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

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

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! 

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.

That one time we bought a house that we actually didn't like

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I always thought the process of buying a house with Greg, the love of my life, would be so exciting. We'd think about all the qualities we wanted in a house and then we'd go house-hunting with our list of must-haves. We'd look at a few houses, find "the one" and put in an offer.

We'd live happily ever after for a while and then do what everyone else seems to do - save up some money and then move on to a new place some years later when we'd be ready to relocate or be itching for an upgrade. 

Well, you can't do this when you're farmers.  Or at least, you can't do it very easily. 

When we purchased this land and this house, we had the success of our farm top of mind. We knew this spot was right for Stonecrop, so we trusted that we could make our personal lives and our marriage and our home-life work here, too. 

And so while we've been tending to these fields and forests and growing the business for the last several years, we've also been working on this old house. Trying to turn a house that we would NEVER have otherwise purchased into the kind of home that we don't ever want to leave.

There's a peace we feel knowing that this is our forever home and that all the investments we're making (like this crazy living room renovation we just started this week!) are worth it.  And there's also this frustration that creeps in every now and then, especially when the roof is leaking or the basement is flooding, where you just wish you had the option to escape. 

But this land, this house, and our lives go hand-in-hand now, and there's so much beauty in that.  

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

We have a "situation" here on the farm...

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You know that one spot in your house that drives you nuts every time you think about it? It's the place you put all the random stuff you don't know what to do with. It houses all the things that you probably should have donated or just put in the trash years ago but somehow, you've deluded yourself into thinking that it might come in handy someday.

As you probably already know by now, we are pretty tidy people. We keep our house and our farm pretty organized but...it's time to admit that we have a "situation" on our hands.

We have a section of our farm, that is about a quarter acre in size, (cringe!), that is packed with farm stuff that has been accumulating for the past 3+ years. We have an old chicken coop, a manure spreader, two antique grain-drills that are in disrepair, and lots of construction materials from the barn projects and hoop houses...I could go on. 

What we've realized more fully this year is that there is a cost to keeping this stuff, even if it's just the time and mental energy that we spend thinking about it!  So, we are turning over a new leaf.

We are working to purge the farm this fall of the stuff that we no longer need and are working on finding the right spot for the items that are rarely used but we need to hold onto for one reason or another. 

It's a big job that always finds its way to the bottom of the to-do list  But, we are looking forward to having the mental relief of knowing that this little section of the farm is as clear and purposeful and vibrant as the rest of our farm. 

Anyone else up for a fall cleaning challenge in their own home this year?  

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

PS-Thanks for another great ginger and turmeric season! We are sold out for the seasons. Please share your favorite ginger/turmeric recipes with us and if you post to social media, don't forget to tag us so we can see your creative cooking masterpieces!  We love seeing you enjoy the food we grow!

Why Nerds (Like Me) Love Farming

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Farmer Greg, here. As you may already know, I came from a science background before I started farming. While I no longer dwell on the minutiae of analyzing the components of regional air quality, my experiences in grad school still influence how we think and farm here at Stonecrop.

When I started out farming years ago, I remember looking at the farmers I knew and thought to myself "Huh, well, Rich worked for GE, Andy was an engineer, Fred used to work at Kodak...why did all of these former science minds get into farming?"  

I quickly learned that it was only by chance that so many of the farmers I met early on also were former engineers/scientists. However, as I thought about it and started becoming a more experienced farmer myself, I came to the realization that farming is essentially a series of great big, year-long experiments and that in this way,  it makes perfect sense that all these science-minded people like me were drawn into this field (yes, pun intended).

I approach farming with that same scrupulous scientific approach that I relied on in my chemistry days. We have fancy equipment (like tractors, manure spreaders, cultivators, spring-tooth harrows) that, similar to my old lab equipment, seem to always need a little tinkering here or there. We spend a lot of time thinking about our pastures, figuring out which type of forage to plant for certain animals and when (This week, for example, I planted fall forage for pigs to graze over the winter. I'm hoping I seeded at the right time so there is plenty of growth but not too much, before the cold weather hits in the fall.)  We have intense spreadsheets for every enterprise (another takeaway from grad school) and even track data on our iphones while we're out in the field. My grad school advisor would be proud...   

Assuming we farm until we're about 65, we will only get another 30 trials at this great experiment.  We intend to make the most of them and will keep sharing about the lessons we learn along the way.  Thanks for being on this journey with us.

Your Farmers, 
Greg & Jenney

PS- Our next Farm Tour is in 2 weeks! On the tour, we will start with our barn and share about how we moved the 200 year old timber-frame to our farm, then we will share about our pig breeding program and show off a new litter of piglets. We will check out the laying hens, Thanksgiving turkeys, meat chickens and our ginger/turmeric high tunnels as well.  The tour will last 1-1.5 hrs and is 5$ per adult (CSA members are free!) Click here to RSVP and get more details.