The pigs really misbehaved this week...

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Greg and I spent some time during our farm tour a few weeks ago sharing about how we've tweaked our fencing systems and how grateful we are that they're working so well for us now. And in typical farm fashion, just two weeks later, we had an “incident” where the pig fence failed and all hell broke loose.

Before we tell you what happened, we should say first that during this time of year, we’re rotating our pig herd onto fresh pasture at least once a week. We use portable light-weight fiberglass posts. And then we thread just 2 strands of electrified wire around them.

On moving day, we open up a little segment of fencing and the pigs, who are always eager for fresh grass, walk themselves over to the new paddock. Once they're in, they know the fence is hot and believe it or not, it's usually more than enough to keep the pigs put.

Except, as we learned this past week, on a day where the pasture’s apparently sooo good that the pigs can’t stop eating it and turning it up and over on top of the fence - thereby burying it and making it invisible. And on the day that we also, coincidentally, forgot to include checking the pig fence on the morning rounds.

So this was exactly where we found ourselves last weekend: Greg and I were quietly harvesting one of the last rows of ginger from the high tunnel when 8 of our adventurous pigs came bouldering out of their paddock, through the hedgerow, and scampered up around the upper field. This is literally a farmer's nightmare.

Things we learned:
1. Always, and I mean always, check the fence. A few minutes a day can spare us hours and hours of frustrating work later.
2. The pigs trust us. With a little patience, most of the pigs were happy to follow us down the hill, through the trees and across the pasture to get back into their paddock. Thank god!
3. There will always be a couple of pigs that want to test us in situations like this. They'll hop back and forth into and out of the paddock, or just bolt in the opposite direction. Eventually though, if we're patient enough, they find their way back home, too.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

How your farmers celebrated their wedding anniversary

I'm not sure what most couples like to do for their wedding anniversaries. An adventure somewhere new, a hike to the top of a mountain, a trip to the movies, a fancy dinner out?

These were things Greg and I considered doing on Monday for our 6 year wedding anniversary. But if it says anything about us as people or as a couple, we did farm work instead and we loved every second of it.

We had budgeted time to take the day off on Monday. And we could have easily done any of the things I mentioned earlier. But to be honest, we woke up and got going with things on the farm and realized that this year, we were happiest celebrating the day doing ordinary things, together.

So, we celebrated our anniversary by doing farm chores, rotating animals to fresh pasture, and taking care of a new litter piglets, all while never leaving each others side. We did take some time for our favorite recently re-discovered hobby, tennis, and made sure to continue with the annual tradition we talked about in this newsletter last year, but overall it was just a usual day on the farm.

The day was the best reminder that you don't have go some place or do something grand to find joy and happiness. If you're paying attention, you can find it right where you are. And this week, we did just that.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Why Market was a little awkward last week...

You know Greg. He is scientific and analytical in his thinking, always.

He honed these skills while his was in graduate school for chemistry and then somehow (don't ask me how!) found a way to transfer them over to organic farming. The end result is that he's not only a really organized and thoughtful farmer, but he's also remarkably good at inventory management.

I realize when we're talking about our animals, the words "inventory management" might sound strange or far-removed. We're certainly not anything like a big grocery store. But, a small farm like ours has a lot of careful planning to do to make sure the coolers are well stocked and never over-flowing or empty (gasp!).

Planning for when pigs go to the butcher, for example, is trickier than you'd think when you realize it's all done a whole year in advance and before any of the animals are even pregnant. If we miss the mark and mis-judge customer demand even a little, we're not able to adjust on the fly because we run what's called a "farrow to finish" pig breeding program (you can click here to read more about that).

So, I attribute it to Greg's careful decision making. Or maybe it's a minor miracle. But over the last few years of being in business, we've somehow managed to thread the needle. We've never been so overflowing with pork that we've needed to offer a big sale (this would really hurt our bottom line). And we've also never really run out of pork. That is, until last week...

Contrary to what my brain keeps telling me, Greg reminds me that this is a good thing. "Our farm is growing", he says. "Running out is going to happen from time to time", he explains. "Our customers will all understand" he says. I know in my heart, that he's right.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

The ultimate balancing act

It's not often that farmers leave town during the busy season. But when one of your best friends gets married, you find a way to cram three days of work into one day and leave the farm in the dust. Last weekend, with the help of a very capable farm sitter, we did just that.

We had just about 24 hours to spare. And it turns out this was literally just enough time to get to the summer camp outside of Albany, stay overnight in bunk beds, be present for a beautiful star-lit wedding ceremony and a little bit of the reception and then get back into the car.

I would never recommend a travel plan like this. Driving home at 2am was stressful. In the rush, I probably lost something like an earring or a sock (it's a bad habit) and Greg would've been happier to have had more time to catch up with his elementary-school buds.

But I'm proud that we moved heaven and earth this week to show up for our friends while keeping our commitments to our customers. Despite all the craziness of leaving, including harvesting ginger in the dark at 5am, I know we'd would do it all over again because friendships, especially those that started when you were just 4 years old, are worth it.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

The cat's out of the bag...

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Sometimes when everyone else is zigging, you've just got to zag. We've done this a few times in our business, but probably never as dramatically as we did last week when we shared about how we won't be raising any more organic broiler chickens next year.

No matter how sure you are of the decision to zag, there's always a level of doubt that settles into your mind and rattles the nerves. We've definitely had a lot of these rattled moments over these past few weeks as we prepared to let the cat out of the bag.

But your responses last week absolutely blew our mind. You shared in our mutual disappointment (a couple of you even cried!), but then you cheered us on. You told us that you understood and then you encouraged us to keep following our hearts.

We had a lot of fear about sharing this major change with you. But your grace and kindness not only touched our hearts. It gave us peace of mind. Knowing that that we can pivot and that you'll still have our backs is the greatest gift you could ever give us.

We want you to know that we've got your back, too! We've had you top of mind as we put the finishing touches on the Ginger E-book that we'll be releasing in a couple of weeks. The Book includes 5 of our all-time favorite ginger recipes and it's coming to you first next Wednesday. We hope it helps you find some extra inspiration in the kitchen this month.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

The scary change we're making on the farm.

Before he took the plunge and decided he was going to become an organic farmer, Greg would often talk about farming in "someday" sort of terms.

Midway through his PhD program, he eventually realized that life's just too short to NOT be doing the thing you love and he decided to make the switch and become a farmer.

We're now in the middle of our fourth season here at Stonecrop and I can tell you that without a doubt, this work fills us up more than anything else. You walk around the farm and you can see the dedication pouring out into every crevice of this farm - from the reconstructed barn, through the pastures and all the way back to the pigs. We love this farm and we love this work.

But here's the thing we're dreading to tell you. Ever since we started this farm, we've continued listening to our hearts. It's almost never led us astray. And over the last year, our hearts have been telling us that it's time to make a change on the farm.

We've wrestled with the decision for a while, since this is something that has become such a big part of our business. And more than that, it's something that we're known for in the community. But we know it's true... we don't want to raise broilers (chickens for meat) next year.

We have lots of good reasons for making this decision, one of them being that our fields are not ideal for rotationally grazing these types of birds (our land is very hilly!) and the daily labor of moving the birds, as well as processing these chickens, is too strenuous for our bodies for the long-term. But even if we could overcome all of this, it still wouldn't be right for us.

This means that while we're going to finish out this season strong and keep bringing fresh chickens to market through the middle of October, next year, we can't be your organic chicken farmers anymore.

The upside to all this is that because we're saying no to broiler chickens, we can say yes to other things that we love. This means that we're raising more pigs and expanding our laying flock next year! And we're going to keep on rolling with our ginger and Thanksgiving Turkeys, too.

We know that you might be feeling a little sad about all of this (we are too!). But, we're excited about continuing to make this farm into something special and making decisions that are sustainable for us for the long-term. And that means following our hearts, even when its bringing us into unchartered territory.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

The thing we do every night.

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Confession: I love reading self help books...

I'm not sure if it's the stage of life I'm in. Or the stress that comes along with this work that's got me looking outside of myself for insight. But, I'm all about learning new ways of looking at things right now.

This year, my favorite self-help books have been Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown and Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis. Have you read either of these? I'm also a fan of Oprah's Super Soul Conversations Podcast, but that's a whole different conversation entirely...

Anyways, the experts say that gratitude, the act of noticing what's good in the world, is one of the secrets to living a happy life. And since Greg and I are on a mission to build a happy and fulfilled life together at the farm, we wanted to give this a try.

So, we set out to practice gratitude every day and we started with something simple. Every night before bed, we started pulling out our journals and making a list of 10 things we're grateful for.

Sometimes our lists have included things like the delicious dinner we shared with a friend that week. And other times, we'd surprise ourselves by digging so deep that we found gratitude for the more painful moments in life...the ones that forced us to grow and learn and adapt. No matter what, every night, we jot down 10 things we're grateful for and let them settle into our minds before we fall sleep.

We've been doing it for over a month now and I have to tell you this. Those experts I mentioned? They're right! We're noticing more beauty and feeling more joy and observing more happiness than we ever have before. I kid you not...It's been a game-changer for us both.

I won't tell you that you should try making your own lists this week, because I know this activity is definitely NOT for everyone. But if you're like us and have big hearts that are easily overwhelmed, you might find this practice helpful. In which case, you can totally try it and thank Brene or Oprah or Rachel when life starts twinkling a little more.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Is it sketchy that most meat farms don't do this?

In our first couple of years, I remember we'd be sharing farm photos with our community and people seemed all excited. And then it would happen...

Someone would say that they wanted to buy a turkey, but they weren't sure how to feel about it after seeing that picture of the cute baby chicks. Or they loved our pork chops, but they felt funny eating them after meeting the piglets.

Comments like this have always made perfect sense to me, given the disconnect we typically have with our food sources and the secrecy that usually surrounds meat production in the US.

But it would sometimes make us wonder if we were going about all this in the wrong way. Perhaps it'd be wise to back off a little. Maybe keep sharing stories, but not so many photos? Or maybe the opposite?

I haven't always been able to explain WHY, but we've kept at it. We've continued to share the cute baby animal photos and dug in even deeper with farm tours and showing what it's really like being organic livestock farmers, sharing the ups right alongside the downs.

At the end of the day, I think we've always hoped that people would see that there's value in knowing what animals look like, how they were rotated through the pastures, and even how they were processed at the end. Because, if we could widen the community of people who wanted to forge this connection to their food, the world might be a better place.

Thanks to you, our community is growing like gangbusters. We're so thankful to YOU for partnering with us and trusting us to grow your food. It is such a gift to being able to share this work with you, to know you and to feed you and your families. Together, I think we are doing some good in this crazy world.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

PS- If you want to dig a little deeper and see the farm up close and in person, you should come to our Farm Tour coming up on September 21st! All the details are listed here.

Jenney's Embarrassing Run-In With the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Have you ever heard of the Dunning–Kruger Effect? If the answer is heck no... then we're all in the same boat. We'd never heard of it before this week when we listened to a beautiful episode of This American Life and nearly died of laughter.

So here it is. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a fancy name for the situation we've probably all found ourselves in at some point in our lives. It's where we or someone we know is completely lacking in knowledge about a certain subject, but is unfortunately, 100% oblivious to that lack of knowledge.

Now, I hope I've never been as clueless as the bank robber wearing who wore lemon juice that Ira Glass talks about in this podcast I just mentioned. But I've had my fair share of embarrassing Dunning-Kruger-esque moments in my lifetime.

The example that immediately popped into my mind was when I was 21 years old and studying in Thailand. My host-mother gifted me a sarong to wear to go work the night market with my host-father. She insisted that she help me tie it. And I refused. Cinching a piece of fabric to my waist didn't seem that complicated. I knew exactly what I was doing. When the sarong dropped to my ankles in the middle of the market...I was definitely proved wrong.

All of this talk about ignorance this week led Greg and me to start thinking. What might we missing in our business? Are there some aspects of this newsletter, or our market stand, or our farm store that so obviously need tweaking, that we just can't see?

The answer is probably, YES... which is why we need to ask you for a big favor. Can you take a few minutes and complete this little anonymous survey for us? It'll be the reality check we need this week...

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

It’s only August, but we figured it out

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It seems that each and every year we farm, there's this overarching theme that becomes apparent to us at some point during the year.

The first year was the year of backbreaking effort. We knew, on a practical level, that the best farmers farm smarter, not harder. But we were so drained from the physical labor of starting a farm, that we didn't have much mental space to even think about how to be smart with our time and energy. This meant tons of grueling hard work that actually did result in a back injury for Greg and it was not fun.

The second year was all about the YES. Maybe it was the FOMO (fear of missing out) or just plan optimism. But, we said YES to just about everything and everyone. This meant that we overextended ourselves and took on all sorts things that we didn't have the time or energy for. To my knowledge, I don't think that we ever missed a commitment to a customer, but we had to sacrifice somewhere (self care being the first to go) and this, we soon learned, was not ok.

Last year was our third year farming together, and it was definitely the year of fine-tuning. We finished re-building our 200 year old barn (which you can read about here) and invested a lot of energy into improving our systems so that we could farm smarter and be more efficient with our time and energy. This meant cutting some enterprises all together or rethinking how we did the others. All of this was scary, but freeing.

Now, it might be too early to call it. But we think that this year, the theme is perspective. When the farm throws us a curveball now, we have previous experience to help guide us and farm systems to lean on. We have goals for the future and clear plans for how we're going to get there. And all this means that we're able to surrender more fully into this work and enjoy the experience of being your farmers more than ever before.

I could never go so far as to say this work is easy. It is, in my estimation, one of the hardest jobs on the planet. But It's getting easier year after year and we're grateful for all the lessons we've learned along the way. After all, they've led us to where we are right now...growing exceptional food and helping families in Rochester eat well... and that literally lights our hearts on fire.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg