pastured pork

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.

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

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

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

Joy and Purpose with Pigs? Heck Yeah!

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From the very beginning, when we first decided to raise pork here at Stonecrop Farm, Greg knew we were going to have our own breeding program. Few area farmers do this but it was very important to us and here's why:

1. Breeding here means that we can guarantee the animals we raise are treated humanely from the day they're born, to the day they go to the butcher and are always clean, organic, and healthy. 

2. Breeding here means that we don't need to buy piglets from farms that might not share the same standards that we have when it comes to animal husbandry, rotational grazing, and organic principals. 

3.  Lastly, we wanted to know (with absolute certainty) that the flavor and texture of our pork is exceptional every single time, which you might not get with pigs from different farms with varied genetics and histories. 

Knowing all of this, livestock farmers like us try to select their sows carefully. We consider things like the sow's temperament, their farrowing abilities, mothering instincts, their hardiness to weather extremes, the flavor profile, and the cute-ness factor ( I mean, those spotted piglets are just the best, right?).

We've lucked out so far and wound up with 5 great sows and a feisty boar that are perfect for our systems. Though they are certainly an investment in terms of our energy and resources, we've found that raising pigs this way brings us joy and purpose and I've learned that that feeling is always a good sign that we're on the right path.    

We love hearing from you! What do you think about our breeding program? What does this aspect of our farm mean to you? 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney & Greg
 

"A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand is that the two statements in that sentence are connected by an and, and not by a but." 
John Berger, About Looking 1980