Updated: Jan 19
In episode 7 of our Mental Horizons Podcast, Virgil spoke with Lisanne Finston about vocation, vulnerability, and leadership. Lisanne is the Executive Director of Gould Farm, the oldest therapeutic farm community in the U.S., founded in 1913. She has been in this role for nearly 6 years.
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Prior to her current leadership role at Gould Farm, Lisanne spent 20 years serving as Executive Director of the innovative anti-hunger organization, Elijah’s Promise, in New Jersey. This organization serves the homeless as well as people with mental health and addiction challenges. During her time there, Lisanne turned a local soup kitchen into a culinary center that now feeds hundreds of individuals and families with locally grown food and provides job training and employment opportunities for people in need. In her own words, the mission of Elijah’s Promise is to, “use food as a tool to feed people and equip them with the tools and skills to feed themselves.”
Lisanne has published an article for the Huffington Post titled, People Are Hungry: How Can We Fix It? And has co-published a research article title, Developing a food policy council through community-based participatory research.
Lisanne has a Bachelor of Arts degree from American University, a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Masters in Social Work from Rutgers University. She is also ordained in the United Methodist Church.
Lisanne lives on the 700-acre farm campus of Gould Farm with her wife, Patty -- who is also a trained social worker and minister - and their two children.
During this episode, Virgil speaks with Lisanne about how she came to this work and how her studies in divinity and social work have shaped her leadership. We will also discuss what Gould Farm is and where Lisanne sees the mental health field headed.
Main Talking Points
What are the elements Lisanne's life that gave her the passion, preparedness and persistence to be an executive director of two significant, non-profit human service organizations, Elijah’s Promise and Gould Farm? Des Lisanne have words of encouragement for listeners who may be interested in becoming leaders?
For audience members who may not be familiar with Gould Farm, Lisanne explains a bit about its history and who it serves today. During the process of coping with mental health challenges, when do families and mental health professionals turn to Gould Farm for help?
Gould Farm has been a model for the development of other therapeutic communities, showing that this form of mental health care has an increasingly important place in the continuum of care. What is the future of therapeutic communities? What is the advantage to someone coping with mental illness of using a therapeutic community compared to other shorter-term options?