Spring Renewal and Our Farm Community
by Corie Pierce
Every spring is a time for new beginnings, renewal, birth. Excitement fills the air and signs of spring are everywhere, including in our spirits. There is a fresh new bounce in all of our steps. There is a feeling that “anything is possible!”, after a winter that we all felt, on some level, to have survived. Now the things that we had to work for each day get a bit easier! (Think getting your family out the door just to go for a walk – snowpants, boots, mittens, scarf or no scarf, hat, layers….or…instead of hauling a 750lbs round bale of hay to the cows and trudging through snow and ice to do so, we just open a gate and let them into their new, lush pasture, with no worry of their waterer freezing over night!). Suddenly, those first few days in spring that clear 50 degrees, everything feels EASY! Throw on a sweater and you are on your way!
OK – yes, I know we just had one of our biggest snow storms last week, but, Spring is upon us, we know it.
I am always amazed by the pseudo-amnesia that comes with the feeling in spring that anything is possible. Funny, that we can’t quite remember just how hard the height of the growing season is -- the hours worked, the physical challenges, we just do it, and in March we seem thrilled at the possibility of taking it all on again! So it goes, and especially for a farmer, it seems that with each season there are the joys and the parts of it that we love and crave, and there are the real challenges that we dive right in to, with naïve positivity and fortitude.
It seems like in spring, or on the cusp of spring, I tend to reflect on this more and more with each passing year. I think about why I do what I do, why I farm, why I feel so strongly about trying to make this business thrive. The sense of birth, beginning again, and renewal is, perhaps, the time to think that way, to consider what we do and why. And this year, more than ever, we are thinking about this as a team here at Bread & Butter Farm.
Over the past three years our team went through big transitions – we had to reinvent ourselves and what we are doing on this beautiful 143 acres of land that we have been entrusted to steward. It was about three years ago that we renewed the commitment of farming to simultaneously build community and to regenerate the land where we work – and do it in a collaborative way.
In the most beautiful and organic way, a team has just emerged. And, the core principles that guide this team has also emerged, like the tender shoots of grass in May that push out of the clay soil to start anew again.
We have an incredible team. We have a group of people here who all have found farming as a “career” not because it was part of their family tradition, but often in defiance of what others thought was a ‘good choice’. This team has emerged to live this lifestyle and this mission, not because it is a practical or sensible career move, but because it’s really the only option. And luckily, it’s one that is truly the best option for them, for us, for our community. Although our backgrounds vary greatly – how we were raised, what we were exposed to growing up, how we ate as children, our educational levels – we have all come to find that food is truly the deepest human connector. We see that humans are at a reckoning point with how food is raised, gathered, grown for human consumption, and if we don’t take a hard look at how we steward the land that sustains ALL life on Earth, we will have big challenges to face.
Whew, that is heavy, but, it also feels very true. And so, this team that makes up Bread and Butter Farm is on a mission. We are united by sharing a sense of purpose in our lives. We believe that there is a different way to “farm”, or really to care for land. A way where we can integrate back into a more natural, ecological system, one where the lines between plants, animals and human animals is more blurred, one where the wilderness and the farm are more blurred. One where we are just one partner in a whole system, not the dominating force OVER a system.
This is what defines us, what motivates us, what drives us each spring when the birds and the bees buzz yet again and we feel young and invigorated, like anything is possible. We see so clearly that humans and animals and forests can all flow and integrate and thrive together.
We try to balance running a business and working collaboratively together within the construct of our modern day society to try and operate in a way that is antiquated and “old fashioned”. In a time when iPhones (we use them too!) and social media rule; where technology seems to be king, we are also experiencing a movement toward more genuine connection. The older ways of doing things are returning. How do we operate an old-fashioned, modern farm business in the age of Instagram? It feels crazy, but we will try!
A huge part of our mission to steward land and animals and plants in a holistic way involves the kiddos. Many of you know that our childrens’ programming has grown in the last few years. This has always been a HUGE guiding force in our mission, originating before Bread & Butter Farm existed. I have always believed that in order to actually create real change in our food system and in our relationship to the Earth, we must engage our kiddos right from the start.
We have expanded Camp Bread & Butter, and in the fall of 2017 we launched our Village School. Of course, Mister Chris and his Music for Sprouts program has stayed steady and strong, serving as our foundation for building community and safety with our littlest ones, before they are big enough to come to camp. With our ongoing partnerships with The Schoolhouse Learning Center and UVM, we also have been able to strengthen and deepen our connection to elementary, middle school, and college age students. It is exciting!
So, together, we are defining how to operate this education - farm business in a modern era. This also means legal structures and bank accounts and land ownership. This winter we have been spending time researching how to do things differently, that is actually sustainable in the business sense (which is a perennial challenge for farms). This means that as an employer, we need to incentivize longevity, and support a community -- not just an individual or one family, but many households. We are making progress.
But now, SPRING! The renewal is coming, we feel it knocking on the door, we feel the antsi-ness of life bubbling and bursting, ready to pop, which means so will we! And then we will need to balance the work of working together with the work of land, plant and animal stewardship. Until the leaves fall again and give us a minute to breathe again…..
Stay tuned for more. And thank you for being a part of our farm! We are here because of you, because of the support you give us, because you are believing in what we are doing. Thank you!