HCN News & Notes

Jim Seltzer Named Volunteer of the Year by Statewide Providers’ Council

BOSTON — Jim Seltzer, a volunteer at ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm in Hatfield, was named Volunteer of the Year as part of the Providers’ Council 2023 Awards of Excellence on Oct. 2 in Boston. The Providers’ Council is the largest association of human-service agencies in Massachusetts.

Seltzer has volunteered since 2014 with Prospect Meadow Farm, a vocational training program for individuals living with disabilities. As a skilled mushroom hobbyist and a clinical psychologist, Seltzer recognized that work that engages the farmhands’ large motor functions could be both therapeutic and satisfying. He proposed starting a log-grown shiitake mushroom site, which would allow farmhands to lift and handle the logs, use tools, track the progress of each log’s output, harvest the mushrooms, and distribute them to area restaurants and markets.

Over the past nine years, Prospect Meadow’s mushroom operation has grown to more than 4,000 logs, making ServiceNet the largest producer of log-grown shiitake mushrooms in Western Mass. Seltzer has supplied logs from his own land to further support this effort, paid loggers to cut additional logs from the farm’s felled trees, and much more.

In this past year, volunteering approximately 300 hours, Seltzer completed the largest greenhouse ever for the farm and assisted in expanding the mushroom-laying yard at the farm’s secondary location. In May, he co-facilitated a successful, multi-day management retreat for Prospect Meadow Farm managers who were gearing up to open the newly completed vocational and production center.

“Jim is such a fungi!” said Natelie Dunn, a site manager at Prospect Meadow. “He is a wonderful, kind soul who uses his skills to foster curiosity and build learning moments for our clients. And his knowledge and love of mushrooms is infectious as he helps teach our community about mushroom growth and harvesting. Jim has endless patience and provides pathways for our clients to do jobs independently and, more importantly, with confidence.”

Always ready to step up for a new project, listen to and reflect with staff, enliven retreats and meetings using his facilitation skills, and serve as a role model of consistency and dedication for the farmhands, Seltzer has proven to be a valuable and irreplaceable resource to ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm and the agricultural community of the Pioneer Valley.