Goodbye to Black Brook Farm Growers!

We’ve decided that we’re not con­tin­u­ing Black Brook Farm Grow­ers this year. It was a very dif­fi­cult deci­sion, but as much as we’ve enjoyed the last two years on the farm, Dave and I both feel as if we’re not ready to com­mit 100% to an agrar­ian lifestyle quite yet. Because so much plan­ning in farm­ing is very long term (you don’t see the results from your efforts until many years down the road) in order to really cre­ate a eco­nom­i­cally and eco­log­i­cally viable farm we would have to com­mit to stay­ing here for a long time. Dave and I are still young, and we still want the oppor­tu­nity to travel and exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent career paths, and we feel as if this exper­i­men­ta­tion wouldn’t be pos­si­ble while main­tain­ing this farm in Carlisle.


So, we’ve moved back down to New York City and left all the beauty the farm has to offer behind. Dave’s work­ing in film, and I’ve con­tin­ued to work in restau­rants and also been doing some work with Slow Food USA, which is based in Brook­lyn. If pos­si­ble, our dream is to take a road trip across the United States vis­it­ing and work­ing at dif­fer­ent farms through the WWOOF pro­gram (World Wide Oppor­tu­ni­ties on Organic Farms). Where ever we are, we hope to keep learn­ing about farm­ing and food. My mom has also had an excit­ing cou­ple of months, but you’ll have to ask her about that.


We started Black Brook Farm Grow­ers because we wanted to learn about farm­ing, and because we wanted to get this beau­ti­ful, nutrient-rich land back into pro­duc­tion. Well, we’ve def­i­nitely learned a TON, not just about farm­ing, but also about our­selves. We’ve become stronger, men­tally and phys­i­cally, and we’ve moved back down to New York City with more con­fi­dence, a stronger com­mit­ment to local food and the envi­ron­ment, and a much more solid rela­tion­ship with each other and with our fam­i­lies. As far as get­ting the land back into pro­duc­tion, we’ve found a cou­ple women in the area that are inter­ested in keep­ing the gar­den going, so it’s so the land will still be used, now under the name Danc­ing Tomato Farm. Visit their web­site for infor­ma­tion about where to buy their veg­eta­bles. If you’re inter­ested in a CSA share, our friend Andrew Rogers is start­ing a CSA over at Clark Farm and I’m sure it’s going to be great. You can get more infor­ma­tion at the Clark Farm web­site.


If you have any ques­tions about our deci­sion feel free to email us. Thank you to every­one who sup­ported us these past cou­ple of years. It’s been an amaz­ing experience.


Happy Spring!


Wendell Berry Passage

“Eric Gill sees in this indus­trial dis­mem­ber­ment of labor a cru­cial dis­tinc­tion between mak­ing and doing, and he describes ‘the degra­da­tion of the mind’ that is the result of the shift from mak­ing to doing. This degra­da­tion of the mind can­not, of course, be with­out con­se­quences. One obvi­ous con­se­quence is the degra­da­tion of prod­ucts. When work­ers’ minds are degraded by loss of respon­si­bil­ity for what is being made, they can­not use judg­ment; they have no use for their crit­i­cal fac­ul­ties; they have no occa­sions for the exer­cise of work­man­ship, of work­manly pride. And the con­sumer is degraded by loss of oppor­tu­nity for qual­i­ta­tive choice. This is why we must now buy our clothes and imme­di­ately re-sew the but­tons; it is why our expen­sive pur­chases quickly become junk.

With indus­tri­al­iza­tion has come a gen­eral depre­ci­a­tion of work. As the pice of work has gone up, the value of it has gone down, until it is now so depressed that peo­ple sim­ply do not want to do it any­more. We can say with­out exag­ger­a­tion that the present national ambi­tion of the United States is unem­ploy­ment. Peo­ple live for quit­ting time, for week­ends, for vaca­tions and for retire­ment; more­over, this ambi­tion seems to be class­less, as true in the exec­u­tive suites as on the assem­bly lines. One works not because the work is nec­es­sary, valu­able, use­ful to a desir­able end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit — a con­di­tion that a saner time would regard as infer­nal, a con­dem­na­tion. This is explained, of course, by the dull­ness of the work, by the loss of respon­si­bil­ity for, or credit for, or knowl­edge of the thing made. What can be the sta­tus of the work­ing small farmer in a nation whose motto is a sigh of relief: “Thank God it’s Friday”?

But there is an even more impor­tant con­se­quence: By the dis­mem­ber­ment of work, by the degra­da­tion of our minds as work­ers, we are denied our high­est call­ing, for, as Gill says, ‘every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist’ (Gill, A Holy Con­di­tion of Work­ing). The small fam­ily farm is one of the last places — they are get­ting rarer every day — where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker — and some farm­ers sill do talk about ‘mak­ing the crops’ — is respon­si­ble, from start to fin­ish, for the thing made. This cer­tainly has a spir­i­tual value, but it is not for that rea­son an imprac­ti­cal or uneco­nomic one. In fact, from the exer­cise of this respon­si­bil­ity, this giv­ing of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the con­sumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most prac­ti­cal was: They gain the means of life, the good­ness of food, and the longevity and depend­abil­ity of the sources of food, both nat­ural and cul­tural. The proper answer to the spir­i­tual call­ing becomes, in turn, the proper ful­fill­ment of phys­i­cal need.”

– Wen­dell Berry, A Defense of the Fam­ily Farm

The Beginning

It’s Feb­ru­ary, the ground out­side is cov­ered with 3 feet of snow, and I’m inside sit­ting next to the fire try­ing to pic­ture what tomato plants grow­ing in the mid­dle of Sum­mer will look like. This isn’t the first time I’ve spent a Win­ter after­noon star­ing out the win­dow and dream­ing about warm evenings and tank tops, but it is the first time that the sea­sons and their changes have been so impor­tant to me. It’s the first time I’ve ever sat down with a cal­en­dar and fig­ured out when the last frost is sup­posed to be, and when the ground will be dry. It’s also the first time I’ve thought so much about soil, about nutri­ents and how many earth­worms there are in a square foot of earth. I’ve only been seri­ously plan­ning this small farm­ing enter­prise for a month, and already I feel as if I’m so much more aware of the land around me, even hid­den as it is under­neath all this snow.
The idea of hav­ing a small farm has appealed to me for a long time, but it wasn’t until a cou­ple of months ago that I began to seri­ously con­sider mak­ing this dream a real­ity. It all started when my boyfriend David Erick­son and I moved up from Brook­lyn to his parent’s horse farm in Carlisle, Mass­a­chu­setts at the begin­ning of last Sep­tem­ber. Both of us felt like we needed a change, but we weren’t sure exactly what that change was, and so we decided to take a lit­tle time out and try some new things: a new place, new inter­ests. We spent last fall busy with var­i­ous projects. Dave got a wood shop up and run­ning, we suc­cess­fully roasted a 60 lb pig and I learned a lit­tle about butcher­ing and about grow­ing let­tuce and kale in a green­house. When the new year came, both of us real­ized that we weren’t ready to leave yet, we had become too excited about the prospect of really invest­ing our­selves in the farm. And so, in the sec­ond week of Jan­u­ary 2011, Black Brook Farm Grow­ers was born.
Here we are in Feb­ru­ary. Dave’s gone to New York to work as a set light­ing tech­ni­cian on Board­walk Empire for the next cou­ple of months, in order to make enough money to buy piglets and fenc­ing. Mean­while, I’m liv­ing in Mass­a­chu­setts, where we both grew up, spend­ing my days with seed cat­a­logs. Luck­ily, sur­rounded by both our fam­i­lies, I have no short­age of help and sup­port. My mom, Hasso Ewing, who has worked as a grower and land­scape designer for years (and who has always wanted to farm) is very involved in this project, my dad, Bob Han­nan, is excit­edly design­ing our logo, and Dave’s par­ents, Tom and Tammy Erick­son, have been gen­er­ous enough to give us free reign to use any horse-free fields their prop­erty has to offer, and have really made this all pos­si­ble. We’re going to plant about a half acre of veg­eta­bles, get a cou­ple pigs, increase our flock of lay­ing hens from 9 to 30 and build a mobile chicken trailer for a new flock of pasture-raised meat birds. The plan is to sell veg­eta­bles, eggs and hope­fully some meat weekly at a cou­ple farm­ers mar­kets and see how we like the farm­ing life, and if we’re any good at it.
Enough blog­ging, it’s time to get back to plan­ning about tomato plants in front of the fire.Farming is fun!