Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
The fourth to last Friday Soup and Bread Gift Distribution arrives and turns into an extravagant affair. The Distro band forms a quartet to serenade Father Sun as he drops below the Western Hills. The bouquet on the table includes riotous red Sumac and bright purple Asters. Three-year-old Hamish asks Erika for a dance. She says yes. When I try to squeeze in on the next song, Hamish makes it clear that Erika is taken. Many beloved friends and neighbors stop by to say hello, to pick up food and to offer their heartfelt concerns and questions. Many repeat what we have heard again and again over the past month: “We are so grateful for what you all bring to our community. We really hope that you can figure out how to stay in Huntington.” Now, I know that questioning the value of hope is not likely to be very popular. But popularity – or hope for that matter – has never been a key motivator for writing this Newsletter, or really for any of the work of the Farm. I’ve been wondering about the word hope – wondering whether hope has much to offer to a world in swoon, whether it more closely resembles something to lean on or something to hide behind? Do we wield hope as a walking stick or as a shield? I’ve also been wondering if we’ve done a good job describing the ways in which Brush Brook Community Farm differs from a business, and how those differences might inform our understandings of our responsibilities to one another in a moment of immense uncertainty such as this one? We also heard the question, “What does it mean to say that Brush Brook, as we have known it, is dying?” I’ll try to honor these two questions – of hope and of dying – by opening a window into last evening’s Farm Team meeting. I have written that I learn a lot about how to be human by watching and listening to my co-workers on the Farm Team. I saw this very clearly last evening, and so I’ve asked their permission to try to tell the story – Behind the Scenes: A Brush Brook Farm Team Meeting.
Here is a list of upcoming events:
Work Day this Sunday 10/17, 1-4pm. Warm Soup and Bread will be served once we finish clean up, around 4:30pm. Bring: A bowl and spoon, warm clothes, a cutting board and knife to join the Soup Team or work gloves for field and garden projects.
Cider Fest (previously known as Apple Gratitude Celebration) Sunday 10/17, 10am – 4pm. Cider pressing begins at 10am. Bring Apples, containers to take cider home, a potluck dish for lunch(plus a bowl and utensils for eating and a cup for cider). Lunch will be served at noon. Interested in picking apples around town on Saturday? Have apples to be picked? Willing to drop off Apples to the Farm Sunday morning? Email Evan at email@example.com.
Soup and Bread Gift Distribution Friday 4-6pm. The Bread has been going fast, and so we encourage you to stop by on Fridays rather than waiting until the weekend. The Brush Brook Soup this week features Roasted Delicata Squash, Potatoes, Carrots, Peppers, Tomatoes, a whole leg of Lamb, as well as fresh garden herbs: Basil, Sage, Savory, Thyme, Leeks and Scallions. The Vegetarian Soup is made from pureed Carrots, Winter Squash, Peppers and Tomato, seasoned with fresh garden Herbs. Serve with Cream or Milk, if you wish. All food is offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason.
If you are willing to make a financial gift towards the remaining October Budget Request of $3141.13, you can do so HERE.
STORY: Behind the Scenes: A Brush Brook Farm Team Meeting
We gather at the tail end of a brilliantly warm fall day on the porch of the house Erik and Collin rent in the lower village. The Valley narrows at this end, and so the high Western Ridge soon casts us in its shadow. We open, as always, with a round of spoken gratitudes. There are logistics to discuss for the upcoming week – what are each person’s priorities and what help do they need to cover the tasks? We make plans for Sunday’s Cider Pressing and Work Day, considering the cadence of the potluck lunch and whether we will just press Cider or also chop Apples to cook into sauce.
There is something deeper to be described here. The six members of the Farm Team – Erika, Evan, Collin, Ava, Erik, and myself – do not try to even out labor contributions, but rather commit to ensuring that the whole is being upheld. Some maintain full or part-time jobs outside of Brush Brook and others do not. Each person eats full-time from our shared pantry – fresh, frozen and fermented vegetables, yogurt and fresh cheese that Ava crafts from gifted cow and goat milk, gifted honey, eggs and berries, the beef and lamb we raise, and of course bread. Some of us buy no groceries other than black tea, coffee, or chocolate. We have very different amounts of money in our individual bank accounts and very different personal budgets. Each member of the team decides how much of themselves they are willing to give to the labors of the Farm and whether or not to ask the community for a stipend. Those stipend request go into the public budget, sent out to some five hundred people in this Newsletter.
Can you imagine replacing the words Farm Team with the word family?
All of the food beyond what the six of us eat is given away as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason. For the past year and a half, this has meant looking at our inventories of meat, stock and vegetables each week and preparing the largest pot of soup that we can manage – between seventy-five and one hundred quarts. We also bake as much bread as we can manage from whole wheat, rye and corn purchased from three Vermont farms. Before the Pandemic this meant preparing a monthly feast served with no charge at the Town Hall, called a Gratitude Feast. Singing and dancing ensued.
Darkness descends by the time we’ve waded through the week’s logistics. Time to bite into the meat of the meeting. Evan initiates a conversation about money. He begins, “Will we continue to ask community members to help us with our expenses in November if we spend the whole month moving and butchering and are not able to give away food?” The conversation that ensues is really quite remarkable, quite radical, quite representative of the depth of consideration that I get to be a part of each week. Here are some of the questions that arise:
Are there gifts that we are giving beyond the quarts of Soup and loaves of Bread?
As members of the Farm Team, how do we decide whether or not we are worthy of asking people in the community to sustain us?
As members of the Farm Team, are we willing to ask one another for help paying rents, car expenses, etc., if the budget is not met?
How will we decide how to put the $11,000 balance in the Farm bank account into service?
How do we understand the relationship of the Farm Team to those who regularly eat from the Farm? Those who have joined us for our Work Days or our Scythe School? Those who just read the Newsletter and receive nourishment that way?
How do we imagine the responsibilities of each of these categories of people – eaters, learners, readers – to the Farm Team?
If we butcher twenty Lambs and six Cows this winter, who does all of that meat actually belong to? How do we relate to things that belong to no one, or to everyone? How do we relate to a gift? And what about the 75 gallons of Sauerkraut, 10 gallons of Pesto, 40 gallons of Tomato Reduction, and so on?
Could we host pop-up food distributions at the Town Hall, the School, the Church in the winter, giving away raw ingredients rather than finished Soups if we don’t have access to an adequate kitchen space?
Is there someone in town we haven’t thought of yet who might have enough space in their garage for our six chest freezers?
Without a centralized home base will the work become so inefficient that it will surpass the capacity of the Farm Team to organize effectively?
If Adam takes a sabbatical year away to write and the bakery goes dormant – which is emerging as a distinct possibility – will there be enough enthusiasm from community members to support the folks on the Farm Team who want to labor here to grow and cook and share food, to invite their neighbors to gather toward mostly-forgotten ways of making family?
This is one way to describe the seeds that our work has tried to plant: We have attempted to make family with neighbors and strangers, human and non-human, by giving and receiving gifts, feeding and asking to be fed, gathering and giving thanks. We have invited you to join us as we try to construct a household of place and then to ask if all of the residents – human and non-human – are being upheld. Refusing to balance the ledger or even things out between us appears to be potent medicine for a troubled time. Indebtedness, worthiness, and belonging join hands around the feasting table and give thanks before the meal.
From where I stand, I see seedlings everywhere. But there is a catch – these fragile young plants won’t be kept alive by a lot of people hoping they get watered. They will be kept alive by lots of people filling their cans, hauling them around and watering.
Many have expressed surprise and sadness at the tone of last week’s Newsletter, the focus on grief and the naming of dying. While it is true that we see seedlings everywhere, it is also true that we are immensely sad to say goodbye to joyful patterns of interaction with which we have fallen in love. Here is a request for you. If you live nearby and you’ve got water in your can, come find us at one of the next three Friday Distributions or Sunday Work Days. Empty your can onto the ground with us – we could sure use your support – and while you are here, speak your grief and your longing and your gratitude into the cooling Fall air. Don’t just hope for something to be so. Say it aloud. If you live farther away, send us an email and we’ll read it aloud at our next Farm Team meeting. Sending in money is lovely and important, but we invite you also to reach out with your words. We will keep working diligently on the logistics side of things and making requests and invitations. We will keep trying to remember how to make family in a time of cascading ecological and social troubles – family as medicine. What else would we do instead?
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – Detailed October 2021 Budget
With Great Care,
Adam and the Brush Brook Community Farm Team
BUDGET UPDATE: Thank you for considering the October 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.
|BBCF - October 2021 Budget|
|As of October 13|
|Gifts Received in October – Thank you!||$1,751.71|
|Overage from September||$447.74|
|Tractor, Freezers and Milkroom Rents||$200.00|
|Bakery Overhead (firewood, insur., utilites)||$250.00|
|Website, Tech, and Office Supplies||$20.00|
|Bread Ingredients & Packaging||$1,412.50|
|Misc Ingredients (spices, etc)||$30.00|
|Hosting and Educational||$200.00|
|Vehicles (gas, maintn., insur. etc)||$150.00|
|Predicted Human Expenses|
|Collin McCarthy Rent & Utilities||$680.00|
|Adam Wilson Rent||$200.00|
|Adam Wilson personal stipend||$448.08|
|Infrastructure Maintenance and Project Fund||$500.00|
|Total Estimated Expenses||$5,340.58|
|Total Remaining for October||$3,141.13|
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.