organic ginger

3 Things We Learned From Getting Away

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We just spent a week up in the Adirondacks. Every day was a clean slate, with absolutely nothing on the to-do list. It was sublime.

Compare this to the responsibilities of running the farm and it's quite comical, really. Because then, we had to come home. And come home, we did...to a new litter of piglets that surprised us all and came a couple days early. To chickens that needed processing and the big herd of pigs, which needed to be rotated onto new pasture. And to 10+ acres of pasture that needed mowing...

One thing I always gain from stepping away from something I care deeply about is perspective. And there are a few things I think we can see more clearly today, than we could 2 weeks ago. Here are the top 3:

1. The farm is finally at a place where we can step away for a few days and everything will be ok. That is a relief. And it's also a sign that our hard work is paying off.

2. We need to keep exploring ways to lighten the load, so that we can keep doing this work for the next 30 years.

3. We love getting away...but being at our farm with our animals is our happy place. There is truly no place else on earth we'd rather be.

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! 

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 thing Greg did 200 times last Tuesday

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The first day of spring was this week and we are feeling it, BIG TIME.  We had our first batch of baby chicks arrive this week and we've been spending lots of time tidying (Marie Kondo style) so that we're ready to take on the busy season ahead. 

One of our biggest accomplishments this week was building another high tunnel (unheated greenhouse) for this year's ginger crop.  Constructing a high tunnel is no easy feat. It involves bending lots of metal poles (200 bends to be exact), driving big posts into the ground with a sledge hammer and then assembling the house. But, thanks to Greg's hard work, except the plastic that will go overtop, we now have a second high tunnel designated to ginger. 

If you're as in love with our ginger as we are, you're probably hoping that the fact that we have two ginger houses now means we're scaling up and planting even more ginger this year...but this is not the case.  

Sure, we'd love to grow in both houses and double our ginger production this year. But when Stonecrop was just a dream - a little idea that Greg and I had and talked about before bed when we were dreaming about our future - we knew that our farm would be certified organic and that no matter what we grow, we know we are still responsible for upholding those organic principles and being good stewards of our land.  

As any organic farmer will tell you, the quality of the food produced on the farm hinges on the health of the soil. For us, this means that we need to rotate the location of our ginger and turmeric plantings (from one house to the other) regularly so that we can keep the soils healthier, the nutrients high, and the pest pressure low. This is part of the rationale for all the rotational grazing we do with our livestock, too!

Organic farming takes a little more time than spraying with chemicals or keeping our animals in barns, and more infrastructure (thus the second high tunnel) but the results sure are glorious.  

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

How We Grow Ginger and Turmeric

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Last week we shared all about WHY we grow ginger and turmeric and this week we wanted to share HOW we grow ginger and turmeric. 

We start with super high quality seed that we purchase from an organic farm in Hawaii. The seeds are essentially small roots and they arrive in the dead of winter. They are very sensitive to the cold, so we plant them into big seed trays right away and place the trays in a warm, dark spot to encourage sprouting. Greg waters them once a week and fusses to make sure the soil conditions are just right. The little shoots eventually pop out of the soil and then it's a waiting game until April or May when they are strong/big enough to be transplanted outside.  

If we planted the sprouts directly into the ground they would likely die during those cold April/May nights. So, instead, we plant them into a 80-foot long high-tunnel that we built specifically for these crops. The high-tunnel (which is essentially a green-house without the heater) allows us to keep the air and soil warm and prevents the plants from being damaged by the wind. They require a lot of attention at this stage, too, with frequent weeding and irrigating and temperature regulating until they are ready to harvest 4 months later. 

Harvest time is usually in early September (or maybe late August...) and it is a busy time on the farm.  When we pull the large plants out of the ground, each ginger/turmeric root is covered in dirt and has tons of smaller fibrous side-shoots (imagine hard pipe-cleaners or tough pieces of spaghetti) all around it. We cut these off and carefully clean the roots so they are ready to bring to market. 

It takes us about half of a year to grow ginger and turmeric and many hours to harvest and clean (which is probably why most farmers don't bother with growing this stuff!). But, for us, growing these plants is a challenge and an opportunity that we relish. It's the only produce we grow and it has a special place in our hearts. 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

PS- Next week, we will share how to store fresh ginger and turmeric so that you can use the good stuff year-round (No more buying the dead cured stuff grown overseas from the grocery store.  YAY!).  We are making videos and can't wait to share our best tips and tricks with you soon!

Why We Grow Ginger

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Unlike a lot of area farmers that grow lots of different vegetable crops, we focus our energy on our livestock and just two specialty crops: ginger and turmeric. If you're wondering why we chose to grow these two plants, you are not alone. It seems pretty random. That is, until you hear the backstory. 

Greg was mid-way through his PhD in chemistry when he decided he wanted to follow his calling and become a farmer (If you don't remember this story, click here to learn more. It's a good one!). His initial vision was a diversified organic vegetable and livestock farm. With this in mind, after graduating, he got started working on veggie farms right away. After a few years, when he felt like he had a solid foundation in veggie farming, he began learning more about raising livestock.

When we found our land here in Henrietta, Greg realized that livestock farming was not only what was best suited for our land, but it was really where his heart was. However, something about working in tilled soil, the colors and variation of vegetable production, kept pulling him back to wanting to grow produce. So, he made a new plan. Livestock we would be our focus, but we would choose one or two specialty produce crops to complement the healthy proteins we were growing. 

Now came the the tricky decision figuring out what plants to grow. Like the scientist that he is, Greg researched! We considered rhubarb, basil, sunflowers, ginseng, horseradish, lavender, until he eventually found some journal articles about growing ginger/turmeric in the northeast and something just clicked. Around this same time, a local farmer shared about his success with growing ginger alongside his beef/chicken/veggies, and this gave us the final push to dive in. 

While we absolutely love raising our animals, we are equally passionate about tending to these two incredible plants. They take FOREVER to grow and are very time-intensive to harvest (more on this process coming next week), but the final product is as extraordinary as anything we've ever grown and it keeps us coming back for more year after year. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

PS-In case you're wondering.... harvest starts in a few weeks. We will keep you posted when it's ready!