Photo: Ben Sklar
Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
Blue Sky arrives infrequently here in November, and so Sunday morning glitter-frost-sunrise pouring over the Western Ridge powerfully claims my attention. The Farm Team arrives to meet in the sunny greenhouse to plan the week ahead and by 9 am we are already shedding layers. The air is still – no Wind – and so a remarkable quiet is upon the Farm. We pause for a moment of attentive silence before we open our meeting with spoken gratitudes. The only sounds to be heard are those of water – Brook song from across the meadow and the tap-tap-tap of melting-frost-water drops falling from the rolled-up sides of the greenhouse to form tiny puddles on the frozen ground below. How rare it seems to be with other Humans and to be silent, alive and listening to the murmurings of a thawing late-November morning. If it weren’t for the Virus, we surely wouldn’t be meeting outside in November, and we are reminded that there is much to be grateful for.
We are honored to invite you to join us for our weekly celebration of the exquisite gift of being alive, Soup and Bread Gift Distribution, Saturday from 11am – 1pm. We will have hundreds of loaves of freshly baked bread made from flour milled fresh at the bakery from wheat, rye and corn grown on three Vermont Farms. We will also have two Soups made by many neighborly hands from carefully grown and gleaned ingredients. All of this food is offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason. With the forecast for snow this weekend our Work Day will look a little bit different. If you’re willing to prep soup ingredients, we will have them for pickup at Distribution, Sat. 11-1. Find details here: bit.ly/brushbrookworkdays
I began writing this letter on Tuesday – Giving Tuesday – at which point we were more than $500 short of our Budget Request for November. In the afternoon, a single $500 gift arrived to bring us to within $70 of that total. We are so incredibly grateful to each of you who uphold our efforts here. We are honored to work on behalf of a better day that we will not ourselves see.
A Short Story: Pondering Poverty and Affluence on Giving Tuesday
“Giving Tuesday” was anointed back in 2012 with the following premise from givingtuesday.org: “Whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts and everyone has something to give.” Which makes me wonder, “What will we do on Wednesday?”
Call me what you will, but I remain suspicious of initiatives that are too comfortable. Are we willing to describe, honestly, the conditions under which such a national day of service is necessary? We think a lot about this question at Brush Brook Community Farm, and say, rather uncomfortably:
The work of the Farm is not to help poor people get rich, but rather to invite rich people to consider voluntary impoverishment as a moral choice in a time of cascading ecological and social troubles.
Every time I write this, I get push-back, particularly from people over 50. ‘“Couldn’t you pick a different word than impoverishment?” Placing the words voluntary and impoverishment together seems to create a dissonant chord. The coupled words illicit discord. And yet we wrap our hearts around ‘Giving Tuesday’ and remember visionaries like Ghandi and Dorothy Day as setting a moral high-water mark, even calling them modern-day saints. What is going on here?
I’m going to propose that the word missing from the conversation – the keystone, if you will – is Affluence. A beautiful word, it flows from the tongue perhaps because its root -flue means this very thing, to flow. The prefix af- means towards, giving us a word that points to the condition of the flow being directed towards you. How do we know if this is the condition of our lives? How do we decide to claim “rich” or “poor” as identities? Or do we only assign them to others? And, do we really have to talk about this?
I came across a story that might help to bring these questions into focus. The title of the newspaper article reads, "I Killed the Colorado River – and So Did You." This caught my attention, so I read further. The reporter was awarded an environmental fellowship to walk the dry lower reaches of the Colorado where it used to pass through the Mexican desert. He writes,
Nearly 100 years ago, before dams and canals drained it dry, naturalist Aldo Leopold canoed through the Colorado River’s delta. He called it a “land of a hundred green lagoons,” and one of the most stunningly beautiful habitats he had ever encountered, two million acres of wetlands teeming with fish, migratory birds, even jaguars. That’s almost all gone now, replaced with a wasteland straight out of “Mad Max”.
He reports that in 2014, “the Mexican and U.S. governments agreed to allow a one-time pulse of water into the dry river from the dams above just to see how nature would respond.” As if humans were part of that nature, he writes:
Workers with a local conservation group described for us how nearby families were sometimes invited to visit the site. They said children who’d never seen such a thing frolicked through the cottonwoods. During the pulse, some of their grandparents wept, remembering what it once looked like when the Colorado River had water.
Here is the first radical notion this article whispers – perhaps there are some among us who remember a time when conditions were otherwise. The reporter, a resident of California, is willing to scratch the surface of his grief by following the river back upstream. Here is what he finds: “Below Hoover Dam, the Golden State takes the biggest gulp, siphoning away half of the river to grow miles upon miles of crops, such as lettuce, broccoli, and table grapes, in what’s called America’s “winter salad bowl.” Here is what he finds the courage to write: “Ever eat lettuce in the winter? Wear cotton underwear? Watch a Hollywood-produced blockbuster or sitcom?...You’re why the Colorado is dry. So am I.”
This reporter is given the rare opportunity to walk the dry riverbed of his unintended consequence. In doing so, he comes to see the ordinary affluence of being a modern American person. Who is going to argue today that we should voluntarily limit our access to clean underwear or fresh fruits and vegetables? From this reporter’s position downstream, he begins to understand affluence as the diverted flow.
How do we describe the conditions that give birth to Giving Tuesday? In a society that pushes Limits farther and farther from view, you could say that a vast distance has opened up between our desires and our consequence. Some might call this distance Progress, or Globalization, or even Freedom. Could it be that a comfortable remove from our own consequence will always bedevil even our heartfelt longings to be generous in the face of such well-articulated need?
Here is what you will find in this letter:
- GIFT DISTRIBUTION DETAILS and FULL MENU
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – detailed November Budget
With Great Care,
Ava, Erik, Collin, Evan and Adam – The Brush Brook Community Farm Team
SOUP and BREAD GIFT DISTRIBUTION: Saturday 12/5, 11am - 1 pm
- Brush Brook Soup – Roasted Squash and Turnips, Tomato, Greens, Beef, Garlic, Herbs, Bone Broth.
- Vegetarian Soup – Pureed Sweet Potato and Turnip, Tomato, Garlic, Herbs.
Please bring a mask with you and wear warm clothes. We will have Soup and Bread to take home, and encourage you to bring quart containers from home for us to fill for you.
BUDGET UPDATE: Thank you for considering the December Budget
Many heartfelt thanks to all who have responded to these invitations by sending in Financial Gifts. If you would like to support our work, you can mail checks made out to Brush Brook Community Farm to PO Box 202, Huntington, VT, 05462, bring gifts to the Gift Stand, or donate through the website. We are 100% financially supported by these personal financial gifts.
Brush Brook Community Farm and Bakery – Nov. Budget
|As of 12/2|
|Gifts Received in Dec – Thank you!||$ 0.00|
|Estimated Expenses for November|
|Bread Ingredients & Packaging||$ 1,115.50|
|Bakery Overhead (Insur., Electric, etc.)||$ 555.86|
|Bakery Rent||$ 300.00|
|Farm Expenses||$ 1,550.00|
|Farm/Bakery Team Requested Gifts|
|Adam Wilson Personal Living (full time)||$ 648.08|
|Adam Wilson Rent||$ 200.00|
|Erik Weil (part time) Rent/Housing||$ 500.00|
|Collin McCarthy (part time) Utilities||$ 100.00|
|Hay Feeder and Portable Sheep Shelter||$ 300.00|
|Estimated Federal/State Taxes||$ 351.22|
|Paypal Fees||$ 150.00|
|Negative Balance from November||(70.00)|
|Remaining Balance Requested||$ (5840.66)|
Support the Farm & Bakery
The operations of Brush Brook Community Farm & Bakery are maintained by neighborly working hands and financial gifts. Your generous monetary support propels the gift of food forward to those open to receiving it.