Photo by Emily

Greetings Friends and Neighbors, 

Cold, achingly clear air enters the Valley from the Northwest, riding on a breeze that whispers a reminder of how thin the line can be between life and, well, the absence of life. Each in-breath nips at the soft lining of the throat. Each out-breath carries heat away from moist, warm lungs. Sun drops below the Valley’s Western Ridge without our notice. We have been working at the bakery all day, roasting and boiling bones for stock, peeling Sweet Potato and Turnip for the new batch of Vegetarian Soup. With spices and salt and herbs and Tomato added, the Soup is complete and set before the open window to cool, then poured – a thick orange puree – into buckets. Lidded and labeled, I load the buckets into our trusty Farm chariot – Garden Cart – and roll my way towards the big barn. This cart rolls back and forth across the Main Road so many times each week, loaded with every manner of food and farm project. I look both ways and notice for the first time that setting Sun has painted the upper, snow encrusted walls of the Valley in pinks and purples. A movement catches the corner of my eye and turns my head. Barred Owl drops from Oak’s upper branches and glides across the road not two feet from the pavement, bobbles slightly upon brushing a sagging fence line, corrects in the air, then rises sharply to land atop a tall post just a few paces from the road – all without flapping a wing. It is rush hour and now a steady line of cars approaches, headlights on, driving home to start dinner. Maybe some of them will warm up the Soup and Bread they picked up at the Farm over the weekend. Owl – a silhouette against the purple hills – looks down upon this procession. Standing there in the driveway, taking this all in, I think I catch a glimpse of the Farm’s mission: to extend reparations to the more-than-human world by amending our relationships – both human to human, and human to all that is not human. This week’s Story – Emily’s Labor, the Gift as Family – might help to tell the story of what can begin to grow when these ideas are planted in the ground.

Winter Soup and Bread Gift Distribution in the sunny hoophouse was a life-affirming, lively scene again last Saturday. We are tremendously grateful to all of those who set an earmark in their weekly schedule for this trip to the Farm. It is hard to say enough how much it means to us to see you all – even bundled and masked – and hear a few snippets from the week. We invite you to join us this Saturday between 11am and 1pm. We will have hundreds of loaves of fresh bread and two soups, made from carefully grown and gleaned ingredients, all offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason. Here are two exciting announcements:

  1. In the 4 days following last week’s Newsletter, so many of you mailed in financial gifts that our $1800 budget shortfall was exceeded by $240, and so we begin this month with a portion of the Farm’s expenses already covered. This means that people have chipped in to cover our budget request for 10 months. Who would have guessed? You can find the detailed budget below, and you can make a gift HERE. 
  2. Our new, 25-gallon soup pot has arrived, and so we’ve made an extra-large batch of Brush Brook Soup this week, a particularly tasty blend of roasted Cabbage Noodles, smoky Beef, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Herbs and Bone Broth. With an additional 24 quarts to give away, we will invite you to consider taking a 2nd quart for your family, or one to share with a neighbor on your way home. 

Given the forecast for Snow on Sunday, we will not host a formal Work Day. If you are interested in helping with Soup Prep, we will offer small bags of vegetables for pickup at Distribution on Saturday, to be washed and chopped and returned before 10am Sunday morning when we will begin the Soup assembly.

STORY: Emily’s Labor, the Gift as Family

Last week’s Letter, The Man in Ski Pants, the Gift as Trickster, offers a window into the interactions that emerge when we stubbornly refuse to sell anyone anything, stubbornly insisting on giving everything we grow, glean, cook and bake away as gifts instead. What happens on the other side of the equation, when we at the Farm try to find the courage to ask to receive the inputs required to make this place work as gifts? What happens when we try to stop offering to pay for anything? I know what you might be thinking – this starts to sound like taking, or even stealing. But I would ask you to consider all of the societal conditioning we bring to the understanding of what it means to ask to receive, how we might begin to trust that people will find the courage to honestly say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and what relational medicine might be found in this uncomfortable practice. 

This story – Emily’s Labor – is really the next chapter of a Newsletter Story from a few weeks back, titled Dominick and Dorothy, in which I tell of the relationship between this Farm and the pasture-based Jersey dairy run by our dear friends, Emily and Joe Donegan and their four – correction, five – children. The newest, not-yet-named boy, was born at home during the snowstorm the night before last. 

Collin and I had stopped by earlier that day to draw some milk from the bulk tank and to pick up a newborn calf. Both of these we had asked to receive as gifts, without offering to compensate them with money. If you haven’t read Dominick and Dorothy, that story tells of a slightly different interaction. In that case, I called Emily and asked, “Do you have any cows you are looking to retire from the herd that we could purchase to ensure that we have enough stock and meat for our soup production?” We had purchased cows from them in the past. They would otherwise sell these cows to the auction truck and receive $4-$900 dollars depending on the market and the cow’s condition. In the case of dear old Dorothy – their son Dominick’s favorite cow – they said that they would like to give her to us as a gift. As is our practice, we gratefully agreed. 

On this day, arriving to receive yet more gifts, I ask Joe, “Is there any way we could be of service to you and the family?” Joe doesn’t have an idea right off, so Collin, who has milked cows in the past, offers, “Would you consider letting me learn to milk the cows so you could have a morning or two off per week?” He continued, “But I don’t want to be paid.” 

Joe digests this offer, and says, “I know Adam is really into this kind of alternative exchange. It is hard for me, imbedded in the money economy as I am, to imagine having you work here regularly and not being able to pay you. But I am willing to give it a try. Yes, you can come learn to milk the cows here.”

Later that evening I check my phone messages and hear the following, “Hi Adam, this is Joe. So, you asked this morning how you all might be helpful over here. As it turns out, Emily is having contractions and will likely have her baby tonight. I don’t know what you have going on, and you are probably busy, but it might be helpful to have extra hands for chores tomorrow morning. I don’t want you to feel any pressure. Thank you.”

It is already after 9pm when I hear the message, but I figure I can call back given the circumstance. Joe answers right away. The baby is coming. Two-year-old Caroline asks to get on the phone to tell me, ‘Mommy having owies.’ I ask, “What time would you like help in the morning, Joe?” He replies, “I will start in the barn at 6am. You could come any time after that. But really, I don’t want you to feel any pressure.”

The next morning the alarm goes off at 4:15. Snow fills the air outside, and North Wind howls in the treetops. Collin will pick me up at 5:30 to head toward Emily, Joe, the four (or maybe 5) kids and the forty Cows in the barn, waiting to be milked. As I pull on many layers and my headlamp and step out of the house to begin the journey in the storm, the sheer beauty of the world washes over me like a cresting wave. My tears arrive as beautiful, wrenching sobs. To be asked for help in this way is to be trusted deeply, and even to begin to see oneself as worthy of this trust. To be needed and to have need of others – human and non-human alike – is to be gathered into a living family. The gift in motion affirms the bond. The food implicates and embeds the eaters in these complexly-layered relationships. Entanglement seems to be potent medicine in a troubled time. There are so many stories like this that could be told from this past year at Brush Brook. We will keep doing our best to tell them. Thank you for receiving our gifts, and for helping us to figure out how to sustain the work – the work of amending and tending to our relationships with the soils, the plants, the animals, our human and other-than human neighbors, the countless volunteers, the partner farms and landowners, and also with the outside world by way of the written words that go out each week in this Newsletter. We couldn’t be more grateful for your courage, and your companionship.

Here is what you will find in this Letter:

  2. FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – February 2021 Budget

With Great Care, 

Ava, Erik, Collin, Evan and Adam – The Brush Brook Community Farm Team

SOUP and BREAD GIFT DISTRIBUTION: Saturday 1/30, 11am - 1 pm


  1. Brush Brook Soup – Cabbage Noodles, Sweet Potato and Potato, Tomato, Beef, Herbs, Bone Broth.  
  2. 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 January 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 – Feb. 2021 Budget

As of 2/3
Gifts Received in Feb – Thank you!  $          650.00
Estimated Expenses for January
Production Expenses  
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 
Estimated Federal/State Taxes  $            351.22 
Paypal Fees   $            150.00 
Total  $          5,470.66 
Overage from January             $237.00   
Total Remaining for January  $           4583.66

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.

Thank you!