organic chicken

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

Yep, we have a fairy godmother...

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You know what might just be the trickiest part of raising livestock over the winter? Water.  

Imagine us here at our farm with our flock of laying hens and 4 different herds of pigs out in the fields. It's relatively easy for us to bring organic grain to the animals once or twice a day, after we get bundled up and shovel a little snow. But in the wintertime, when the temperatures drop, the portable waterers, water tanks and spigots freeze solid and this means we don't have water where the animals are.

In previous years, we carried buckets of water from our basement to our animals 2-3 times per day. And, if this sounds terribly inefficient to you...it is! It takes a lot of time and it also wears on our hands, and our backs, and our spirits. 

We've always known that if we were going to be able to keep doing what we love most in this world (FARM!), we needed to figure out a better system for water over the winter. But, after our barn renovations this year, it just wasn't in our budget.  

That is, until a customer of ours, who we named our Fairy Godmother, told us this summer that she wanted to help finance a project on the farm!  To be honest, we thought she was joking at first. I mean, who just offers to give money to a farm!? 

We thanked her profusely and then tried to politely refuse, saying that we couldn't accept such a generous gift.  But for months, she shared how our farm was giving her joy and kept asking us when we were going to tell her how she could help. It seems strange to write this, but it was actually really (REALLY!) hard for us to accept her gift. But, after talking with family and doing a lot of soul searching, we eventually realized what was stopping us from saying yes (our pride and fear of being vulnerable) and accepted her offer.  

Greg immediately got busy researching and drawing up plans. We wanted to use her gift wisely and needed to design a structure which is movable (since our winter paddocks move from year to year), economical, and gives us more days with flowing water...while keeping the animals on pasture where they belong.  We wanted it to serve our laying hens first and foremost (since our Fairy Godmother is a vegetarian!), but have some duel purpose for when the temps were super low and the pregnant sows are delivering.

Farmer Greg came up with a grand plan and it is AMAZING! It gives our hens more sunlight and more warmth (which will help mitigate the drop in egg production over the winter) and it will help prevent our water from freezing for most of the winter.  

We are happy to report that as of this week, construction is finally underway!  How amazing is this? 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

The Real Reason We Write This Blog Every Week

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I went for a walk with a friend this week, and after she mentioned how much she was enjoying reading our newsletters she paused and asked me what a lot of people ask us....Isn't it scary?  I sighed and thought OH MY GOD, YES! 

Her question made me realize that even though we might make this look easy, in reality, it's not.  It takes a lot of vulnerability to write these suckers. 

For example, it took us several months to finally summon the courage to send this newsletter called  "3 Things We Are Most Embarrassed to Admit. "  After we pressed send, we were so nervous to read all the responses that poured in that Greg and I went around and turned off every electronic device in the house (Thanks to all who reached out-your kindness and words of encouragement meant the world to us once our adrenaline finally came down!).

There was another time a that I got cold feet a few minutes before we sent this newsletter out. I called a good friend for reassurance and made her listen while I literally read the newsletter out loud to make sure that admitting that my family skinny dips didn't make me look too crazy (Thanks for listening Mariah!).

So, to answer the question you've probably been wondering: Yes, speaking our truth here can be scary for sure!  But, we do it anyways and here's why:

We show up because we have a hunch that the connections we're building through this newsletter are in service to YOU and OUR community. We want our stories - whether they're the ones that are entertaining, silly, embarrassing or messy - to help connect you to food, to farmers, and to farming.

To our detriment, these connections have become rare these days and have gone missing in most of our lives...and we feel called to do the work to build them back up again, even if it means we have the occasional Friday night freak-out. 

Since we are overcoming our fears, we have to think that you can overcome your fears, too. What is that conversation in your life you're scared of having? Or that next step that you're afraid of taking? We're a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit ourselves for. You might find, like we have, that taking that leap of faith and being vulnerable is SO worth it.

Your farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

Greg's Moment of Truth

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Greg and I met as seniors at Hamilton College and have basically been inseparable ever since. A year after graduation, we moved to California together so he could start his PhD program in chemistry.  From the outside looking in, he seemed pretty excited about a future career as a chemist.  

When he was a little over 1/2 way through his program though, he called me up to say that he had a realization. It wasn't a spur of the moment conversation. He wanted to be a farmer and made a point to say that he had given this a lot of thought....which in case you haven't already noticed, is Greg's M.O (He is literally the most thoughtful decision maker I've ever known).

I don't think I will ever forget that moment. He had a safe and established career path as a chemist waiting for him, but he wanted to follow his calling and become an organic farmer instead. He wanted me to know that farming was going to be hard but that done right, we could make an honest living AND make a tangible difference in people's lives and on the environment.   

We haven't turned back since. He went on to finish his PhD in record breaking time (4 yrs) knowing that as soon as he finished he would get right down to it learn all he could about organic farming. He went on after graduate school to farm for an additional three years at other organic farms in the Rochester area, all the while doing research and planning for what would eventually become Stonecrop Farm.

Life is so full of twists and turns.  It's amazing to look back at those critical moments when you could have turned left, and instead turned right... not knowing exactly where you would wind up. 

We are just a few weeks away from starting our third summer season farming together and it feels like such a GIGANTIC milestone.  Thank you all for the continued support and encouragement!

Your farmers, 
Greg and Jenney