Our History

We (Kristen Tool and Chris Wheeler) have the privilege of managing Olsen Farm in Lanesborough, MA. When an unexpected death left our fourth generation family farm in jeopardy, the community pitched in to help us purchase our family land and rebuild the farm.

We started Heart & Soil Collective as a volunteer project and way to give back to the community. When COVID-19 struck in spring 2020, people were having trouble locating fresh food and experiencing heightened health risks. This seemed like a problem we could help solve, because Chis and I had land to grow produce.

We ran a pilot project through the farm to provide local food to seniors. We partnered with Lanesborough Council on Aging and St Luke’s Church to set up a central location for weekly produce distribution and put out a call for seniors to sign up for deliveries.The pilot was funded by a 2nd place prize through EforAll Berkshire County’s Virtual Pitch contest, as well as our own online fundraising.  

Community members donated ‘extra’ produce from home gardens and other local farms offered what was left after their markets as well. Anything left over was brought to Lanesborough Food Pantry to make sure nothing was wasted. 

The program ran for 12 weeks, providing 600 pounds of produce directly to Lanesborough seniors. We also handed out cotton face masks and recipes prepared by a local nutritionist each week.  

When we surveyed people at the end of the pilot, we learned that 100% of participants wanted to receive deliveries again and see the program expanded next year. One senior commented it ‘felt like Christmas’ every week when she got her veggies. Along with providing fresh food, the Free Produce Program helped ease the pain of isolation during COVID as seniors shared their stories with us.  

A 99 year old told us she was so thankful, and felt like all the kind acts she had done in her life were finally coming back to her. She shared she had grown up with our grandparents- grandma Marge as a teenager is in the center of the photo to the right. 

Another participant shared she spent a summer on the farm when she was about four years old, before there was electricity or running water in the farm house. She remembered seeing a deer in the yard and telling her mother excitedly there was ‘a reindeer outside!’ 

The pilot had been a great success. We knew there was huge demand for fresh local food, but needed to know if people and organizations were willing to pitch in to help provide free local produce to seniors and those in need. So, we sent out another survey to find out if our communities saw the need for local food programming in the Berkshires the same way we did. 

The results were encouraging! We learned the need was there and that community members were waiting for more opportunities to help. One respondent commented: ‘I hope through your research you can find out why people like me, who can afford to donate, don’t do it more often.’  

  • 94% said that they prioritize finding local food security solutions for Berkshire County. 
  • 77% shared they were likely to donate money toward local food security solutions.
  • 63% prioritized donating to non-profit organizations.  

We decided to create a nonprofit, Heart & Soil Collective, so we could separate the work on our farm from this community initiative. We’re grateful for how the community has collectively embraced Heart & Soil over the past few years. We’re excited to work with you as part of our local food family to connect people to the land where their food grows and make healthy food and hands-on nature experiences accessible to all.

Meet Our Staff

Kristen Tool

Kristen Tool

Managing Director

Caring for and stewarding land has been a lifelong dream of Kristen’s and her time working alongside husband, Chris, to restore Olsen Farm has begun to bring those dreams to life.

Along with farming, Kristen worked as an Early Education Studio Art Teacher, website designer and writer for Mother Earth News Blog. While running an after school program she hatched chicks in the classroom for multiple years, including the farm’s first clutch of chickens in 2016. 

Kristen has her BFA in Textile Design and you will often find her creating art using natural, found and recycled materials. She has designed jewelry using turkey tail mushrooms sustainably foraged from the family lands at Olsen Farm.

Chris Wheeler

Chris Wheeler

Managing Director

Chris grew up on the land at Olsen Farm, a Boy Scout for life, he still loves exploring caves in the neighboring Balance Rock State Park and bushwhacking his own trails. 

In 2015 Chris began restoration of his family’s fourth generation farmlands. Along with forest management, raising poultry and gardening Chris is a beekeeper and was the President of Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association from 2018-2022. Before he started reclamation of Olsen Farm, Chris was an International Society of Arborists Certified Arborist for ten years, working with Race Mountain Tree Care out of Sheffield MA and continues to do fine tree pruning for private clients.

When he is not farming you can find Chris restoring antique axes, Geocaching, foraging for wild edibles or training two wonderful Australian Shepherds, Aspen and Pepper.

Jazzmyn Tulloch

Jazzmyn Tulloch

Bookkeeper

Justin Proper

Justin Proper

Food Coordinator

Isabella MacDonald

Isabella MacDonald

Intern

Elias Robinson

Elias Robinson

Intern