3 Things We Learned From Getting Away

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We just spent a week up in the Adirondacks. Every day was a clean slate, with absolutely nothing on the to-do list. It was sublime.

Compare this to the responsibilities of running the farm and it's quite comical, really. Because then, we had to come home. And come home, we did...to a new litter of piglets that surprised us all and came a couple days early. To chickens that needed processing and the big herd of pigs, which needed to be rotated onto new pasture. And to 10+ acres of pasture that needed mowing...

One thing I always gain from stepping away from something I care deeply about is perspective. And there are a few things I think we can see more clearly today, than we could 2 weeks ago. Here are the top 3:

1. The farm is finally at a place where we can step away for a few days and everything will be ok. That is a relief. And it's also a sign that our hard work is paying off.

2. We need to keep exploring ways to lighten the load, so that we can keep doing this work for the next 30 years.

3. We love getting away...but being at our farm with our animals is our happy place. There is truly no place else on earth we'd rather be.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

So....that didn't go as planned.

This past week, we spent some time up in the Adirondacks away from the farm! It was glorious and we have lots of stories to share about this later. But as we were prepping for the trip, we couldn't help but think back on the first vacation we ever took together, back when we were just 22 years old and fresh out of college.

Back then, we were a year into our relationship and our lives were starting to head in different directions. Greg had just been awarded a research fellowship called the Watson and was headed to Africa for a whole YEAR to study how farmers were adapting to environmental change.

Time together was in very short supply, so we planned a camping trip up to the Adirondacks together. We had just 2 days off from our summer jobs and a month to spare before Greg left for the year, and we were hell-bent on making them count.

So, I picked up Greg in the car my Dad let me borrow for the weekend and we strapped a big red canoe on top. We were about two hours into the drive north, holding hands and smiling ear to ear, when the front of the car started smoking and the steering locked up. I pulled over and got that sinking feeling.

The car was towed to a shop and being a Saturday afternoon and all, the mechanics weren't thrilled to see us. They begrudgingly checked things out and gave us the news. It was going to be an expensive repair and the worse part was that it was going to take a while to fix.

You can imagine our disappointment. Sitting at the mechanic's playing cards on a picnic bench next to a busy 4 lane road was not our idea of the perfect getaway. But soon, we'd be living on different continents without any reliable way of even talking to each other so we tried to make the most of it.

We stayed hopeful and joked and laughed. And as the sun started to go down, they broke the news to us. The car wasn't going to be able to fixed until morning which meant that we needed to find a place to stay. Since we couldn't afford a hotel, we asked if we could pop up our tent behind the shop. The mechanics didn't seem to mind our rather strange request.

But, with a little more thought, this didn't sound like a great plan so we started to look elsewhere. Eventually we found ourselves in a little public park with lots of NO CAMPING ALLOWED signs posted everywhere. It wasn't the Adirondacks, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was better than the spot behind the mechanic's and it would do.

So, hidden behind some pine trees and adjacent to a pile of old left-footed shoes some person probably stashed away for a rainy day, we set up our tent, took the picture you can see above and drifted off to sleep.

The next next morning, we had one mission which was to get up to a little lake in the Adirondacks and go camping together. And after we got our car back, we did just that.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

You won't believe what we're doing this week!

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Debt is a scary thing for anyone. But for farmers, it can be crushing. Whether we're talking about a farmer growing conventional soybeans down the road or farmers like us who raise organic pasture raised livestock, farmers have steep upfront costs.

And because the final product is so dependent on things largely outside of our control, like the weather or predators, farming is also a big gamble. Despite all the incredible planning and effort we put into what we do, with farming, we're never 100% sure what the yield and the profits will be.

Debt is really scary to us and we want to avoid it like the plague. And while we recognize the utility of the loans we've received in our lifetime, we're working super hard to get to a place of being debt free as quickly as possible. Which this month means..... cue the DRUM ROLL....we're paying off our tractor loan 4 YEARS early!!

I'm betting you're wondering why we're prioritizing this over other important things, like maybe hiring an employee or paying ourselves a living wage (in case you're wondering, we still haven't hit our goal of earning a a teacher's salary from the farm yet). But we know that less debt hanging over our heads now, will give us the ability to be financially stable in the years to come and that is critical to the success and the longevity of our farm. And that's where our priorities lie.

So if you've zoned out or if I've bored you to death, please come back to me because here's the thing we absolutely NEEDED to tell you this week. Paying off our tractor loan would not be possible without you. YOU, being the freaking awesome human being that you are. You are the reason why we're able to take this giant step forward in our business. You show up for us, you lift our spirits, you encourage us when we're down, you choose to support this farm and you drive our business forward and we cannot thank you enough for that.

We love you and we want you to know that when we drop off this big check in the mail this week, we'll be thanking YOU for making it all possible.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Fires on the farm

Farmers have very interesting relationships with fires. As you probably already know by now, we're almost all quite fond of burning stuff (cough, we burned a giant brush pile last week).

But tonight I'm not referring to literal flames. Fire is the word Greg and I use to describe the experience of being in chaos. The kind of chaos where the stakes are high and you run the risk of losing something important or costly.

In our minds, there are really two ways of farming. One way is to scatter your energy across a lot of different things and succumb to the idea that fires on the farm is inevitable. They happen, more often than you'd like and you just do your best to react, do some damage control and then cut your losses and move on.

The other way of farming is where you stay organized and focused on just a few things. You do those things really carefully and you spend time (more time than you'd like) anticipating where the fires might happen and you take preventive measures to stop things from blowing up in the first place. This is where we like to live...

But this week, despite all of our best efforts, the farm hit us hard and we were putting out fires left and right. Here's the tally so far: We didn't realize one of our electric fences was damaged and we had what we think was a family of foxes attack our laying hens. This was our first real attack in almost 4 years and it just stinks. Next up was one of our pigs escaped from her paddock and was roaming around the back field solo. She required all sorts of attention and gentle reminders for why she's happier sticking with the herd. Oh and then we had not one, but two major leaks (conjure up a geyser in your mind) in the main water line which required lots of fussing at the MOST inopportune times.

So here's the thing that I know we need to remind ourselves of after a rough week like this. We're striving for that place of perfect balance, where work and life just flows and there aren't ferocious fires that need smothering. But, maybe this magical place does NOT exist on earth.

We will stay true to our goals for this farm and are always striving for absolute excellence. But I think the real growth comes from facing the fires as they come our way and finding the strength to get back up when we're down. We were able to lean on each other and do this this together this week, and I think that's something to celebrate.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Here's to our dear old Dads

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Do you remember this little mother's day tribute we wrote last year?  Well, this Sunday is Father's Day and we thought this would be the perfect week to introduce you to our Poppas. They are two of the most amazing people on this earth and without their love and support, we'd never be where we are today.  

Farmer Greg writing....
Throughout my lifetime, two of the most important things that I learned from my Dad were integrity and compassion. I don't have an example of a huge moral dilemma where my Dad modeled the pillars of integrity. Growing up, it was in the smaller things, doing what was right for the people he knew, standing up for the students he worked with at RPI, and showing up for my brother and me. He's the kind of person who tells a waitress that she didn't include something on the bill at a restaurant because he doesn't want her to get in trouble or invites international college students to our house for Thanksgiving dinner because he didn't want them to be alone. It really comes down to the everyday moments where he's shown me what compassion and integrity really mean and I'll always consider myself lucky if some of that rubbed off on me. 

Farmer Jenney writing now...
The one word I would use to describe my Dad is adventurous. He is the guy who finds his way out of a pickle, even when the odds are stacked against him. He never takes no for an answer, finding ways to do things that no one in their right mind would ever dream of doing like moving an entire house to a new location or traveling to Ghana without the required visa. I think about the courage I've mustered up at different points in my life and I know it's come directly from my Dad. He's fearless, except for this one aversion he has to being a patient, which is funny, considering how much he adores his work as a primary care doctor. Some of my greatest memories with him as a kid were getting to do rounds with him at the hospital or getting to do home-visits with him, something he still does full time at age 72! Our family means everything to him and he has worked tirelessly to support me and my 5 siblings. He loves this farm and believes in what we're doing and I just adore him for that.

To all the Dads out there, ours included, Happy, Happy Father's Day! You're hitting it out of the park and we love and appreciate you!

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

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

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.

The thing that never felt quite right.

If there was ever a thing that never quite felt right to us about living here in Henrietta, it was being so far away from Greg's family. It sounds silly when I hear myself say "so far away" since Albany is just 3-4 hours from here. 

But when you're a farmer, 4 hours away might as well be 4 days away because getting away from a farm a livestock farm for a couple of days is really just that tricky. 

So, you can imagine our excitement and relief when Greg's parents called us up two YEARS ago to tell us that they'd like to move to Rochester to be near us, and then a few months later when they'd put in an offer on a house.

The idea of them moving here always felt so natural, an immediate YES for both of us. Yes, I'd secretly worry about the unannounced drop-ins or the possibility of accidentally seeing my father in law in his underwear again, but who cares? We could lend a hand when they needed the lawn mowed or the dog walked. And we would have family to call when we were in a pinch and needed a little help on the farm.

Well, it turns out it takes a lot of time to pack up 40+ years of stuff and make a move like this. But as of this week, it's official. Rick and Julie became residents of Rush and now they, along with their numerous rescue animals, live just 4 minutes away. 

You might see them around the farm. And you will definitely see them at the Brighton Market. And while they're probably blushing right now at the mention of their names (and their underwear)  in this week's newsletter, if you see them please say hello and welcome them to town. We are SO thrilled to have them as our new neighbors.

Your Farmers
Greg and Jenney

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