organic chicken

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 scary change we're making on the farm.

Before he took the plunge and decided he was going to become an organic farmer, Greg would often talk about farming in "someday" sort of terms.

Midway through his PhD program, he eventually realized that life's just too short to NOT be doing the thing you love and he decided to make the switch and become a farmer.

We're now in the middle of our fourth season here at Stonecrop and I can tell you that without a doubt, this work fills us up more than anything else. You walk around the farm and you can see the dedication pouring out into every crevice of this farm - from the reconstructed barn, through the pastures and all the way back to the pigs. We love this farm and we love this work.

But here's the thing we're dreading to tell you. Ever since we started this farm, we've continued listening to our hearts. It's almost never led us astray. And over the last year, our hearts have been telling us that it's time to make a change on the farm.

We've wrestled with the decision for a while, since this is something that has become such a big part of our business. And more than that, it's something that we're known for in the community. But we know it's true... we don't want to raise broilers (chickens for meat) next year.

We have lots of good reasons for making this decision, one of them being that our fields are not ideal for rotationally grazing these types of birds (our land is very hilly!) and the daily labor of moving the birds, as well as processing these chickens, is too strenuous for our bodies for the long-term. But even if we could overcome all of this, it still wouldn't be right for us.

This means that while we're going to finish out this season strong and keep bringing fresh chickens to market through the middle of October, next year, we can't be your organic chicken farmers anymore.

The upside to all this is that because we're saying no to broiler chickens, we can say yes to other things that we love. This means that we're raising more pigs and expanding our laying flock next year! And we're going to keep on rolling with our ginger and Thanksgiving Turkeys, too.

We know that you might be feeling a little sad about all of this (we are too!). But, we're excited about continuing to make this farm into something special and making decisions that are sustainable for us for the long-term. And that means following our hearts, even when its bringing us into unchartered territory.

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

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

We move mountains to make it to this class every week

You know what people tell us all the time? "Wow.....you guys work so hard!" 

There's a huge part of us that takes these words in as a compliment, of sorts. Turning a plot of overgrown fields full of brambles into an organic livestock farm without any employees has taken a lot. It has not been easy and I think that everyone around us including our families, friends, customers and neighbors know that we've been busting our buns these past few years. 

But putting the farm first and always saying YES to the needs of this farm, has meant that we've had to say NO to a lot of other things.  And to be honest, without us even realizing it was happening, we stopped doing some of the most important stuff for ourselves.

Before we started our farm, we loved going to yoga classes together.  We weren't skilled enough to do the really advanced poses where you contort your body into a pretzel, but we always enjoyed the experience of moving our bodies and building our strength.

But yoga essentially vanished from our lives when the farm came into the picture. And so too did a lot of other hobbies that filled up our cups. Meaning, our non-farmer cups of course. 

This past year, we both agreed to find more space in our lives for our our own fulfillment and we started working hard at NOT working so hard. We started saying NO to requests from others that we would've definitely said yes to in previous years and we started saying yes to the things that really matter to us...like going to a yoga class together every week. (If you can believe it, we are hitting our 4-month mark next week!)

We are farmers and yes, we do work really hard. But we're learning how to create a normal life for ourselves inside of this mighty work. A life where we have hobbies and take care of ourselves,  so that we can be happy farmers AND healthy people when we're old and gray. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

PS  It's spring which means I have to tell you that we will have a limited supply of hams this spring. They will be delicious and will only be available by pre-order. If you're interested in a fresh or smoked ham, please hit reply to this email and we will start to coordinate the ordering process with you.

That one time we bought a house that we actually didn't like

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I always thought the process of buying a house with Greg, the love of my life, would be so exciting. We'd think about all the qualities we wanted in a house and then we'd go house-hunting with our list of must-haves. We'd look at a few houses, find "the one" and put in an offer.

We'd live happily ever after for a while and then do what everyone else seems to do - save up some money and then move on to a new place some years later when we'd be ready to relocate or be itching for an upgrade. 

Well, you can't do this when you're farmers.  Or at least, you can't do it very easily. 

When we purchased this land and this house, we had the success of our farm top of mind. We knew this spot was right for Stonecrop, so we trusted that we could make our personal lives and our marriage and our home-life work here, too. 

And so while we've been tending to these fields and forests and growing the business for the last several years, we've also been working on this old house. Trying to turn a house that we would NEVER have otherwise purchased into the kind of home that we don't ever want to leave.

There's a peace we feel knowing that this is our forever home and that all the investments we're making (like this crazy living room renovation we just started this week!) are worth it.  And there's also this frustration that creeps in every now and then, especially when the roof is leaking or the basement is flooding, where you just wish you had the option to escape. 

But this land, this house, and our lives go hand-in-hand now, and there's so much beauty in that.  

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

The WORST hobby for a farmer

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The first farm that Greg ever worked on did a little of everything. They grew veggies, raised chickens, turkeys, pigs, and beef and they had a dairy cow too. After that, he spent years working on farms that grew only veggies. 

When we were figuring out which direction to go with our own farm, we decided to focus on organic livestock and luckily, that is a decision that we have never once regretted. But for Greg especially, all that veggie-growing knowledge was hard to let go of. 

I remember our first year being full-time here at Stonecrop. We were was sooooo busy planning and building and mowing and moving animals. But somehow, in the midst of this most intense and back-breaking year, we convinced ourselves that we should ALSO plant ourselves a garden. 

I pictured a a little herb garden with a few tomatoes and onions. But as time went by, I realized that Greg had a very different mental picture. His idea of a garden was like a miniature veggie farm and this meant that we were growing almost everything. He plowed up and planted 100-foot long beds with more vegetables than we could ever eat in a year. It was insane. 

The daily tasks of weeding, planting and harvesting were too much, especially with the ridiculous responsibilities we already had starting our farm, and we just couldn't keep up. Which meant that just like that, the veggie garden turned into a giant weedy unproductive mess that made us feel so bad to look at. 

The next year, we made the best decision.  We let go of the silly notion that we could "do it all" and we joined an organic veggie CSA. Joining a CSA has allowed us to have the highest quality food without having to shop around. During this season of life, where we don't have a lot of spare time, the simplicity of having pre-paid for all of our food for the season is THE BEST. 

If you're interested a joining a veggie farm this year, we want to invite you to check out Mud Creek Farm and Deep Root Farm.  They are wonderful farmers and they offer great CSA programs with different pickup options in Rochester.  And if you're interested in becoming a member of our chicken or egg CSA, please click here.  We only have a few spots left and we would hate for you want to miss out. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

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

Big results from our tiny home office...

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We had a business planning meeting right before New Years Eve and it sorta rocked our world. We started with a deep dive into all of the numbers...

We learned that in 2018, we sold over 70 pigs and scaled up our pig breeding program. We sold 1000 chickens/turkeys and we sold 1,864 dozen eggs. We increased enrollment for our chicken and egg CSA programs, had 51 total people sign-up and received 4.9/5 star customer reviews. We developed new ways of harvesting ginger and turmeric which saved us lots of time and we sold our Thanksgiving turkeys in record speed. We built a barn addition, another high tunnel, and a new egg laying house. We hosted 7 farm tours, showed up right here in our newsletter to connect with you almost every week and managed to never miss a single Brighton Market all year.  Phew. 

Next, came the many hours of soul searching and enterprise budgeting. Boy was that fun!  As we were considering what we wanted to do more of in 2019 (as well as what we wanted to less of), we realized that the aspect of the farm that consistently brings us the most joy and fulfillment was our CSA programs. We just LOVE seeing our members every week and getting to know their families and providing them with the best of the best, week after week. For all of these reasons, we've decided to open the shares up to more people next year (sorry to all the folks who we've had to turn away in the past) and make the experience even more impactful with more bonuses which we will be sure to tell you about later this winter. 

To say YES to more CSA members, we had to say NO to something else. So, we decided to say NO to adding another farmer's market, NO to producing more eggs, and another NO to raising summer turkeys (don't worry, we're still doing T-giving turkeys). These are tough choices for us, since we know they are things that many of our customers enjoyed in the past or have asked us for . But they aren't right for us, at this time in our lives, and there is peace for us in setting these boundaries.  

Speaking of peace...remember when we shared that after 3 years of being in business, we hadn't paid ourselves yet? Well, we spent a lot of time number-crunching during this 8+ hour planning session and are happy to report that this year we will finally start paying Greg for all the incredible work that he does. It won't be tons of money (we're aiming for a teacher's salary) but it will be enough keep our passion going strong and the doors wide open so that we can continue to grow food for your family until we're old and gray.  

2019 is going to be another busy year on the farm, that is for sure. But now that we're done mapping everything out, one thing is crystal clear.  Our mission has always been  "to produce exceptional organic food, to improve the health of our community and to educate our community about sustainable farming" and in ways both big and small, we are doing all of these things. We can't wait to see what 2019 will bring! 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Best of 2018

It's a lot of work for us to write this newsletter on a weekly basis. But despite the time commitment, we love sharing stories and our thoughts from the week here. It's fun, it's cathartic and it's helping our business grow. 

But we had a realization a couple of months ago that another amazing thing about writing this newsletter every week (besides getting to let you in on what it's like to raise organic livestock), is that we're also creating a record of all of the happenings on our farm. These weekly emails are our little legacy and it's kind of amazing to think about what we'll get to remember when we look back at these words and photos 10, 20, 30+ years from now!  

Thinking about this prompted us to go back and look at newsletters from the past year, and there were some doozies.  There was the peculiar story about our pet goose that fell in love with Jenney, the one about the origin of our barn.  There was the time we really put it all out there to share the 3 things we're most embarrassed to admit. There was Jenney's favorite newsletter about how I followed my calling in Greg's Moment of Truth and my most meaningful newsletter of the year when we lost our boar (we said they're cathartic, right?).

I've never had a diary or kept a journal (unlike Jenney who has been journaling since she was 7) but I'm so thrilled that we're building a story book of the life of our farm! 

We would love to hear from you, if you have a few minutes to spare this week. What was the most memorable newsletter for you and why?  What would you like to hear more about and was there anything that you'd like to hear less about?

Here's to finishing up a great year, creating more time for reflection, and moving on to 2019!

Your Farmers, 
Greg & Jenney