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January Farm Correspondence: Bear Mountain to Staunton

At long last, 2021 is here and our Community Action Year has finally commenced!

I’m so happy to be back on Bear Mountain working as the Outreach and Equity Coordinator with my fellow Fellow (and Farm and Fellowship Coordinator), Hannah, but that doesn’t mean I don’t desperately miss the rest of our cohort.

Our friends are all living and working in Augusta County, a formidable hour and a half drive on windy mountain roads from the Allegheny Mountain Farm. But though they may be far away, it hasn’t changed the fact that we’re a family. And after all that we’ve been through together, letting go of the supportive community we’ve built just simply isn’t an option.

Our cohort, celebrating our time as a family group, before heading off the mountain last year.

Fortunately, we’re all very much committed to remaining the tight-knit unit we’ve been since last June. Doing so this year will simply require just a bit more creativity than it did last year when all we had to do was walk into the Timber Frame.

In addition to socially-distanced weekend visits and cohort days, one strategy we’ve devised for keeping in touch is exchanging reports on our activities. I had the pleasure of ringing in 2021 with the Augusta Health Fellows in Staunton before heading back to the mountain. As we bid farewell, they asked me to send photos and updates from the farm and so, upon arrival, I wrote them the following dispatch.

I liked the idea of sending a regular account of our mountain doings. However, as I probably should have guessed, our “formal” correspondence quickly devolved into casual WhatsApp messages adorned with screenshots and emojis.

But hey, what better use of a blog assignment than to follow through on a half-baked idea? It’s also perfect timing, with the rest of our cohort just now returning to the region and starting their new positions.

So without further ado, I give you Farm Dispatch No. 1 & 2:

2021 Farm Dispatch No. 1


Dearest Vanderloovens,*

We’re happy to report that our beloved mountain is as beautiful as ever.

We arrived to little snow and much mud. Thankfully, we were still able to utilize our trusty steed to transport our belongings upstairs.** The lodge still maintains a formidable barricade of snow and ice, requiring some skillful acrobatics to gain entrance. Once inside, we discovered a charming, unexpected message from one of our predecessors. While it was odd to find the lodge so empty, sweet reminders of our time there together remain.

We had a lovely reunion with the animals. The ducks are thriving and Belinda seems to have returned home after her long odyssey, much to Dwayne’s delight. Egg production seems to be down, but that’s to be expected this time of year. The cows are still mourning the loss of little Shirley, but I’m confident they’ll make it through this. The fact that Shia consented to a photoshoot, gives me reason to feel hopeful. Old Lightfoot is as surly as ever, but is looking dapper in his new winter coat. They all miss you and can’t wait for you to visit.***

We ended the day with an incredible sunset, roaring fire, and decadent brownies. Tomorrow we’ll begin the work of making this place feel like home again.