Farmington, Maine: An Old Tradition Solves A Current Crisis

In one small town, residents trade labor for medical care

A man's word, or a woman's, goes a long way in the pine-scented foothills of western Maine. In the rugged community of Farmington, pop. 7,400, where logging and farming provide seasonal work and unemployment is twice the national average, pride runs deep. A handshake binds a contract almost as often as a signature. So when a local writer walked unannounced into the office of Franklin Memorial Hospital president Richard Batt to explain that he could not pay for his son's hospitalization, Batt wanted to help the man meet his obligation honorably. After agreeing to adjust the bill, Batt asked--in an afterthought...

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