Touchstone Farm in Temple is under new executive directorship, after founder Isabella Martin retired and officially handed over the reins earlier this month.
Martin – known universally and affectionately as “Boo” – ran her first horse camp as a young woman, trying to pay for her college tuition after her parents lost their savings in the 1970s market crash.
“I gathered my two best friends, eight girls and decided to run a summer camp. None of the three of us had ever taught a riding lesson, and none of us had ever babysat,” Martin said.
From those auspicious beginnings bloomed what would become Touchstone Farm, the sprawling farm where lessons and camp combine with therapy programs and retreats, a program of wellness Martin has administered for decades, including after the farm became a nonprofit.
It was not her initial plan, Martin said.
“I was going to be a school teacher. I wasn’t going to be involved in this horse thing,” Martin said.
But teaching jobs were scarce, and there were a lot of mothers interested in riding lessons for their daughters. Riding lessons expanded into carriage driving lessons and camp, and before she knew it, she’d devoted her life to the farm.
Now, she said, it’s time for her to step back and take on a different role. In order to do that, however, a successor had to be found.
Touchstone Farm is now run by a board, with Martin as the executive director.
Martin said she wasn’t very involved with the selection process for her successor Christi Friedrichs – except in the key way that Martin encouraged her to apply for the position.
Friedrichs, who was officially hired as the farm’s new executive director on July 2, had been a member of the board for a year, after becoming friends with another board member and bonding over a shared love of horses.
“I found her to be a positive, upbeat, organized person. I felt she would be a strong leader,” Martin said.
Friedrichs had the strength to hold to her vision in front of a large board of directors, the poise to be able to communicate to investors and partners on a national level, but wouldn’t be afraid to get down to a camper’s level and give her a hug if she was homesick, Martin said – a rare and winning combination.
Friedrichs has 20 years of experience in consulting in business development and has a strong background in fundraising. But she said she was ready for a change of pace, and to take up something different.
“The primary focus of my career to this point has been profit, and at this point in my life, I want to do something more meaningful,” she said. “While working with the board, and Boo, the overriding thing that impressed me was the pure intentions. Towards the farm, staff and each other. Everyone has a love for the farm, a love for Boo, and for what happens here, and that’s what makes a place that really does transform lives.”
Martin said she had reached a point where she was ready to give up the leadership of the farm, though she still plans to stay involved in a capacity as a founder and “spirit keeper.” But she’s prepared to step back and allow the next steps for the farm under Friedrichs’ leadership.
Friedrichs will be undertaking some projects to put the farm on a more sustainable financial footing, including looking at setting up an endowment model, and administering a capital campaign to purchase the farm from Martin, instead of continuing to rent it.
Once the farm legally belongs to the Touchstone Farm nonprofit, those rental funds will be able to go back into expanding programs, Friedrichs said.
Friedrichs also hopes to expand Touchstone Farm’s reach. While the farm is well-known locally and regionally, Friedrichs said she will continue efforts to make Touchstone more well-known nationally as some of its programs – such as therapy programs for veterans – continue to grow.