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

As graceful as an elephant on ice skates

There are some weeks where Greg and I are like a pair of synchronized swimmers. We have our routines and we know our respective responsibilities on the farm. Working together feels smooth, graceful and productive.

But this past week, we were far from synchronized and anything but graceful.

We were taking on some of the more unglamorous farm tasks that we had put off for while and somewhere along the way...between unpacking the office, doing farm equipment maintenance, and what felt like endless amounts of computer work...frustration bubbled up and we mis-communicated.

The logical part of our brain knows what to do when we're in that place. We've had enough practice to know when our wires get crossed, all we have to do is slow things down and talk it through. A walk around the neighborhood and a yoga class helps us, too.

But this week? It took us 2 whole days to get there (which, for the record, is like 2 days longer than usual!). But, here's the thing we came away from this week thinking about.

The fact that we've got such big goals for this farm (which you can read more about here) means that we're going to have our fair share of flops. If we're not flopping from time to time, it probably means our goals aren't really bold enough.

So here's to all the synchronized swims and the great big belly flops that will come our way on this journey to raising the most exceptional food for our community. And here's to YOU for being so awesome and choosing to support our farm.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Do you remember our Fairy Godmother?

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Do you remember the newsletter from last December where we shared about our Fairy Godmother? You know, that amazing customer of ours who came into our lives and changed it forever? You can click here if you need a recap on this incredible human being...

Well, here's the scoop. The high tunnel (farm lingo for unheated green house) that our Fairy Godmother funded and that Greg built to solve the frozen water issue for our hens last winter worked like a charm!

We started using it in December, and for the remainder of the winter, we didn't have ONE SINGLE DAY without running water for our hens. And not only that, we didn't have a SINGLE frozen egg, which was awesome because frozen eggs used to be a problem for us.

Well, one of the things that you have to do when you're a farmer is learn to repurpose. I think it's safe to say that almost none of the structures on our farm have just one single purpose. And the new hen house (which we lovingly call the Fairy Godmother House) is no exception.

To date, it has served our laying hens all winter long. It has served as a cozy spot for 3 of our sows to give birth in during a winter cold snap. And this week, it's been repurposed again into a brooder, the warm and protected place where our baby turkeys hang out for a few weeks, until they're old enough to go out on pasture!

One of the coolest parts about farming is watching our farm transform season to season. This week, we're marveling at the sight of all those baby turkeys in our Fairy Godmother House.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

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