two just as she does in her own life and on the farm.
“I always wanted to farm, while getting back to nature and living in a sustainable way,” Charlotte says. She says her work on the community farm represents the trifecta of her life goals. She is able to engage socially (providing enriching opportunities for engagement for both the adults with disabilities and the community at large), economically (making money both for herself doing what she loves but also with a goal of reinvesting in the community), and environmentally (using natural resources in a way that creates equilibrium with the biodiversity that surrounds her). Her work on her extended family’s tobacco farm also taught her “how to work with what you have around you when your monetary resources are limited.” She learned that “human capital is essential,” a lesson that she employs daily at the farm.
Some of the Langton Green clients work on the farm, receiving a minimum wage for their daily jobs. Others come by for discreet tasks or simply to learn and be outdoors. Charlotte has also strived to involve the community, both in the farm as it now exists and in her plans for future expansion and growth opportunities. She has designed raised garden beds and a sensory garden to enhance accessibility for the diverse needs of the farm’s growers and the community. Additionally, the farm has extended its volunteer engagement, and partnered with schools to develop heuristic field experiences and curriculum involving the farm. The farm has even hosted a pig-themed 9-year old birthday party, and goat and silkie chicken yoga sessions. “I have learned how to leverage limited resources by building partnerships with the community,” Charlotte says. The goal is to work towards having the farm be self-sustaining, but for now it is reliant on federal and state grants and individual donations.
When Charlotte came on board in 2018, the farm had 36 laying hens, seasonal plantings, a small orchard, and berries. Charlotte has added six goats, twelve Silkies chickens, and potbelly pigs, including one named Penny, who was pregnant when she joined the farm and has now added piglets to the farm’s menagerie. The majority of the food grown on the farm goes back to the Langton Green homes in Ann Arundel County, Maryland, but small portions are sold to the community and at farmers markets.
Charlotte is thrilled with the growing Interest from the community, and she continues to try to find ways of engaging the community. “I would love to be able to offer the space for special events, professional development and conferences,” Charlotte says. But her primary focus is on the enrichment opportunities the farm provides to its primary audience, on average 21 to 50 year old adults with disabilities who struggle with cognitive and processing delays and who are able to grow and learn and excel on the farm in a way they couldn’t in another setting. “I am really focused on emotional intelligence,” Charlotte says, noting that the farm’s unique setting provides opportunities for “self awareness, self regulation and communication.” She has found that the animals are a particularly powerful form of engagement, and she has seen residents demonstrate self control and empathy with an animal in a way that allows them to engage with the world in a new way. “Once I put a baby chicken in her hand,” Charlotte says of a young woman who was having a difficult day at the farm and struggling with self regulation, “she was able to think beyond herself.” Another goal of Charlotte’s is to develop a therapeutic livestock program on the farm. “Once they spend time with an animal,” Charlotte says. “They are able to reengage.”
Charlotte’s work on the farm has her wearing many hats. “I am a teacher, boss, and camp counselor all rolled up into one,” she says. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Information about the Langton Green farm can be found at: