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!