Farm Life

Why were we ever so embarrassed to write about this?

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Sometime last year, we shared that we aren't planning on having kids. People have told us that they were super surprised to learn this and we totally get it.  It just isn't what two happily married, crazy in love, 33-year-olds usually say. 

But between you and me, this decision has been one of the most important decisions Greg and I have ever made. And in the spirit of sharing from the heart and really being honest with ourselves and our community, we felt like we wanted to step up and share a little more here.  

So here is our truth. We were at one time super embarrassed to admit that we don't want to have kids. So embarrassed in fact, that after we sent this newsletter, we needed to hibernate without electronic devices for 24 hrs straight.

One of the main reasons why I think we were embarrassed was because we thought people would assume that us not wanting to have kids meant that we don't value parenting and/or that we don't like kids. 

But here's the thing, NOTHING could be further from the truth.  Kids are absolutely amazing (duh) and parenting? Parenting is the single most important job on the planet! You are literally raising the next generation of human beings and that is incredible. YOU are freaking incredible! 

But we've spent a lot of time looking at this from a lot of different angles and somehow, we always come back to the same conclusion. Having children is so right for so many families out there AND it just doesn't seem right for us. 

Luckily, we aren't free floating out in the universe feeling lost and confused about any of this. In fact, I don't think we've ever felt more grounded or more confident that we're on the right path for our lives, and that's because we have this fire in our hearts to build and grow something else. 

That "something else" is being organic livestock farmers who don't just farm sustainability and ethically, but who produce truly exceptional food and help families eat well. This last part feels huge, daunting, scary, exciting, hopeful, and empowering and that's how we know we're right where we should be. This is our way of contributing to our community and to the world and it feels freaking awesome right now. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Wait, did I just get rabies?

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We were in our barn last weekend tidying things up and all of a sudden a dark aerial thing starting swooping down around my head. I ducked and let out a little shriek or maybe it was a swear word or two? So me, being me.... I naturally came to the immediate conclusion that we had rabid bats living in the barn. This is NOT going to be fun, I thought. 

Greg, on the other hand, was all smiles. Yes, he was amused by my theatric response to what I thought was a rabid animal, but turned out to be a pair of overly protective barn swallows. But on the inside, he told me, he was smiling because these little barn swallows signified so much more.

From the moment we said YES to becoming the caretakers for this barn, we've done our absolute best to do right by it. Some farmers 200 years ago took down these trees by hand and constructed this barn piece by piece with nothing more than some hammers and chisels. And somehow, through it all, the barn managed to stay mostly intact. 

When it was given to us, we could never have known what bringing it to our farm would entail. But when I think back on all the stress, and sweat, and hard work, and heavy lifting, and pleas for help to friends and family, and all the time and resources we invested in it, I'm amazed that we didn't give up. But one of the things that kept us going was this vision we shared with the previous owner, which was to let the barn be a barn again.   

Seeing our barn in its full glory this summer with those barn swallows protecting the little nest they made above our tool bench showed us that the barn is fulfilling its purpose, not just for us but to our avian friends too. I think Greg is right... there's something beautiful about this. Don't you, too?

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

That time Greg got to be a pig midwife.

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When we were sorting out the plans for our farm, we decided very early on that we wanted to run whats called a "farrow to finish" operation.  This means that the pigs we bring to market or sell as half pigs shares, are almost all born or "farrowed" right here on the farm. And they stay here with us until the day they're "finished" and headed to the butcher.

This means that over the last 4 years, we've helped a lot of pigs deliver here on the farm. Luckily, with nature being as awesome as it is, these things usually go off without a hitch. 

But on a rare occasion, we run into trouble and it can be tricky to figure out what to do because there aren't a lot of resources out there for farmers like us who raise certified organic pigs on pasture and not inside barns.  

Last year, we encountered our first sow "emergency." Our sow Red had been in labor for a few hours. The first piglet was born at 8:00 at night and another around 8:15 and another around 9:00. Everything seemed on track so we stepped away to let her do her thing since we've learned that the sows seem to appreciate some privacy (can you blame them?) 

When we came back several hours later, she was still working hard grunting and repositioning herself, but there were were still only 3 piglets on the ground. She had had big litters in the past and we knew there were more inside. And we had done our research well before this moment, so we knew what was happening... we had ourselves an old fashioned "log-jam."

As Greg swiftly slathered up his arm with soap, I reviewed the anatomy of a pig uterus with him and started directing him on where to go and what to do. I recognized that my years of helping humans have babies as a midwife were definitely kicking in since I was a cool as a cucumber.  

It took a few tries and a lot of effort but eventually, Greg was able to pull out the two piglets that were stuck in the birth canal side by side. The piglets were healthy, much to our surprise, and within a few minutes they found their way to the nipple and got their first taste of colostrum.  And I'll never forget the look of relief in Greg's eyes that night. 

We have more piglets on the way in the next week or two, just in time for our next farm tour on June 16th.  Here's hoping for more smooth deliveries for the sows (and my husband's) sake. 

 Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

PS- If you want more info on the summer farm tours, click here.

The thing that never felt quite right.

If there was ever a thing that never quite felt right to us about living here in Henrietta, it was being so far away from Greg's family. It sounds silly when I hear myself say "so far away" since Albany is just 3-4 hours from here. 

But when you're a farmer, 4 hours away might as well be 4 days away because getting away from a farm a livestock farm for a couple of days is really just that tricky. 

So, you can imagine our excitement and relief when Greg's parents called us up two YEARS ago to tell us that they'd like to move to Rochester to be near us, and then a few months later when they'd put in an offer on a house.

The idea of them moving here always felt so natural, an immediate YES for both of us. Yes, I'd secretly worry about the unannounced drop-ins or the possibility of accidentally seeing my father in law in his underwear again, but who cares? We could lend a hand when they needed the lawn mowed or the dog walked. And we would have family to call when we were in a pinch and needed a little help on the farm.

Well, it turns out it takes a lot of time to pack up 40+ years of stuff and make a move like this. But as of this week, it's official. Rick and Julie became residents of Rush and now they, along with their numerous rescue animals, live just 4 minutes away. 

You might see them around the farm. And you will definitely see them at the Brighton Market. And while they're probably blushing right now at the mention of their names (and their underwear)  in this week's newsletter, if you see them please say hello and welcome them to town. We are SO thrilled to have them as our new neighbors.

Your Farmers
Greg and Jenney

We thought we were toast.

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I remember our first day at the Brighton Market like it was yesterday.  It was almost 3 years ago to the day and we had just purchased our farm a few months prior.  We were thrilled to have been accepted as vendors at the market and we had high hopes that it would be the perfect home-base for our business. 

We hoped to make a great first impression and start out strong, right out of the gate. We planned to bring a little bit of everything that first week. But we had some mishaps along the way including with a family of foxes who settled in on our farm and picked off most of the chickens we had in the fields the week before the market started. 

We planned to bring eggs, too, but the hens were too young and hadn't matured enough to start laying yet. And even though we had pigs on the farm, they were still weeks away from being ready to go to the butcher. So, no pork either.  

So we needed to make do. Which meant that we brought the handful of broiler chickens that had managed to evade the foxes and 12 heritage breed cockerels (which we quickly learned is a type of chicken that no one wants to buy).  And. That. Was. It.

We thought we were toast. But, I bet you can guess what happened next? If you're thinking that we sold out of cockerels, then guess again. No one even knew what those things were!

What happened was that we fell in love with our market. Folks could could tell we were new (I have no idea what tipped them off....) and they made a point to come over to introduce themselves and offer support and encouragement. The shoppers were and kind and caring and were genuinely interested in what we were doing and why we were doing it.  Even the other vendors, like our neighbors and "Market Moms" from Newbury Park Pastries and Pasta Classics, took us under their wings and showed us the ropes. It all just felt right. 

From that very first day onwards, the Brighton Market has been our home. It's where we've come into our own as farmers and it's where our business has flourished. And It's where we get to connect with YOU and serve you with the best of the best, week after week.

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

What happens when farmers go to a bar.

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We go to a local bar and play trivia with friends every now and then. I like the craft beer and crispy fried cauliflower. And Greg is remarkably good at recalling random facts (especially if they're STEM related) and occasionally helps bring our team to victory.  

A few months ago, we were in the midst of a game and a guy walked in and sat down near our group. Within a few seconds, he looked over at Greg and said "Hey! You're the pork guy!"  

I smiled and looked to Greg, wondering how he would respond to being recognized in this way. To my complete and utter delight, he totally embraced it. "Yep, that's me!" He said. "I'm the pork guy," and then reached out his hand to give his bar-mate a hand shake.

Pork is sort of our thing. But in reality, it's only one of our things because over the summertime, we also sell a lot of chicken. 

Now, here's the funny thing that I have to confess about my experience with eating chicken: I'm no expert.  In fact, I was a vegetarian for a very long time before we started our farm and I only eat meat that we raise. So, if I exclude the many chickens I've eaten from our farm, I could say that I haven't eaten chicken since I was a teenager. Not even a bite.

So with that being said, you might not believe me when I say this.... but, our chicken tastes so dang good and I know why. The same incredibly high bar we set for our pork, we also set for our chicken. This means that our chickens are really, truly, absolutely pasture-raised. They're also certified organic so I never have to worry about them being harmful to my body. And because they're butchered on the farm by Greg and me (and are never brought to a processing plant), they're always clean and well-packaged and ready to bring into our kitchen. 

If you can believe it, we're just a week away from our first chicken harvest of 2019. So, we thought it was the perfect moment to share the news. Greg is still your Pork Guy and he plans be for years and years to come! He says that you have his full permission to call him that, even if you bump into him in a bar.  And, if you're interested he can also be your Chicken Guy....

Your Farmers,

Jenney and Greg

Oopsy Daisy.

Our farm is 56 acres and about 1/2 of it's pasture and 1/2 of it's forest. Through a series of funny experiences this month, we've realized that we've been so focused on recovering our pastures that we've sort of neglected the other half of the farm, the woods. 

Let me give you a little backstory. When we first moved to the farm, the fields were in pretty terrible condition. The land had not been farmed for 20 years so they were overgrown with weeds and brambles as big as a house.

We've literally spent years focusing our energy on revitalizing these pastures and here's why. While veggie farmers are obsessed with growing the best tomatoes or greens, the job of any good livestock farmer is to grow beautiful rich pasture for the animals to graze and forage.  We aim to grow the best dang pasture possible so that our animals get to eat the equivalent of caviar.

We are starting off our 4th season here at Stonecrop and the time and energy we've spent restoring these pastures has paid off.  The brambles are almost gone and the clover, grasses, and all the plants that our animals love to eat are sprouting up everywhere. It literally feels like magic. 

But the other half of our farm, meaning these old wooded forests?  Well, over the last four years, the wind storms have come and gone, and lots of trees have fallen. The grape vines have proliferated and taken their toll. The ash trees that we intended to harvest, are still standing tall.  And the trees we want to protect (like the oaks) are competing for sunlight with the lesser tree varieties. 

In a few weeks (perfect timing for the summertime...ha!), we will have a wood stove. This means we can start making the switch from heating our house mostly with gas, to heating mostly with wood. And this also means that it's about time to start being more intentional about managing our woods. 

This sounded simple enough, so we decided to take a few baby steps forward this week. All we wanted to do was bring some trees up to the house, split them, and stack them so they could start curing and be ready to burn next winter. At the end of the day, we realized that we actually stink at stacking wood. Or at least we did on our first try, since our stack was so hilariously off-balance that after we were done, a stiff wind came and knocked it all down.

It turns out there are lots of things this farm has yet to teach us. Managing our forests is one of them. And all I can say is that's it's a very good thing we both like learning how to do new things!

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Where the heck is this train taking us?

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In our newsletter last week, there were a few sentences in there that hit us hard. 

We were talking about how, as farmers, we can't just spend our time thinking about how to grow the best pastures and raise the most exceptional food. Because even though this stuff is fun and important, we're also asking ourselves a bigger question of how can we can make the biggest impact and do the most good for our community.

I'm not sure how that last part felt to you. You might have glossed over it.  You probably didn't give it a second thought. But when we read it out loud to each other (yes we do this countless times before we press the send button), we felt so nervous. 

We felt nervous because we really do dream about expanding the reach of this farm and sharing our knowledge beyond this platform.  Sometimes, we can literally feel the farm blowing us in this direction, encouraging us to press pause and consider what more we can be doing to make a difference for even more people. 

The truth is, we don't know how we're going to get to there. We are planners and perfectionists by nature, but we don't have the answer to this big question hashed out just yet. And while that's scary, for sure, we're grateful for all that we do have.... 

We've got a mission that lights us up every single day. We grow amazing food and help families in Rochester eat well.  And, we have YOU and this incredible community of people cheering us on and supporting us at the Brighton Market and Farm Store every week. 

So how might our little farm and the community we're building here in Henrietta change the world?  Well, we're just going to have to wait and find out the answer to that question together because we've got a lot of exciting ideas waiting in the wings, ready for the right moment to hatch.

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

PS-  Just in case you were worried, none of these wild dreams of ours involve us stopping farming! We intend to continue to raise organic livestock for the long-haul! 

Something awesome just fell into our lap

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You probably don't know this about us...but we want to sell our land. Well, that's not entirely true. We want to sell part of our land. Sort of. Let us tell you more about this before you start thinking that we've lost our minds. 

We first learned about this opportunity when Greg was doing his first farming apprenticeship in Albany back in the summer 2008. The Farmers were older and they had worked their 160 acre farm for years, raising organic veggies, pigs, beef, and chicken. They were nearing retirement and had to make some tough choices.

They could sell the land to the highest bidder - probably a developer who would likely pay beaucoup bucks and turn the pastures and vegetable fields into a housing development. Or, they could pursue what's called a conservation easement, where they would sell off the development rights to a land trust, fend off the developers indefinitely, and have the peace of mind of knowing their fields, forests and rivers would stay farmland forever. 

Like our farming mentors back in Albany, we can't just think about how to grow the best pastures and raise the most delicious meat, eggs and speciality produce. I mean, that stuff is fun and we obsess about it all day long, but we're also thinking about the big picture. How can we as farmers, make the biggest impact and do the most good for our community? 

In our minds, being good farmers means that we're being good stewards of our land. And for us, that means doing everything we can to make sure that this 56 acre slice of farmland in Henrietta is ready for all the generations of organic farmers that come up behind us. 

This week, we took a major step toward preserving this land.  With the help of the Genesee Land Trust, we received a grant that will allow us to take the first step forward in selling off the development rights of our farm (a lengthy expensive land appraisal process), and we are absolutely thrilled.
 
This will all take time, probably even more than we could imagine, and there are no guarantees. But if there's one thing that farming has taught us, it's that patience is a virtue.

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

We move mountains to make it to this class every week

You know what people tell us all the time? "Wow.....you guys work so hard!" 

There's a huge part of us that takes these words in as a compliment, of sorts. Turning a plot of overgrown fields full of brambles into an organic livestock farm without any employees has taken a lot. It has not been easy and I think that everyone around us including our families, friends, customers and neighbors know that we've been busting our buns these past few years. 

But putting the farm first and always saying YES to the needs of this farm, has meant that we've had to say NO to a lot of other things.  And to be honest, without us even realizing it was happening, we stopped doing some of the most important stuff for ourselves.

Before we started our farm, we loved going to yoga classes together.  We weren't skilled enough to do the really advanced poses where you contort your body into a pretzel, but we always enjoyed the experience of moving our bodies and building our strength.

But yoga essentially vanished from our lives when the farm came into the picture. And so too did a lot of other hobbies that filled up our cups. Meaning, our non-farmer cups of course. 

This past year, we both agreed to find more space in our lives for our our own fulfillment and we started working hard at NOT working so hard. We started saying NO to requests from others that we would've definitely said yes to in previous years and we started saying yes to the things that really matter to us...like going to a yoga class together every week. (If you can believe it, we are hitting our 4-month mark next week!)

We are farmers and yes, we do work really hard. But we're learning how to create a normal life for ourselves inside of this mighty work. A life where we have hobbies and take care of ourselves,  so that we can be happy farmers AND healthy people when we're old and gray. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

PS  It's spring which means I have to tell you that we will have a limited supply of hams this spring. They will be delicious and will only be available by pre-order. If you're interested in a fresh or smoked ham, please hit reply to this email and we will start to coordinate the ordering process with you.