organic farm ny

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.

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

Wait, did I just get rabies?

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We were in our barn last weekend tidying things up and all of a sudden a dark aerial thing starting swooping down around my head. I ducked and let out a little shriek or maybe it was a swear word or two? So me, being me.... I naturally came to the immediate conclusion that we had rabid bats living in the barn. This is NOT going to be fun, I thought. 

Greg, on the other hand, was all smiles. Yes, he was amused by my theatric response to what I thought was a rabid animal, but turned out to be a pair of overly protective barn swallows. But on the inside, he told me, he was smiling because these little barn swallows signified so much more.

From the moment we said YES to becoming the caretakers for this barn, we've done our absolute best to do right by it. Some farmers 200 years ago took down these trees by hand and constructed this barn piece by piece with nothing more than some hammers and chisels. And somehow, through it all, the barn managed to stay mostly intact. 

When it was given to us, we could never have known what bringing it to our farm would entail. But when I think back on all the stress, and sweat, and hard work, and heavy lifting, and pleas for help to friends and family, and all the time and resources we invested in it, I'm amazed that we didn't give up. But one of the things that kept us going was this vision we shared with the previous owner, which was to let the barn be a barn again.   

Seeing our barn in its full glory this summer with those barn swallows protecting the little nest they made above our tool bench showed us that the barn is fulfilling its purpose, not just for us but to our avian friends too. I think Greg is right... there's something beautiful about this. Don't you, too?

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

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.

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

The Piglet Explosion

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We spend a lot of time thinking about pig pregnancies....

We time the meeting of our sows and boar very carefully so the due dates don't fall on a holiday or during one of our rare vacations.  We track heat schedules (which means the sow's ovulation cycles) for every sow and we have to be ready-to-go for piglet deliveries during every season and during any type of weather. 

My husband is the best farm partner I could have ever asked for and luckily, he keeps us super organized with all of this. He makes these crazy master excel sheets that plan out all of our pig pregnancies a full year in advance so we know exactly when we need to introduce a sow to our boar, and it usually runs pretty smoothly. 

But, let's be honest. We're not perfect over here. And it turns out, we made a liiiiiitle error on a day in early November when we were a little over-tired and overworked getting ready for Thanksgiving turkey time.

We introduced 3 sows to the boar and they all happened to go into heat on the same day.  This means that instead of our usual routine where we have one sow delivering at a time, we have 3 and they are all due on the EXACT SAME DAY! 

We've been calling the highly anticipated event the "piglet explosion" and it's all happening this Sunday! It will be a record for Team Stonecrop so be sure to check out our Instagram and Facebook pages if you want to see pics of our organic pigs Stormy, Cricket and Garfield and their little ones on the way.

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

Taming the Beast

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We jumped the gun this year and made our New Years resolution back in early December. We've been working at it for the past several weeks and you know what? It's already been a game changer for us.  This was our problem and I'm betting you can relate:  We look at our phones way too much!

We resolved to cut back on screen time and tame the beast. This is what we've learned so far...  

1. There is rarely if ever an email that is so urgent, that I need to respond to it within minutes.  I was in the habit of checking my emails 20+ times a day (first thing in the morning, between farm tasks, or unfortunately, sometimes during farm tasks), and social media at least that many times.  I mean, how many critically time-sensitive messages do I really get that would make this behavior sensible? None.  

2. We are now blocking time in our schedules for email and social media and we are WAY more productive!  Since I'm a pretty calendar driven kind-of-guy, I set my schedule in the beginning of the week (we LOVE google calendar) and block almost every hour of the work day with farm tasks. Instead of checking my email randomly multiple times a day, I am making a point to do this during my designated email time. This small change is taking some time to get used to but it has been awesome!

3. Keeping our phones out of our bedroom improved our quality of sleep. 
For most of our adult lives, we've charged our phones on our bedside tables and used them as alarm clocks. But having them right next to us all night meant that we got into the bad habit of looking at our phones right before bed and right when we woke up. Well, it turns out this behavior does not help our circadian rhythm! We bought an alarm clock (this one which also has sound and light therapy!) and we are now sticklers about keeping the phones out of our bedroom. It took a few days to make the adjustment, but we are getting much more restful sleep!

4. There are apps out there to help us. We've been using an app called Moment which tracks the minutes/hrs of screen time and helps us set goals and track our screen time. Changing the notification settings on the email and social media apps so that we're not alerted when messages come in has been a good improvement too.  

We have HUGE goals for our farm and our lives for 2019, so we know that these changes will be sooo worth it. 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney