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Learning to love the thing I've always been scared of

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I have a confession to make. I've always been a little (maybe more than a little) scared of fat.  Since marrying someone who became a livestock farmer and becoming a farmer myself, I've been curious about where this fear really comes from. 

Growing up, I was extremely body conscious and acutely aware of anything that was perceived as “bad” for you. Back then, the messaging was as clear as day.  Low fat milk, fat free yogurt, margarine, lean low-fat meats or no meats at all were the "good" foods, and then there were the "bad," fatty foods. 

I'm guessing that I was never explicitly told all about these distinctions, or at least I don't remember such a conversation occurring back then.  It was just sorta implied, it was a "truth" I learned from all the messaging and marketing at home, at school, and at grocery stores or restaurants.

But as I'm sure you've noticed, the tide has shifted here. Healthy simple fats from high quality sources are now IN and low-fat and highly processed foods are OUT.   Nowadays, we can hear chefs on the Netflix foodie docu-series say that fat is where the flavor is and actually celebrating fat. And the nutritional gurus and keto enthusiasts saying that fat is where the most important nutrients are.

The full fat yogurt was the first step in my journey to feeling more comfortable with fat. Then came the introduction to our pasture raised ducks (a notoriously fattier meat), and then pork chops with the caramelized fat cap around the edges. All these things challenged that old "truth" of mine and actually made my taste buds do a happy dance. But pork lard, rendered from our own pigs, was at one time, a HUGE stretch for me. 

That is, until Greg started slipping it into basically everything he cooked. From fried eggs in the morning, to weeknight stir-fry dinners, to pie crusts. He started cooking with pork fat almost every day and along the way I learned that cooking with really good fat just tastes so much better.  The giant plastic jugs of organic olive oil shipped in from California started looking a lot less appealing, too. 

So, maybe it’s the flavor, or the nutritional properties, or the obvious environmental reasons, but we've officially made the shift in our household and there’s not turning back now. We still use other oils, too, but when it comes to frying, sautéing, or a fair amount of our baking, pork lard is now our go-to ingredient. 

Cooking with pork fat is not for everyone, that much I know for sure. If this whole concept scares you to death, as it once did for me, don't stress. Take a deep breath, and know that wherever you are in your food journey we support you, too. 

But If you want to go back to your roots and use the ingredient your grandma probably used in all her cooking back in the day, come see us at the Brighton Market this weekend because we're bringing our first batch of perfectly rendered, snow white lard from our pasture raised pigs this week!  

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

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People often ask us about predators on the farm. Especially when they realize we don't keep our animals in barns and they see our piglets roaming the pastures and the laying hens searching for bugs beneath the snow. The truth is, I'm not exactly sure how we do it, but we have a few stories to share that might help answer this question. 

In our first year here on the farm, we had a large family of foxes living across the road. They were cute at first, until the mother fox started traveling across the road daily to teach her kits how to hunt with our laying hens. During our absolutely back-breaking first summer as livestock farmers, we were losing chickens right and left to these guys and it made us feel terrible.

We considered a variety of solutions. Traps, guns, guardian dogs, you name it...none of them felt right. We talked to farmers, we consulted our farm books. And eventually, we realized that the best option wasn't to rid ourselves of this family of foxes but to strengthen the preventative mechanisms we already had in place. 

Enter a stronger electric fence charger that increased the current 6-fold, and voila! Problem solved. My original farming mentor always said that a hot electric fence stops anything on four legs, and he was right. We've never had another fox-related incident on the farm since.

Unfortunately, the hot fences do not stop the two-legged predators that roam the skies. Hawks torment lots of farmers and homesteaders we know and have been known to kill entire flocks. But as you probably guessed by now, we've developed systems to minimize the impact of these predators, too. We keep large animals like the sows nearby the small animals like the chickens and this seems to keep most of the ariel predators away. Along with shelters and hot fences, and we are happy to report that we have only rare run-ins with hawks. 

Knowing this, you can imagine why I was so flabbergasted to see a large hawk tangled up in one of the electric fences this past summer (check out the picture below to see the photo proof!). I approached the bird to get a closer look. Even though I knew full well that he might someday be my greatest nemesis, I resolved to set him free just the same.

I spent a whole hour trying to untwist the fibers that were wrapped around it's leg and wing. Eventually, it became clear that in order to free the bird, I needed to cut the fence. A couple of quick cuts with the knife and the bird was untangled. And, within a few minutes, the hawk was gone soaring through the sky again. 

We've learned that coexisting with predators is part of what it means to be good stewards of our land. Someday, we might need to set a trap or move toward guardian dogs, but for the past three years, we've established a nice working relationship with our local wildlife and we do hope it lasts...

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

How the farm has changed our marriage

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This week, we hosted 3 separate tours on the farm (phew, that's a new record for us!). So, it's fair to say that this week, we spent a lot of time sharing about the progress we're making here.  We moved a 200-year old barn from down to the road to our property, we've transformed brush and brambles into beautiful healthy pastures, we've improved our farm systems and grown our business faster than we ever could have expected. We are proud of these accomplishments, for sure. And yet, what is probably more impressive and less obvious to even our closest friends and family is all the ways the farm has changed us. 

Our bodies were probably the first thing to change. Callused hands and body strength came within a few weeks. Aches and pains from the near constant physical exertion came within a few a months. Every now and then, there are the blisters, cracking skin, bruises, or tick bites to attend to. Yoga has become a required activity,  instead of a leisure activity.

The other changes are more subtle. As two world travelers who used to spend their savings on overseas adventures, I thought we would eventually get stir-crazy staying put. The truth is, that we find more joy in being at home with our animals than we ever would have imagined.  

We are natural introverts and usually re-charge by spending time alone. But the farm has brought us out of our skins and given us this incredible opportunity to share, educate and inspire. The farm pushes us to show up and be present in our community, even when our deepest instincts tell us to go it alone.

The farm has affected our marriage in ways that we probably can't fully comprehend just yet. Running a business with the person you love most in this world isn't always easy. But it has brought us closer, helped us understand each other more wholly, and appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses and limitations. It has taught us how to listen to one another and honor those hunches (or gut feelings) we get in the middle of the night that a fence is off or a pig might be farrowing (farm lingo for delivering piglets).

If what Eckert Tolle says is true, and the energy you put out in the world comes back to you, then I think we are in for a pretty spectacular life together here at Stonecrop Farm. Thanks for being on this journey with us. 

Your Farmers, 
Greg & Jenney

PS- We absolutely love hearing from you! What did you think of this newsletter and what would you like to hear more about in future newsletters?

How We Grow Ginger and Turmeric

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Last week we shared all about WHY we grow ginger and turmeric and this week we wanted to share HOW we grow ginger and turmeric. 

We start with super high quality seed that we purchase from an organic farm in Hawaii. The seeds are essentially small roots and they arrive in the dead of winter. They are very sensitive to the cold, so we plant them into big seed trays right away and place the trays in a warm, dark spot to encourage sprouting. Greg waters them once a week and fusses to make sure the soil conditions are just right. The little shoots eventually pop out of the soil and then it's a waiting game until April or May when they are strong/big enough to be transplanted outside.  

If we planted the sprouts directly into the ground they would likely die during those cold April/May nights. So, instead, we plant them into a 80-foot long high-tunnel that we built specifically for these crops. The high-tunnel (which is essentially a green-house without the heater) allows us to keep the air and soil warm and prevents the plants from being damaged by the wind. They require a lot of attention at this stage, too, with frequent weeding and irrigating and temperature regulating until they are ready to harvest 4 months later. 

Harvest time is usually in early September (or maybe late August...) and it is a busy time on the farm.  When we pull the large plants out of the ground, each ginger/turmeric root is covered in dirt and has tons of smaller fibrous side-shoots (imagine hard pipe-cleaners or tough pieces of spaghetti) all around it. We cut these off and carefully clean the roots so they are ready to bring to market. 

It takes us about half of a year to grow ginger and turmeric and many hours to harvest and clean (which is probably why most farmers don't bother with growing this stuff!). But, for us, growing these plants is a challenge and an opportunity that we relish. It's the only produce we grow and it has a special place in our hearts. 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

PS- Next week, we will share how to store fresh ginger and turmeric so that you can use the good stuff year-round (No more buying the dead cured stuff grown overseas from the grocery store.  YAY!).  We are making videos and can't wait to share our best tips and tricks with you soon!