humane livestock

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.

The D Word

69aef6d5-dd45-4999-af63-ad1ef6a7e884.jpg

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

What I learn from a cheese-making teamster

IMG-5079.jpg

I've learned that one of the most important skills you need to develop as a livestock farmer, is being able to compassionately handle your animals. I didn't grow up farming, so I learned these skill from other farmers I've been lucky enough to meet along the way. 

One of the experiences which helped me understand the basics of working with animals was when I trained with a teamster named Donn Hewes. In case you don't recognize the farm lingo here, a teamster is someone who is farming (or logging) with horses, mules or oxen. 

You see, for a considerable amount of time, I thought our farm was going to be a vegetable farm and that the farm itself would be powered by horses.  There are very few farmers these days that have chosen to rely on horses instead of tractors.  Donn and his wife Maryrose (of Northland Sheep Dairy) are two of them, and lucky for me,  they were starting a Teamster School at their farm and were happy to have me on board as their first student back in 2015.

I lived with Donn and Maryrose for a little over a month, staying in a tiny apartment above the horse barn. Every day, Donn found activities for me to do with the horses and showed me how to communicate with the horses to get farm work done. It was winter-time, so this meant learning how to drive the horses through thick snow, how to haul logs back to the their big wood shed, and how to plow snow, all while keeping the horses stress free. I will never forget the time Jenney came to visit and I even learned how to use horses to pull her car out of a snowbank! They were seemingly simple tasks that I didn't come close to mastering, in part because the relationship and communication between farmer and animal is complex and takes lots of time and practice.

I learned so much from these experiences and I'm certain that they still inform my farming practices today. Through working with horses, I learned how to observe better the natural inclinations of the animals I'm working with and use that knowledge to built smarter farms systems that prevent our animals from experiencing stress. I think back to these same principles that Donn and Maryrose taught me when I work with our chickens, turkeys and pigs every day. 

And even though I'm very confident in our decision to farm with a tractor instead of horses, I still think about hearing the snorts and heavy hoof falls of draft horses on our farm some day...a boy can dream. 😀

Your Farmers, 
Greg & Jenney