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Notes from a Farm Hand

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

Written by John Alpaugh

For half of the week John is running machinery and hustling with us to harvest vegetables from the field.  For the other half John is in charge of managing and executing an ever changing delivery route.  Somehow in his spare moments he's found a third half to write a few things about the farm.  A couple weeks ago he introduced you to Ash Collie. This week he's written about Brad.  

John here again to tell you about another member of the Crow Crew.... If you come by the farm, perhaps late in the summer to flock in the sunflower maze or in the fall to the Grand Majestic Pumpkin Patch of Pemberton, or any day of the week to restock your fridge with fresh veggies at our Farm Stand after enjoying a frosty draft from the Beer Farmers, you may notice an old trailer peaking above the long grass in the back corner of the field. This is the summer home of Brad Shepherd. The small green and white trailer is equipped with a propane hookup for Brad’s stove and firepit, and a porch made with old landscaping fabric and shaded by a salvaged awning. There is no electricity, no wi-fi, no bathroom, and running water is found only in the nearby Ryan River. These amenities are reflected in his rent. It is exactly what Brad was looking for on his return to Pemberton.

You may remember Brad from the crew three years ago, before the farm moved to the Miller’s. During that season, he knew he would return eventually to Laughing Crow and the Pemberton Valley. It was too good a deal. For the beauty beheld by the valley, it is worth every penny, but with all the accessories – the peace and quiet, the hot summer days, the wonderful people and the tasty vegetables – it is a paradise for a nomad like Brad.

His home is in Wakefield, England, but he hardly feels that way about it anymore. Now home is wherever there is warm weather, good views, and friends new and old. He has travelled to Australia, Nicaragua, the Canary Islands, even Iran, but he still found his way back to Pemberton. If it weren’t for those pesky Canadian winters, Brad may well have put down roots more solid than a mobile trailer. He may still.

My path isn’t all that different from Brad’s but he’s had a few more years of experience. After graduating from Dalhousie University in Halifax, I decided to try the whole travel thing. I saved up last summer by working at home and set off this past winter driving around the United States and living out of my car. When this trip began to come to a close, I started looking for my next move, and that led me here.

After living on the road, I was excited by the luxuries of the great indoors. I often find I am only comfortable after I have been uncomfortable; only then can I appreciate the privileges we often take for granted. Had I been coming from a different situation, I easily could have found myself in a spot like Brad’s, but instead found myself in an apartment with a shower and a kitchen, now worth paying for. 

When I drop in to see if he wants to go to the lake or for a hike – I would call ahead, but he doesn’t have a phone number – I am jealous of the simple life he lives. I remember the quiet nights reading while making dinner by the light of a headlamp, destined to fall asleep soon afterward, and to wake at the earliest light. 

Without realizing it, I think Brad has bought into a doctrine that leads to this simple life, and that we all may learn something from. It is one I came across in my late-night readings on the road, flipping through the old-Englishy pages of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. In the quintessential chapter of his most prominent work, Thoreau lays out the basic philosophy, and the bank statements that led to its realization, that led him to move to Walden Pond, a few miles outside of Concord, Massachusetts, and build a cabin for himself to live in.

His main point is that we charge through life trying to get good jobs and nicer houses, without really thinking about whether this will lead to our happiness or fulfillment. He said, “the life which [we] praise and regard as successful is of but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?” Often, he thinks, we spend our days earning money for things we think we need, because that is what everyone is doing. Instead, he “would have each one be very careful to pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead.”

Notice that this is not prescriptive at all in substance – it doesn’t matter the path you take, as long as it is your own and considered based on your own needs. “Most men appear never to have considered what a house is,” Thoreau contended, and are poorer for it. Often we can get the things we really need by doing less, not more, by shifting our focus from the material to the meaningful. When Brad talks about his trailer, he does not complain that he does not have electricity or a toilet. He talks about the calm afternoons he spends doing yoga on the grass and reading. He talks about the hundreds of species of birds he sees, from eagles to cranes to unidentified calls that haunt him at dusk, the callers yet to have been glimpsed. He talks about having fresh vegetables and mouth-watering beer only steps away. Brad has found himself a home for the time being, and it has all he needs. His only request: “it needs to get hot.”

Whatever path you have chosen, we're grateful you have considered fresh, local vegetables to be an integral part of it, and are excited to bring you this week’s box.


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