rochester

3 Things We Learned From Getting Away

unnamed (6).jpg

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

You won't believe what we're doing this week!

IMG-Jenney Tractor.jpg

Debt is a scary thing for anyone. But for farmers, it can be crushing. Whether we're talking about a farmer growing conventional soybeans down the road or farmers like us who raise organic pasture raised livestock, farmers have steep upfront costs.

And because the final product is so dependent on things largely outside of our control, like the weather or predators, farming is also a big gamble. Despite all the incredible planning and effort we put into what we do, with farming, we're never 100% sure what the yield and the profits will be.

Debt is really scary to us and we want to avoid it like the plague. And while we recognize the utility of the loans we've received in our lifetime, we're working super hard to get to a place of being debt free as quickly as possible. Which this month means..... cue the DRUM ROLL....we're paying off our tractor loan 4 YEARS early!!

I'm betting you're wondering why we're prioritizing this over other important things, like maybe hiring an employee or paying ourselves a living wage (in case you're wondering, we still haven't hit our goal of earning a a teacher's salary from the farm yet). But we know that less debt hanging over our heads now, will give us the ability to be financially stable in the years to come and that is critical to the success and the longevity of our farm. And that's where our priorities lie.

So if you've zoned out or if I've bored you to death, please come back to me because here's the thing we absolutely NEEDED to tell you this week. Paying off our tractor loan would not be possible without you. YOU, being the freaking awesome human being that you are. You are the reason why we're able to take this giant step forward in our business. You show up for us, you lift our spirits, you encourage us when we're down, you choose to support this farm and you drive our business forward and we cannot thank you enough for that.

We love you and we want you to know that when we drop off this big check in the mail this week, we'll be thanking YOU for making it all possible.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Fires on the farm

Farmers have very interesting relationships with fires. As you probably already know by now, we're almost all quite fond of burning stuff (cough, we burned a giant brush pile last week).

But tonight I'm not referring to literal flames. Fire is the word Greg and I use to describe the experience of being in chaos. The kind of chaos where the stakes are high and you run the risk of losing something important or costly.

In our minds, there are really two ways of farming. One way is to scatter your energy across a lot of different things and succumb to the idea that fires on the farm is inevitable. They happen, more often than you'd like and you just do your best to react, do some damage control and then cut your losses and move on.

The other way of farming is where you stay organized and focused on just a few things. You do those things really carefully and you spend time (more time than you'd like) anticipating where the fires might happen and you take preventive measures to stop things from blowing up in the first place. This is where we like to live...

But this week, despite all of our best efforts, the farm hit us hard and we were putting out fires left and right. Here's the tally so far: We didn't realize one of our electric fences was damaged and we had what we think was a family of foxes attack our laying hens. This was our first real attack in almost 4 years and it just stinks. Next up was one of our pigs escaped from her paddock and was roaming around the back field solo. She required all sorts of attention and gentle reminders for why she's happier sticking with the herd. Oh and then we had not one, but two major leaks (conjure up a geyser in your mind) in the main water line which required lots of fussing at the MOST inopportune times.

So here's the thing that I know we need to remind ourselves of after a rough week like this. We're striving for that place of perfect balance, where work and life just flows and there aren't ferocious fires that need smothering. But, maybe this magical place does NOT exist on earth.

We will stay true to our goals for this farm and are always striving for absolute excellence. But I think the real growth comes from facing the fires as they come our way and finding the strength to get back up when we're down. We were able to lean on each other and do this this together this week, and I think that's something to celebrate.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Here's to our dear old Dads

Dad pictures.jpg

Do you remember this little mother's day tribute we wrote last year?  Well, this Sunday is Father's Day and we thought this would be the perfect week to introduce you to our Poppas. They are two of the most amazing people on this earth and without their love and support, we'd never be where we are today.  

Farmer Greg writing....
Throughout my lifetime, two of the most important things that I learned from my Dad were integrity and compassion. I don't have an example of a huge moral dilemma where my Dad modeled the pillars of integrity. Growing up, it was in the smaller things, doing what was right for the people he knew, standing up for the students he worked with at RPI, and showing up for my brother and me. He's the kind of person who tells a waitress that she didn't include something on the bill at a restaurant because he doesn't want her to get in trouble or invites international college students to our house for Thanksgiving dinner because he didn't want them to be alone. It really comes down to the everyday moments where he's shown me what compassion and integrity really mean and I'll always consider myself lucky if some of that rubbed off on me. 

Farmer Jenney writing now...
The one word I would use to describe my Dad is adventurous. He is the guy who finds his way out of a pickle, even when the odds are stacked against him. He never takes no for an answer, finding ways to do things that no one in their right mind would ever dream of doing like moving an entire house to a new location or traveling to Ghana without the required visa. I think about the courage I've mustered up at different points in my life and I know it's come directly from my Dad. He's fearless, except for this one aversion he has to being a patient, which is funny, considering how much he adores his work as a primary care doctor. Some of my greatest memories with him as a kid were getting to do rounds with him at the hospital or getting to do home-visits with him, something he still does full time at age 72! Our family means everything to him and he has worked tirelessly to support me and my 5 siblings. He loves this farm and believes in what we're doing and I just adore him for that.

To all the Dads out there, ours included, Happy, Happy Father's Day! You're hitting it out of the park and we love and appreciate you!

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Why were we ever so embarrassed to write about this?

unnamed (4).jpg

Sometime last year, we shared that we aren't planning on having kids. People have told us that they were super surprised to learn this and we totally get it.  It just isn't what two happily married, crazy in love, 33-year-olds usually say. 

But between you and me, this decision has been one of the most important decisions Greg and I have ever made. And in the spirit of sharing from the heart and really being honest with ourselves and our community, we felt like we wanted to step up and share a little more here.  

So here is our truth. We were at one time super embarrassed to admit that we don't want to have kids. So embarrassed in fact, that after we sent this newsletter, we needed to hibernate without electronic devices for 24 hrs straight.

One of the main reasons why I think we were embarrassed was because we thought people would assume that us not wanting to have kids meant that we don't value parenting and/or that we don't like kids. 

But here's the thing, NOTHING could be further from the truth.  Kids are absolutely amazing (duh) and parenting? Parenting is the single most important job on the planet! You are literally raising the next generation of human beings and that is incredible. YOU are freaking incredible! 

But we've spent a lot of time looking at this from a lot of different angles and somehow, we always come back to the same conclusion. Having children is so right for so many families out there AND it just doesn't seem right for us. 

Luckily, we aren't free floating out in the universe feeling lost and confused about any of this. In fact, I don't think we've ever felt more grounded or more confident that we're on the right path for our lives, and that's because we have this fire in our hearts to build and grow something else. 

That "something else" is being organic livestock farmers who don't just farm sustainability and ethically, but who produce truly exceptional food and help families eat well. This last part feels huge, daunting, scary, exciting, hopeful, and empowering and that's how we know we're right where we should be. This is our way of contributing to our community and to the world and it feels freaking awesome right now. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Wait, did I just get rabies?

82d5bca5-7bf2-4529-a1cb-20a2e93ca184.jpg

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

The thing that never felt quite right.

If there was ever a thing that never quite felt right to us about living here in Henrietta, it was being so far away from Greg's family. It sounds silly when I hear myself say "so far away" since Albany is just 3-4 hours from here. 

But when you're a farmer, 4 hours away might as well be 4 days away because getting away from a farm a livestock farm for a couple of days is really just that tricky. 

So, you can imagine our excitement and relief when Greg's parents called us up two YEARS ago to tell us that they'd like to move to Rochester to be near us, and then a few months later when they'd put in an offer on a house.

The idea of them moving here always felt so natural, an immediate YES for both of us. Yes, I'd secretly worry about the unannounced drop-ins or the possibility of accidentally seeing my father in law in his underwear again, but who cares? We could lend a hand when they needed the lawn mowed or the dog walked. And we would have family to call when we were in a pinch and needed a little help on the farm.

Well, it turns out it takes a lot of time to pack up 40+ years of stuff and make a move like this. But as of this week, it's official. Rick and Julie became residents of Rush and now they, along with their numerous rescue animals, live just 4 minutes away. 

You might see them around the farm. And you will definitely see them at the Brighton Market. And while they're probably blushing right now at the mention of their names (and their underwear)  in this week's newsletter, if you see them please say hello and welcome them to town. We are SO thrilled to have them as our new neighbors.

Your Farmers
Greg and Jenney

Oopsy Daisy.

Our farm is 56 acres and about 1/2 of it's pasture and 1/2 of it's forest. Through a series of funny experiences this month, we've realized that we've been so focused on recovering our pastures that we've sort of neglected the other half of the farm, the woods. 

Let me give you a little backstory. When we first moved to the farm, the fields were in pretty terrible condition. The land had not been farmed for 20 years so they were overgrown with weeds and brambles as big as a house.

We've literally spent years focusing our energy on revitalizing these pastures and here's why. While veggie farmers are obsessed with growing the best tomatoes or greens, the job of any good livestock farmer is to grow beautiful rich pasture for the animals to graze and forage.  We aim to grow the best dang pasture possible so that our animals get to eat the equivalent of caviar.

We are starting off our 4th season here at Stonecrop and the time and energy we've spent restoring these pastures has paid off.  The brambles are almost gone and the clover, grasses, and all the plants that our animals love to eat are sprouting up everywhere. It literally feels like magic. 

But the other half of our farm, meaning these old wooded forests?  Well, over the last four years, the wind storms have come and gone, and lots of trees have fallen. The grape vines have proliferated and taken their toll. The ash trees that we intended to harvest, are still standing tall.  And the trees we want to protect (like the oaks) are competing for sunlight with the lesser tree varieties. 

In a few weeks (perfect timing for the summertime...ha!), we will have a wood stove. This means we can start making the switch from heating our house mostly with gas, to heating mostly with wood. And this also means that it's about time to start being more intentional about managing our woods. 

This sounded simple enough, so we decided to take a few baby steps forward this week. All we wanted to do was bring some trees up to the house, split them, and stack them so they could start curing and be ready to burn next winter. At the end of the day, we realized that we actually stink at stacking wood. Or at least we did on our first try, since our stack was so hilariously off-balance that after we were done, a stiff wind came and knocked it all down.

It turns out there are lots of things this farm has yet to teach us. Managing our forests is one of them. And all I can say is that's it's a very good thing we both like learning how to do new things!

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Where the heck is this train taking us?

IMG-Greg Jenney Field spring.jpg

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.