stonecrop farm

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

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! 

Something awesome just fell into our lap

a7c9a9b3-3821-495e-8e5a-8cf655f0334c.jpg

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 thing Greg did 200 times last Tuesday

IMG_0116.jpg

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

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

IMG-0097.JPG

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 Piglet Explosion

IMG-Greg Jenney Sows Tour.jpg

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

Our Own Fixer Upper

IMG-greg bone broth.jpg

As you might remember from some previous newsletters, the little yellow house we live in is 175 years old. Like other older homes you've probably seen, this one has had a lot of add-ons over the years and it's left us with some interesting features. Some features that, if we're being totally honest, we're actually not too fond of.

During the warmer months, we stay pretty focused on all the things outside on the farm and try to ignore the projects at the house that aren't too pressing. But during the wintertime, when we have a little more free time on our hands, the indoor projects start calling to us. 

During our first winter here, we took on the kitchen. When we moved in, the kitchen had a big green faux brick wall in the center of the room that stopped 1 foot short of the ceiling, a tiny oven that didn't even fit a roasting pan, and a doorway that was so short that Greg had to duck every time he walked through it so as to avoid bonking his head. Knowing how much we love cooking food, you can imagine the frustration this little space caused us. Gutting and rebuilding the kitchen was a top priority for us during that first winter here. And once it was done, it quickly became our favorite room in the house. 

The bathroom was our winter project 2 years ago. The chair rail, bright blue chipping paint and the sketchy plastic shower surround were just not quite our style. It was winter and we were a little stir crazy, I think. So without much foresight or or any real plan, we started ripping and stripping. Floor to ceiling, it all came down in an afternoon. We learned how to dry wall, how to tile, and how to install a toilet and a bathtub. It took us longer than we expected (imagine going 2+ weeks without a toilet!), but we love the way it turned out in the end. 

Well, as you probably guessed by now, we are gearing up for this year's winter house project and its going to be a doozy. This time, we're tackling the living room and the attic. This is a bigger project than we've ever done before so we've got a team doing a lot of the work for us. But since they're going to be working on the core of the house for 6 weeks and we have NO idea what is behind all of this crazy wall paneling, it's going to be quite the adventure. 

So we're a week or two away from another winter demo-day and we're feeling both excited and terrified. We'd love some advice, if you have any, on how to stay happy and sane during this process....

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Uncharted Territory

IMG-breeding pigs winter.jpg

We never used to think of ourselves as the type of people who would feel comfortable being in front of a crowd. Despite what you might think, we're both naturally introverted which means that we've spent most of our lives trying to NOT be the center of attention. 

It's why we eloped instead of having a big wedding, why we've chosen non-flashy career paths, and why we still get super nervous and awkward when we're asked to do TV interviews like this one.

But we've learned that when you put your heart and soul into something, like we have with our farm, the passion just naturally wants to find a way out into the world. The Brighton Market is that release for us, this newsletter and our social media are releases, too. And you know what else serves as that outlet?  Our Farm Tours. 

We've hosted a lot of farm tours over the years. Each tour comes with a greater sense of purpose and connection between our farm and the community. And there are always a few surprises, too. Like that one time last summer when we hosted a big customer tour and our boar started mating with one of our sows in front of EVERYONE. It was both awkward and hilarious... 

Anyways, all of this leads to this:  We've never hosted a winter farm tour before, but we would really love to give it a try when we're not in the midst of a polar vortex. For those of you who are willing to get bundled up to see our organic farm during the wintertime, we're ready for ya next weekend.

The weather looks a little more mild next weekend, so we've set the date for February 9th at 10am.  We'll have several herds of pigs to meet, new baby piglets and laying hens to see and 2 very passionate farmers to get to know a little better. 

What do you think? Do you want to join us?  If you're up for it, reply to this email with a YES and if you'd like, share a passion with us so we can get to know you a little better.  We will be sure to send you all the details for the tour and keep you in the loop as our plans unfold. 

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

Learning to love the thing I've always been scared of

unnamed.jpg

I have a confession to make. I've always been a little (maybe more than a little) scared of fat.  Since marrying someone who became a livestock farmer and becoming a farmer myself, I've been curious about where this fear really comes from. 

Growing up, I was extremely body conscious and acutely aware of anything that was perceived as “bad” for you. Back then, the messaging was as clear as day.  Low fat milk, fat free yogurt, margarine, lean low-fat meats or no meats at all were the "good" foods, and then there were the "bad," fatty foods. 

I'm guessing that I was never explicitly told all about these distinctions, or at least I don't remember such a conversation occurring back then.  It was just sorta implied, it was a "truth" I learned from all the messaging and marketing at home, at school, and at grocery stores or restaurants.

But as I'm sure you've noticed, the tide has shifted here. Healthy simple fats from high quality sources are now IN and low-fat and highly processed foods are OUT.   Nowadays, we can hear chefs on the Netflix foodie docu-series say that fat is where the flavor is and actually celebrating fat. And the nutritional gurus and keto enthusiasts saying that fat is where the most important nutrients are.

The full fat yogurt was the first step in my journey to feeling more comfortable with fat. Then came the introduction to our pasture raised ducks (a notoriously fattier meat), and then pork chops with the caramelized fat cap around the edges. All these things challenged that old "truth" of mine and actually made my taste buds do a happy dance. But pork lard, rendered from our own pigs, was at one time, a HUGE stretch for me. 

That is, until Greg started slipping it into basically everything he cooked. From fried eggs in the morning, to weeknight stir-fry dinners, to pie crusts. He started cooking with pork fat almost every day and along the way I learned that cooking with really good fat just tastes so much better.  The giant plastic jugs of organic olive oil shipped in from California started looking a lot less appealing, too. 

So, maybe it’s the flavor, or the nutritional properties, or the obvious environmental reasons, but we've officially made the shift in our household and there’s not turning back now. We still use other oils, too, but when it comes to frying, sautéing, or a fair amount of our baking, pork lard is now our go-to ingredient. 

Cooking with pork fat is not for everyone, that much I know for sure. If this whole concept scares you to death, as it once did for me, don't stress. Take a deep breath, and know that wherever you are in your food journey we support you, too. 

But If you want to go back to your roots and use the ingredient your grandma probably used in all her cooking back in the day, come see us at the Brighton Market this weekend because we're bringing our first batch of perfectly rendered, snow white lard from our pasture raised pigs this week!  

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg