farm rochester ny

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.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

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People often ask us about predators on the farm. Especially when they realize we don't keep our animals in barns and they see our piglets roaming the pastures and the laying hens searching for bugs beneath the snow. The truth is, I'm not exactly sure how we do it, but we have a few stories to share that might help answer this question. 

In our first year here on the farm, we had a large family of foxes living across the road. They were cute at first, until the mother fox started traveling across the road daily to teach her kits how to hunt with our laying hens. During our absolutely back-breaking first summer as livestock farmers, we were losing chickens right and left to these guys and it made us feel terrible.

We considered a variety of solutions. Traps, guns, guardian dogs, you name it...none of them felt right. We talked to farmers, we consulted our farm books. And eventually, we realized that the best option wasn't to rid ourselves of this family of foxes but to strengthen the preventative mechanisms we already had in place. 

Enter a stronger electric fence charger that increased the current 6-fold, and voila! Problem solved. My original farming mentor always said that a hot electric fence stops anything on four legs, and he was right. We've never had another fox-related incident on the farm since.

Unfortunately, the hot fences do not stop the two-legged predators that roam the skies. Hawks torment lots of farmers and homesteaders we know and have been known to kill entire flocks. But as you probably guessed by now, we've developed systems to minimize the impact of these predators, too. We keep large animals like the sows nearby the small animals like the chickens and this seems to keep most of the ariel predators away. Along with shelters and hot fences, and we are happy to report that we have only rare run-ins with hawks. 

Knowing this, you can imagine why I was so flabbergasted to see a large hawk tangled up in one of the electric fences this past summer (check out the picture below to see the photo proof!). I approached the bird to get a closer look. Even though I knew full well that he might someday be my greatest nemesis, I resolved to set him free just the same.

I spent a whole hour trying to untwist the fibers that were wrapped around it's leg and wing. Eventually, it became clear that in order to free the bird, I needed to cut the fence. A couple of quick cuts with the knife and the bird was untangled. And, within a few minutes, the hawk was gone soaring through the sky again. 

We've learned that coexisting with predators is part of what it means to be good stewards of our land. Someday, we might need to set a trap or move toward guardian dogs, but for the past three years, we've established a nice working relationship with our local wildlife and we do hope it lasts...

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

What they don't tell you when you decide to farm

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When I chose to become a farmer, I don't think anyone told me that the job is really not just about raising animals or growing vegetables. The reality of owning a small business, particularly a farm, is that you have to learn how to do EVERYTHING yourself. 

Let me tell you. Before I became a farmer, I was NEVER comfortable working on engines. In fact, I feared them so much that for a while, I planned to avoid tractors entirely and rely on draft horses instead (remember this newsletter?). Nowadays, after reading a lot of manuals and watching tons of you-tube videos, I've learned that I'm more than capable of doing routine tractor maintenance on the farm!

And while I do have a mild obsession for Excel spreadsheets thanks to my graduate school experiences as a chemist, I also never expected that I would become an accountant. But here I am, with a small business that needs accounting so I've learned how to manage the cash flow and build reallllyy intensive budgets. 

The farm has helped me learn a ton about carpentry too! You might remember this newsletter about us relocating and rebuilding our historic barn last year. With this project, we had a lot of helping hands, including our carpenter friend Eli, who has since moved to Maine. Without him to help, I was nervous about taking on the barn addition this year because I knew I was going to have to do it pretty much solo. I sometimes joked that I was a "barn-building baby bird" who was leaving the nest for the first time, without his mama bird to help him. 

But over the past 2 months, I've set posts, placed beams, fastened down rafters and nailed on siding.  Looking at our barn addition, which is about a week away from completion, I am still amazed at how much I've learned - progressing from my first rickety little pig house during year #1 to building this major barn addition year #3! 

This has all has made me think about what is possible in in this world when we give ourselves the space to learn, to try things out and mess up once in a while.  What have you always wanted to do but been too scared to try? Or just thought it was beyond your abilities? Maybe it's time to give it a shot!

Your farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

How We Got Lucky

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A thoughtful woman you might know (cough, Oprah) says that luck is the meeting of preparation and opportunity.  I think that it is this sort of luck, that lead us to our farm here in Henrietta.  

After getting his pHd in chemistry, Greg spent years farming on other people's organic farms learning everything he could.  During this time, he would often come home from work and start sentences with "when we have our own farm....".  He had done his homework for sure, but hadn't quite found the right opportunity yet. 

He got serious about looking for land back in 2015 and spent many-an-evening searching online farm databases without much luck.  We eventually resorted to driving aimlessly around the Rochester suburbs looking for farms with for-sale signs or unused parcels of land. We often came home overwhelmed and disappointed.  

Then he came across an online listing for 1396 Rush Henrietta Townline Rd.  It was about 60 acres which was what we were aiming for and it was a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Rochester. It had been on the market for 10+ years and the price point was about right. On a whim, Greg went out and looked at it solo first. He was impressed. 

He took me out to see it a few days later. I didn't think much. It didn't look AT ALL like the farm I had envisioned. There wasn't a house, and there weren't any barns, electricity or water. The fields were all overgrown with brambles. I tried to hide my skepticism while we walked around the fields on this particularly, chilly dreary November day. He brought a shovel to check the soil types and measuring tape, just because. He talked about putting the veggie fields here and the turkeys there. It all seemed a little crazy to me, but he seemed so sure of himself. (As you probably already know by know, Greg isn't the type of person to put the cart-before-the horse. He is practical and thoughtful, and his confidence on this day still astounds me!)

When we got back into our car, I half-heartedly joked that we better start looking for houses nearby since I was no longer interested in living in a camper van as we discussed on a cross country road trip a few years before. Looking back, I think that some part of me hoped that a little shot of realism might snap him out of his excitement (not my proudest moment).  But as fate would have it, we started to drive away from the farm land and saw that the little yellow house directly next door was also for sale. 

We immediately pulled off onto the side of the road and looked at the listing online from our iPhones. The photos gave us a general sense of things inside...there was an absurd amount of brown wall paneling, shag carpets and a god-awful kitchen and bathroom...but maybe the bones of the house had some potential, somewhere? The truth was that it was a house that could be lived in and it was next to the land that my husband was obsessed with. So it was a go!

Our offers for the house and the land were accepted a few weeks later. We moved in mid-January and as further evidence of Greg's excitement, he brought home a bunch of pigs and a flock of chickens about 5 few days later. 

We have owned this house and land for almost 3 years now. And, we can't NOT feel the gratitude for everything and everyone that helped us get here. I feel gratitude to Greg for his vision, his dedication, and all the preparation he did to find this spot.  I have gratitude for myself, in being able to find beauty in the things we have and letting go of those we don't. We have gratitude for our bodies that enable us to do the farm work we love so much. We feel gratitude to our families and friends. And most of all, we have gratitude for our customers, who blow us away week after week showing up to market to support us.

Will we be seeing you this Sunday? It'll be a chilly one this week, so dress warmly.

Your farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

We have a "situation" here on the farm...

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You know that one spot in your house that drives you nuts every time you think about it? It's the place you put all the random stuff you don't know what to do with. It houses all the things that you probably should have donated or just put in the trash years ago but somehow, you've deluded yourself into thinking that it might come in handy someday.

As you probably already know by now, we are pretty tidy people. We keep our house and our farm pretty organized but...it's time to admit that we have a "situation" on our hands.

We have a section of our farm, that is about a quarter acre in size, (cringe!), that is packed with farm stuff that has been accumulating for the past 3+ years. We have an old chicken coop, a manure spreader, two antique grain-drills that are in disrepair, and lots of construction materials from the barn projects and hoop houses...I could go on. 

What we've realized more fully this year is that there is a cost to keeping this stuff, even if it's just the time and mental energy that we spend thinking about it!  So, we are turning over a new leaf.

We are working to purge the farm this fall of the stuff that we no longer need and are working on finding the right spot for the items that are rarely used but we need to hold onto for one reason or another. 

It's a big job that always finds its way to the bottom of the to-do list  But, we are looking forward to having the mental relief of knowing that this little section of the farm is as clear and purposeful and vibrant as the rest of our farm. 

Anyone else up for a fall cleaning challenge in their own home this year?  

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

PS-Thanks for another great ginger and turmeric season! We are sold out for the seasons. Please share your favorite ginger/turmeric recipes with us and if you post to social media, don't forget to tag us so we can see your creative cooking masterpieces!  We love seeing you enjoy the food we grow!