Travel

Viewfinder: Brattleboro Retreat

Lily Smith (left) and Morgan Aither in the chicken barn at farm at the Brattleboro Retreat.

Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe

Lily Smith (left) and Morgan Aither in the chicken barn at farm at the Brattleboro Retreat.

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The farm at the Brattleboro Retreat was started 180 years ago as part of a radical new idea: that mentally ill people should be treated fairly. Useful employment and open-air exercise would help heal them, and would also provide food and operating expenses for the hospital. Now run by a nonprofit, the Retreat Farm’s Barnyard lets kids and their adults experience the old-fashioned joys of farm life — hunting for eggs, feeding a one-ton ox, or holding a day-old kid under Mama Goat’s watchful eye.

Best friends and 9-year-olds, Lily Smith (left) and Morgan Aither love being together and love animals. Before they left the chicken barn they had befriended and named just about all of the chickens. They were fearless, even when it came to holding the big old rooster.

The Retreat Farm was a radically new idea. It was started to provide purposeful work for patients, food for the hospital, and money to help run the place.

Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe

The Retreat Farm was a radically new idea. It was started to provide purposeful work for patients, food for the hospital, and money to help run the place.

It was a good day day for Finn, 2, and Sophia, 6, Poggi to play at being farmers on the tractor outside the barn.

Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe

It was a good day day for Finn, 2, and Sophia, 6, Poggi to play at being farmers on the tractor outside the barn.

Mary Harwell, of Greensboro, N.C., held Cagney, a baby goat who is only one day old.

Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe

Mary Harwell, of Greensboro, N.C., held Cagney, a baby goat who is only one day old.

From left: James Bezanson, Deane Newton, and Chris Farnsworth didn't catch any winners but enjoyed the springlike weather during an ice fishing derby across the road from the Barnyard.

Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe

From left: James Bezanson, Deane Newton, and Chris Farnsworth didn't catch any winners but enjoyed the springlike weather during an ice fishing derby across the road from the Barnyard.

A llama made the acquaintance of Grace Gabriel, 9.

Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe

A llama made the acquaintance of Grace Gabriel, 9.

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