organic farm

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

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.

The thing Greg did 200 times last Tuesday

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The first day of spring was this week and we are feeling it, BIG TIME.  We had our first batch of baby chicks arrive this week and we've been spending lots of time tidying (Marie Kondo style) so that we're ready to take on the busy season ahead. 

One of our biggest accomplishments this week was building another high tunnel (unheated greenhouse) for this year's ginger crop.  Constructing a high tunnel is no easy feat. It involves bending lots of metal poles (200 bends to be exact), driving big posts into the ground with a sledge hammer and then assembling the house. But, thanks to Greg's hard work, except the plastic that will go overtop, we now have a second high tunnel designated to ginger. 

If you're as in love with our ginger as we are, you're probably hoping that the fact that we have two ginger houses now means we're scaling up and planting even more ginger this year...but this is not the case.  

Sure, we'd love to grow in both houses and double our ginger production this year. But when Stonecrop was just a dream - a little idea that Greg and I had and talked about before bed when we were dreaming about our future - we knew that our farm would be certified organic and that no matter what we grow, we know we are still responsible for upholding those organic principles and being good stewards of our land.  

As any organic farmer will tell you, the quality of the food produced on the farm hinges on the health of the soil. For us, this means that we need to rotate the location of our ginger and turmeric plantings (from one house to the other) regularly so that we can keep the soils healthier, the nutrients high, and the pest pressure low. This is part of the rationale for all the rotational grazing we do with our livestock, too!

Organic farming takes a little more time than spraying with chemicals or keeping our animals in barns, and more infrastructure (thus the second high tunnel) but the results sure are glorious.  

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

The WORST hobby for a farmer

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The first farm that Greg ever worked on did a little of everything. They grew veggies, raised chickens, turkeys, pigs, and beef and they had a dairy cow too. After that, he spent years working on farms that grew only veggies. 

When we were figuring out which direction to go with our own farm, we decided to focus on organic livestock and luckily, that is a decision that we have never once regretted. But for Greg especially, all that veggie-growing knowledge was hard to let go of. 

I remember our first year being full-time here at Stonecrop. We were was sooooo busy planning and building and mowing and moving animals. But somehow, in the midst of this most intense and back-breaking year, we convinced ourselves that we should ALSO plant ourselves a garden. 

I pictured a a little herb garden with a few tomatoes and onions. But as time went by, I realized that Greg had a very different mental picture. His idea of a garden was like a miniature veggie farm and this meant that we were growing almost everything. He plowed up and planted 100-foot long beds with more vegetables than we could ever eat in a year. It was insane. 

The daily tasks of weeding, planting and harvesting were too much, especially with the ridiculous responsibilities we already had starting our farm, and we just couldn't keep up. Which meant that just like that, the veggie garden turned into a giant weedy unproductive mess that made us feel so bad to look at. 

The next year, we made the best decision.  We let go of the silly notion that we could "do it all" and we joined an organic veggie CSA. Joining a CSA has allowed us to have the highest quality food without having to shop around. During this season of life, where we don't have a lot of spare time, the simplicity of having pre-paid for all of our food for the season is THE BEST. 

If you're interested a joining a veggie farm this year, we want to invite you to check out Mud Creek Farm and Deep Root Farm.  They are wonderful farmers and they offer great CSA programs with different pickup options in Rochester.  And if you're interested in becoming a member of our chicken or egg CSA, please click here.  We only have a few spots left and we would hate for you want to miss out. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

The Piglet Explosion

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We spend a lot of time thinking about pig pregnancies....

We time the meeting of our sows and boar very carefully so the due dates don't fall on a holiday or during one of our rare vacations.  We track heat schedules (which means the sow's ovulation cycles) for every sow and we have to be ready-to-go for piglet deliveries during every season and during any type of weather. 

My husband is the best farm partner I could have ever asked for and luckily, he keeps us super organized with all of this. He makes these crazy master excel sheets that plan out all of our pig pregnancies a full year in advance so we know exactly when we need to introduce a sow to our boar, and it usually runs pretty smoothly. 

But, let's be honest. We're not perfect over here. And it turns out, we made a liiiiiitle error on a day in early November when we were a little over-tired and overworked getting ready for Thanksgiving turkey time.

We introduced 3 sows to the boar and they all happened to go into heat on the same day.  This means that instead of our usual routine where we have one sow delivering at a time, we have 3 and they are all due on the EXACT SAME DAY! 

We've been calling the highly anticipated event the "piglet explosion" and it's all happening this Sunday! It will be a record for Team Stonecrop so be sure to check out our Instagram and Facebook pages if you want to see pics of our organic pigs Stormy, Cricket and Garfield and their little ones on the way.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Our Own Fixer Upper

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As you might remember from some previous newsletters, the little yellow house we live in is 175 years old. Like other older homes you've probably seen, this one has had a lot of add-ons over the years and it's left us with some interesting features. Some features that, if we're being totally honest, we're actually not too fond of.

During the warmer months, we stay pretty focused on all the things outside on the farm and try to ignore the projects at the house that aren't too pressing. But during the wintertime, when we have a little more free time on our hands, the indoor projects start calling to us. 

During our first winter here, we took on the kitchen. When we moved in, the kitchen had a big green faux brick wall in the center of the room that stopped 1 foot short of the ceiling, a tiny oven that didn't even fit a roasting pan, and a doorway that was so short that Greg had to duck every time he walked through it so as to avoid bonking his head. Knowing how much we love cooking food, you can imagine the frustration this little space caused us. Gutting and rebuilding the kitchen was a top priority for us during that first winter here. And once it was done, it quickly became our favorite room in the house. 

The bathroom was our winter project 2 years ago. The chair rail, bright blue chipping paint and the sketchy plastic shower surround were just not quite our style. It was winter and we were a little stir crazy, I think. So without much foresight or or any real plan, we started ripping and stripping. Floor to ceiling, it all came down in an afternoon. We learned how to dry wall, how to tile, and how to install a toilet and a bathtub. It took us longer than we expected (imagine going 2+ weeks without a toilet!), but we love the way it turned out in the end. 

Well, as you probably guessed by now, we are gearing up for this year's winter house project and its going to be a doozy. This time, we're tackling the living room and the attic. This is a bigger project than we've ever done before so we've got a team doing a lot of the work for us. But since they're going to be working on the core of the house for 6 weeks and we have NO idea what is behind all of this crazy wall paneling, it's going to be quite the adventure. 

So we're a week or two away from another winter demo-day and we're feeling both excited and terrified. We'd love some advice, if you have any, on how to stay happy and sane during this process....

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Uncharted Territory

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We never used to think of ourselves as the type of people who would feel comfortable being in front of a crowd. Despite what you might think, we're both naturally introverted which means that we've spent most of our lives trying to NOT be the center of attention. 

It's why we eloped instead of having a big wedding, why we've chosen non-flashy career paths, and why we still get super nervous and awkward when we're asked to do TV interviews like this one.

But we've learned that when you put your heart and soul into something, like we have with our farm, the passion just naturally wants to find a way out into the world. The Brighton Market is that release for us, this newsletter and our social media are releases, too. And you know what else serves as that outlet?  Our Farm Tours. 

We've hosted a lot of farm tours over the years. Each tour comes with a greater sense of purpose and connection between our farm and the community. And there are always a few surprises, too. Like that one time last summer when we hosted a big customer tour and our boar started mating with one of our sows in front of EVERYONE. It was both awkward and hilarious... 

Anyways, all of this leads to this:  We've never hosted a winter farm tour before, but we would really love to give it a try when we're not in the midst of a polar vortex. For those of you who are willing to get bundled up to see our organic farm during the wintertime, we're ready for ya next weekend.

The weather looks a little more mild next weekend, so we've set the date for February 9th at 10am.  We'll have several herds of pigs to meet, new baby piglets and laying hens to see and 2 very passionate farmers to get to know a little better. 

What do you think? Do you want to join us?  If you're up for it, reply to this email with a YES and if you'd like, share a passion with us so we can get to know you a little better.  We will be sure to send you all the details for the tour and keep you in the loop as our plans unfold. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg