organic

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 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

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

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

Where the heck is this train taking us?

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In our newsletter last week, there were a few sentences in there that hit us hard. 

We were talking about how, as farmers, we can't just spend our time thinking about how to grow the best pastures and raise the most exceptional food. Because even though this stuff is fun and important, we're also asking ourselves a bigger question of how can we can make the biggest impact and do the most good for our community.

I'm not sure how that last part felt to you. You might have glossed over it.  You probably didn't give it a second thought. But when we read it out loud to each other (yes we do this countless times before we press the send button), we felt so nervous. 

We felt nervous because we really do dream about expanding the reach of this farm and sharing our knowledge beyond this platform.  Sometimes, we can literally feel the farm blowing us in this direction, encouraging us to press pause and consider what more we can be doing to make a difference for even more people. 

The truth is, we don't know how we're going to get to there. We are planners and perfectionists by nature, but we don't have the answer to this big question hashed out just yet. And while that's scary, for sure, we're grateful for all that we do have.... 

We've got a mission that lights us up every single day. We grow amazing food and help families in Rochester eat well.  And, we have YOU and this incredible community of people cheering us on and supporting us at the Brighton Market and Farm Store every week. 

So how might our little farm and the community we're building here in Henrietta change the world?  Well, we're just going to have to wait and find out the answer to that question together because we've got a lot of exciting ideas waiting in the wings, ready for the right moment to hatch.

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

PS-  Just in case you were worried, none of these wild dreams of ours involve us stopping farming! We intend to continue to raise organic livestock for the long-haul! 

Something awesome just fell into our lap

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You probably don't know this about us...but we want to sell our land. Well, that's not entirely true. We want to sell part of our land. Sort of. Let us tell you more about this before you start thinking that we've lost our minds. 

We first learned about this opportunity when Greg was doing his first farming apprenticeship in Albany back in the summer 2008. The Farmers were older and they had worked their 160 acre farm for years, raising organic veggies, pigs, beef, and chicken. They were nearing retirement and had to make some tough choices.

They could sell the land to the highest bidder - probably a developer who would likely pay beaucoup bucks and turn the pastures and vegetable fields into a housing development. Or, they could pursue what's called a conservation easement, where they would sell off the development rights to a land trust, fend off the developers indefinitely, and have the peace of mind of knowing their fields, forests and rivers would stay farmland forever. 

Like our farming mentors back in Albany, we can't just think about how to grow the best pastures and raise the most delicious meat, eggs and speciality produce. I mean, that stuff is fun and we obsess about it all day long, but we're also thinking about the big picture. How can we as farmers, make the biggest impact and do the most good for our community? 

In our minds, being good farmers means that we're being good stewards of our land. And for us, that means doing everything we can to make sure that this 56 acre slice of farmland in Henrietta is ready for all the generations of organic farmers that come up behind us. 

This week, we took a major step toward preserving this land.  With the help of the Genesee Land Trust, we received a grant that will allow us to take the first step forward in selling off the development rights of our farm (a lengthy expensive land appraisal process), and we are absolutely thrilled.
 
This will all take time, probably even more than we could imagine, and there are no guarantees. But if there's one thing that farming has taught us, it's that patience is a virtue.

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg