Big results from our tiny home office...

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We had a business planning meeting right before New Years Eve and it sorta rocked our world. We started with a deep dive into all of the numbers...

We learned that in 2018, we sold over 70 pigs and scaled up our pig breeding program. We sold 1000 chickens/turkeys and we sold 1,864 dozen eggs. We increased enrollment for our chicken and egg CSA programs, had 51 total people sign-up and received 4.9/5 star customer reviews. We developed new ways of harvesting ginger and turmeric which saved us lots of time and we sold our Thanksgiving turkeys in record speed. We built a barn addition, another high tunnel, and a new egg laying house. We hosted 7 farm tours, showed up right here in our newsletter to connect with you almost every week and managed to never miss a single Brighton Market all year.  Phew. 

Next, came the many hours of soul searching and enterprise budgeting. Boy was that fun!  As we were considering what we wanted to do more of in 2019 (as well as what we wanted to less of), we realized that the aspect of the farm that consistently brings us the most joy and fulfillment was our CSA programs. We just LOVE seeing our members every week and getting to know their families and providing them with the best of the best, week after week. For all of these reasons, we've decided to open the shares up to more people next year (sorry to all the folks who we've had to turn away in the past) and make the experience even more impactful with more bonuses which we will be sure to tell you about later this winter. 

To say YES to more CSA members, we had to say NO to something else. So, we decided to say NO to adding another farmer's market, NO to producing more eggs, and another NO to raising summer turkeys (don't worry, we're still doing T-giving turkeys). These are tough choices for us, since we know they are things that many of our customers enjoyed in the past or have asked us for . But they aren't right for us, at this time in our lives, and there is peace for us in setting these boundaries.  

Speaking of peace...remember when we shared that after 3 years of being in business, we hadn't paid ourselves yet? Well, we spent a lot of time number-crunching during this 8+ hour planning session and are happy to report that this year we will finally start paying Greg for all the incredible work that he does. It won't be tons of money (we're aiming for a teacher's salary) but it will be enough keep our passion going strong and the doors wide open so that we can continue to grow food for your family until we're old and gray.  

2019 is going to be another busy year on the farm, that is for sure. But now that we're done mapping everything out, one thing is crystal clear.  Our mission has always been  "to produce exceptional organic food, to improve the health of our community and to educate our community about sustainable farming" and in ways both big and small, we are doing all of these things. We can't wait to see what 2019 will bring! 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Taming the Beast

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We jumped the gun this year and made our New Years resolution back in early December. We've been working at it for the past several weeks and you know what? It's already been a game changer for us.  This was our problem and I'm betting you can relate:  We look at our phones way too much!

We resolved to cut back on screen time and tame the beast. This is what we've learned so far...  

1. There is rarely if ever an email that is so urgent, that I need to respond to it within minutes.  I was in the habit of checking my emails 20+ times a day (first thing in the morning, between farm tasks, or unfortunately, sometimes during farm tasks), and social media at least that many times.  I mean, how many critically time-sensitive messages do I really get that would make this behavior sensible? None.  

2. We are now blocking time in our schedules for email and social media and we are WAY more productive!  Since I'm a pretty calendar driven kind-of-guy, I set my schedule in the beginning of the week (we LOVE google calendar) and block almost every hour of the work day with farm tasks. Instead of checking my email randomly multiple times a day, I am making a point to do this during my designated email time. This small change is taking some time to get used to but it has been awesome!

3. Keeping our phones out of our bedroom improved our quality of sleep. 
For most of our adult lives, we've charged our phones on our bedside tables and used them as alarm clocks. But having them right next to us all night meant that we got into the bad habit of looking at our phones right before bed and right when we woke up. Well, it turns out this behavior does not help our circadian rhythm! We bought an alarm clock (this one which also has sound and light therapy!) and we are now sticklers about keeping the phones out of our bedroom. It took a few days to make the adjustment, but we are getting much more restful sleep!

4. There are apps out there to help us. We've been using an app called Moment which tracks the minutes/hrs of screen time and helps us set goals and track our screen time. Changing the notification settings on the email and social media apps so that we're not alerted when messages come in has been a good improvement too.  

We have HUGE goals for our farm and our lives for 2019, so we know that these changes will be sooo worth it. 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

Best of 2018

It's a lot of work for us to write this newsletter on a weekly basis. But despite the time commitment, we love sharing stories and our thoughts from the week here. It's fun, it's cathartic and it's helping our business grow. 

But we had a realization a couple of months ago that another amazing thing about writing this newsletter every week (besides getting to let you in on what it's like to raise organic livestock), is that we're also creating a record of all of the happenings on our farm. These weekly emails are our little legacy and it's kind of amazing to think about what we'll get to remember when we look back at these words and photos 10, 20, 30+ years from now!  

Thinking about this prompted us to go back and look at newsletters from the past year, and there were some doozies.  There was the peculiar story about our pet goose that fell in love with Jenney, the one about the origin of our barn.  There was the time we really put it all out there to share the 3 things we're most embarrassed to admit. There was Jenney's favorite newsletter about how I followed my calling in Greg's Moment of Truth and my most meaningful newsletter of the year when we lost our boar (we said they're cathartic, right?).

I've never had a diary or kept a journal (unlike Jenney who has been journaling since she was 7) but I'm so thrilled that we're building a story book of the life of our farm! 

We would love to hear from you, if you have a few minutes to spare this week. What was the most memorable newsletter for you and why?  What would you like to hear more about and was there anything that you'd like to hear less about?

Here's to finishing up a great year, creating more time for reflection, and moving on to 2019!

Your Farmers, 
Greg & Jenney

Finally, the exhale.

There is this shift that happens every year, sometime in early December and we are juusstt abbouuttt there!

For most of the year, my weekly calendar is chock full of tasks that involve moving animals and maintaining our pastures.  We move the laying hens, the pigs, the turkeys and the chickens so frequently that it would probably make your head spin (this is called rotational grazing and it's one of the reasons our food tastes so delicious). Along with the animals, comes the water lines, the feed totes and all the movable fencing. 

But in the winter, the grazing season is over. The grasses and legumes we've been nurturing in the fields all summer long are dormant.  Grazing these fragile grasses now would damage our pasture and set us behind for next summer. 

So instead, we bring everyone up into winter paddocks closer to the barn and to our house where they will stay until the fields are ready to graze again in the springtime. The laying hens are up behind the barn and will soon be moved into the house our Fairy Godmother helped us build and the pigs are moved into their winter area, which is a series of winter paddocks beneath a long tree line.

Besides a few little loose ends, our farm is officially buttoned up for winter and we can finally exhale. It's not like we don't have work to do (we still have our flock of laying hens and at least 40 pigs on the farm right now with new piglets on the way every couple of months).... but the transition to winter time is complete. We're ready for the 4-foot snow falls and the strong gusts of wind, whenever they make their appearance. 

This also means I get to stay inside more, spend a lot more time cooking new recipes, read plenty of books, and plan for next year... you know how much my I love spreadsheets! 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

Yep, we have a fairy godmother...

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You know what might just be the trickiest part of raising livestock over the winter? Water.  

Imagine us here at our farm with our flock of laying hens and 4 different herds of pigs out in the fields. It's relatively easy for us to bring organic grain to the animals once or twice a day, after we get bundled up and shovel a little snow. But in the wintertime, when the temperatures drop, the portable waterers, water tanks and spigots freeze solid and this means we don't have water where the animals are.

In previous years, we carried buckets of water from our basement to our animals 2-3 times per day. And, if this sounds terribly inefficient to you...it is! It takes a lot of time and it also wears on our hands, and our backs, and our spirits. 

We've always known that if we were going to be able to keep doing what we love most in this world (FARM!), we needed to figure out a better system for water over the winter. But, after our barn renovations this year, it just wasn't in our budget.  

That is, until a customer of ours, who we named our Fairy Godmother, told us this summer that she wanted to help finance a project on the farm!  To be honest, we thought she was joking at first. I mean, who just offers to give money to a farm!? 

We thanked her profusely and then tried to politely refuse, saying that we couldn't accept such a generous gift.  But for months, she shared how our farm was giving her joy and kept asking us when we were going to tell her how she could help. It seems strange to write this, but it was actually really (REALLY!) hard for us to accept her gift. But, after talking with family and doing a lot of soul searching, we eventually realized what was stopping us from saying yes (our pride and fear of being vulnerable) and accepted her offer.  

Greg immediately got busy researching and drawing up plans. We wanted to use her gift wisely and needed to design a structure which is movable (since our winter paddocks move from year to year), economical, and gives us more days with flowing water...while keeping the animals on pasture where they belong.  We wanted it to serve our laying hens first and foremost (since our Fairy Godmother is a vegetarian!), but have some duel purpose for when the temps were super low and the pregnant sows are delivering.

Farmer Greg came up with a grand plan and it is AMAZING! It gives our hens more sunlight and more warmth (which will help mitigate the drop in egg production over the winter) and it will help prevent our water from freezing for most of the winter.  

We are happy to report that as of this week, construction is finally underway!  How amazing is this? 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

The Kitchen Dance (plus another great free guide for you!)

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As you've probably noticed by now, we write a lot! We write these fun newsletters every week where we share about what it's really like to be organic livestock farmers here in Rochester, with the highs and the lows and a seasonal recipe to inspire you in the kitchen. 

We post to social media almost every day with more stories from the farm and photos to give you a glimpse of how we raise our animals and what our every day life on the farm looks like. 

And, we also create guides for you like the Thanksgiving Recipe Guide or our the Ginger Storage Guide because we admire your enthusiasm for cooking with local organic ingredients and we LOVE supporting you in eating well!

So...yeah. It's safe to say that we write a lot. Maybe, more than a lot?  Who knows.  But, have you ever wondered who is writing this stuff anyways?  Is it Jenney or Greg or a combination of them both? Sometimes people ask us if we ever hire this stuff out? 

As funny as it sounds, it is all made possible by what our parents call the "Jenney and Greg Kitchen dance."  The kitchen dance is what happens every day when Greg starts cooking while I'm off doing something and then without saying a word, I'll start adding a little of this or a little of that. When we're really in our groove, there's very little need for explanation or verbal communications. And just like that, we've created something amazing together in the kitchen. I'm hoping that you get to dance like this with someone in your life, too? 

Well, the truth is, we do the "kitchen dance" every week with this newsletter. We have brainstorming sessions where we come up with concepts together months ahead of time. Then, I'll usually start writing a few paragraphs and then pass the computer to Greg so that he can literally finish my sentences or my paragraphs and tie the concept together with photos and subject lines. 

It might not be the most efficient way of writing and there are definitely times when we step on each other's toes (hah!), but our business and everything that comes from it including THIS NEWSLETTER is a true reflection of our partnership and our shared vision for our farm. 

So, we've done it again and worked together extra hard this week to make you another awesome guide. We want to help you get the most from your indoor Brighton Market trips and made a guide so you know where you are going (the location switched so we're indoors now!) and which vendors you can expect to see when you get there. If you're newer to the indoor market or interested in checking it out for the first time, this is a must have!

Download the guide for FREE here and let us know what you think!

Your Farmers, 
Greg & Jenney

PS- If you know of someone in your life who might also benefit from the guide, please share this post with them!  We want it to be a useful resource for everyone in our community!

Are your dogs barking, too?

The weeks around Thanksgiving are without a doubt, one of the busiest times on the farm.  All the planning and prepping for Thanksgiving turkey distribution feels sort of like coordinating a wedding...though we might not be the best people to make this analogy since we eloped :)

Our goals every year are to make sure everything and everyone is taken care of on the farm, that distributing turkeys to 125 families goes smoothly, and that our customers feel welcomed and appreciated.  

We are the first to admit that we haven't always achieved entirely "smooth" turkey distributions.  Sometimes it was our doing, like in 2015 when pickup was at Mud Creek Farm and we forgot to bring lights. This was the year that we had to distribute birds and take payments in the dark until someone realized about 1/2 way through that we could use our car head-lights for illumination. Then there was 2016, when the weather threw us for a loop and gave us a full-on blizzard midway through turkey distribution. Yeah, that was fun for....noooboooddyy. 

But this year, we are happy to report that despite the cooler temps and snow, turkey pickup went off without a hitch. For the first time EVER, we welcomed families into our 200-year old barn (the one we moved to our farm last year!).  There was hot apple cider, music, and twinkling strands of lights over-head. The birds were sorted by size, the numbers were just right, and the distribution area inside the barn looked beautiful.  Our customers looked happy and comfortable, which made these two tired farmers very happy.

Thank you to all of you who chose to purchase their food from us and other local farms for your Thanksgiving feast this year. It means the WORLD to us and our farmer friends.

Your farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

The BFM and Why We're In Love With It

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Were you at the Brighton Farmer's Market last weekend? Did you notice that Greg was solo at our stand? I took the weekend off, which is a rare occurrence these days...but when I got home the sweetest thing happened. 

Greg had SO much to catch me up on! He ran through the day and shared all the details about who stopped our stand and how they were doing this week with names and details that only the two of us could ever appreciate. Then, he showed me all the beautiful food he bought for us.  At the end of the conversation, we were both were smiling ear-to-ear. 

I think we've got something special going on at the Brighton Market, don't you? 

The grocery store is impersonal. You shop for the stuff on your list (usually without talking to anyone) and you have no sense of where your food is coming from and how it was produced.  If you're like us, you look for those organic labels, but when you're looking at a pack of chops from Uruguay or eggs from Ohio, it's impossible to know know what it all means and feel the least bit inspired. 

At our market though... there is real, genuine, human connection with people who care. The vendors take great pride in producing amazing food and they go above and beyond to share that passion with their customers. And the shoppers (that's YOU!)....you are amazing too because you don't just say that you care about the quality of the food you're putting into your body and feeding your families. You show up and spend your money with the local farms and small businesses that are doing amazing things and growing food the RIGHT way.  Go YOU!

This community we're building...it's something else! Even when it's chilly, and we're a little tired, and we have hand-warmers in our gloves....you all make the Brighton Market a place we LOVE to go to every weekend. 

We can't wait to be back together with you this weekend for our last outdoor market for 2018! Are you as excited as we are? 

Your farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

PS-Don't forget that starting November 25th (this coming weekend), the Brighton Market moves indoors to the Brookside Center and the hours change to 1-4pm! 

3 Biggest Mistakes in Our First Year of Business

When we started our business back in 2014, we had tons of heart and Greg had plenty of farming experience...but between the two of us we had absolutely NO business experience.  As a result, we made some serious rookie mistakes in our first year of business. 

Here are our Top 3:

1.  We tried to please everyone. 
You want to come over on a Friday night to pick up eggs? Sure. Want to come by early Sunday morning to see piglets? Absolutely. Tour the farm? Of course! Day or night, weekday or weekend. We kept the doors open to everyone and tried to meet everyone's expectations. While we loved saying YES and seeing our friends and new customers happy (we REALLY did!), it meant that we had to say NO to something else. And because we were stretched so thin in the start-up phase of our business, the things we said no to were usually the reeealllly important stuff like self care and nurturing our marriage.  If we looked a little crazed back then, this is why! 

2. We wanted to fit in and be like everyone else. 
You know that nagging voice that tells you that you need to emulate someone that you think is successful, in order to make it? We had this going on BIG TIME during those first few years. For example, we knew other farms with big restaurant deals, so we thought we needed to have this, too. We noticed that a lot of farms farms sell their stuff at multiple farmers markets, so we thought we needed to get on this train. We were searching for an identity by mimicking someone else's. It took us a couple of years to realize that the energy we spent trying to be like other businesses we admired, actually worked against us. In truth, it stifled our creativity and our self expression.  Oops!  When we started to really dig deep explore what WE actually wanted for our business and our lives, EVERYTHING shifted.  

3. We almost never took days off. 
You know when you love something so much that it feels like you have an endless amount of energy to pursue it? This was us (and still is). We woke up early, stayed up late, worked through meals, and pushed our bodies and minds to the limit during those first couple of years. This intense drive meant that we almost never took real days off during the main farming season. Our bodies gave us some subtle clues that we were overdoing it, but we didn't listen. That is...until Greg lost sensation in his left foot and was referred to a neurosurgeon for possible back surgery for a pinched nerve (fortunately this was unnecessary and it healed on its own).  From that point forward, we made a point to schedule days off every week so that we can rest and do things away from the farm. 

We have compassion for our rookie mistakes because we know that they got us where we are today. But, we are striving for more. Our farm's purpose is to produce exceptional food to improve the health of our community, to practice humane animal husbandry,  and to educate our community about organic farming, but we also need to keep our bodies, our minds and our relationships healthy. We are sooooo happy that we've made so much progress in these areas this year and are always looking at ways to improve even more next year.  

Thanks for sticking with us through the growing pains! 

Your farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

The D Word

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When you're a livestock farmer, you get pretty comfortable with life and death.

The life part is almost always a ton of fun. It doesn't get more exciting than watching a litter of piglets be born or seeing a new batch of day-old chicks arrive in the mail. They are fragile and the work can be tiring, but watching animals grow and helping them thrive is one of the greatest joys we experience here on the farm. 

Death is the thing nobody ever wants talk about, but is an inevitability on a livestock farm. We are always aware that our animals will die and that their bodies and all the energy within them will go on and nourish our community. Losing an animal before it's time is difficult, though, and this is where we've been this week. 

Our boar "Boris" who you might have met at one of our farm tours or seen on our social media had some serious health issues develop, and under the recommendation of our Vet, we had to put him down this week. Burying our boar was difficult and not without conflict, tears and grief. But the experience validated what we've always known deep down inside....that as farmers, we have a special bond with our animals and that it's okay to love them and miss them when they're gone. While some might see this as a weakness, we think it is one of our greatest strengths.  

The deep respect and love we have for our animals serves as a guiding principle on the farm. It helps us do right by the animals every day, even in tough situations like these. We are compassionate, humane livestock farmers. It is who we are, it is what we stand for, and it is part of the legacy we are building here at Stonecrop Farm.

What would the world look like if all farmers cared about their animals this way?
 
Your farmers, 
Greg and Jenney