Formerly,Bar None Ranch, of Berlin, NY, we are now Climbing Tree Farm, of New Lebanon. We raise PASTURED POULTRY, LAMB, GRASS-FED BEEF, and WOODLAND/PASTURE-RAISED, MILK-FED PORK. We keep our animals true to their instincts- letting our pigs dig, our chickens range, our sheep graze. We feed rotationally graze on pasture and silvo-pasture (in the woods). We work with a local dairy to feed our pigs Jersey milk. We are conscientious stewards of the land, and our animals.

Please visit our website
or contact us with questions or to place orders.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wishing on Porcupines

One of our neighbors.

I recently read this:

“Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground. Birthday candles. Baby teeth.”
Francesca Lia Block

As a new farm we have a lot of wishes around here. I wonder if you can wish on wiggly pig noses, on frosty grass, or maybe on porcupines in apple trees (all of which we have). I've heard that if you make your wishes public it sometimes helps them come true (except in cases involving birthday candles and shooting stars). On the off chance that the universe will hear our wishes and respond, here's our wish list:

Climbing Tree Farm Wishes For:

  • A few steady pig clients. We have heritage, whey-fed pigs ready every other week. We would love to be on a regular schedule with a store or restaurant who is looking for whole pigs or cut pork. (We deliver locally or have a delivery service available to New York City). We charge $3.75 per lb. whole/uncut. $7 per lb. cut and packed for a whole or half.

  • Help creating a website.

  • A meat broker. We're farmers because we're good at farming, not because we're good at business.

  • A publication for me to submit articles about farm-life with kids to regularly.

  • More meat breed sheep to help grow our flock.

  • A constant source of beautiful heritage piglets.

  • World Peace.

Columbia land Conservancy Farmer Landowner Match

Climbing Tree View

I was interviewed this week for an article about land conservancy farmer/ landowner match programs. Here is. Our farm buying story: About six years ago we were living at the farm where my grandmother grew up as caretakers. The barnyard around the big old barns that my great-grandfather had worked were chest deep in grass and the condensation from the grass was threatening to kill the barns. We acquired some sheep to eat the grass, one thing lead to another, and we found ourselves in the market for our own farmland. For six years we scoured the conventional real estate market to no avail. When you buy a home for a family you can make sacrifices in your ideal environment in a way that you can't when you buy a home for a farm. For example, our farm had to have a south face, it had to have a water source, be close to a slaughter house, be close enough to outlets for our products, and have a mixture of pasture and woods. We found the Columbia Land Conservancy through friends who farm, and didn't look into the farmer/ landowner match program for months. The first farm we looked at is the one that we bought. because people at the Conservancy works with farmers regularly they knew how to help u s find land suitable for our type of farming and were able to recommend unconventional financing avenues for farmers. It was SO wonderful to work with an organization that "got us." It was sad for us to move off the land that my family had lived on, and farmed, for one hundred years(a story for a different time), but it has felt wonderful to move onto the previous owners' family land. Selling through the Conservancy to a farmer Is a way to pass a special piece of land on to people who will cherish it and know the land deeply (tenants of any good farmer's job). There seems to be constant discussion about how to draw young people out of cities and back to small towns, and about lack of employment opportunity for People coming out of college today. In our little town there are several new small farms run by just those young people, a few of whom found their land (bought or leased) through the Conservancy. The community surrounding the small farms in our town is beautiful and alive, and there is now healthy, delicious food in a town often referred to in the past as a "food desert." In short, if you have land that you are thinking about leasing or selling, consider contacting your local Conservancy. Your land will be cherished. Your community will be alive. You (and generations to come) will have good things to eat. For more information about the Columbia Land Conservancy:

Friday, November 16, 2012


It’s not a secret that locally grown, sustainably and humanely raised meat costs more than conventional meat. (Though there is the argument that eating “well raised” meat is cheaper in the long run once you figure in the costs of health care and environmental degradation that follow in the wake of conventional meat consumption and production). As farmers, whose main product is meat, we field the question “how am I supposed to buy local meat when it costs more?” We recommend eating smaller portions of high quality meat less frequently, or cooking with less expensive cuts of high quality meat. I don’t like to proselytize about our meat, but urge consumers to look deeply into what they’re eating when it looks like they’re getting a good “deal.” If you are looking for an inexpensive, delicious, quick, prepare-ahead dish to serve for the holidays using local pork try my mother, Martha Montgomery’s, Coarse County Roast Pork Pate.


If you like roast pork flaking off the bone, you might enjoy this hearty appetizer. It can also be used in a sandwich or on picnics.

Active prep time about 15 minutes.
Recipe may be multiplied and preserved frozen.

• ¾ pound unsalted pork fat (optional) or high quality fatty bacon (optional)
• 2 pounds boned blade steak of pork (or other inexpensive cut)
• 1 clove garlic
• ½ cup water
• ½ teaspoon dried sage or a large sprig of fresh sage, minced
• salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 275ºF or set up crock pot on low. Cut the pork fat or bacon in strips. Cut up the pork shoulder - fine dicing makes less work later but isn’t necessary. Peal and crush garlic. Cut up sage if using fresh, discarding stems. Put all ingredients in a heavy crock with tight lid, or crock pot and bake until the pork is tender – about 4-5 hours. Strain the meat mixture in a fine sieve over a bowl to reserve the liquid. Allow the fat to separate from juice in the bowl. Chill to remove. Pound the meat with a mallet or shred with two forks till the consistency of course pate. Press tightly into one large or several small ramekins. Return the non-fatty juice to the pork if desired. Melt the reserved fat and pour over the pate to serve as a preservative, if desired, or cover tightly with plastic wrap. Keep for up to one week in the refrigerator or freeze till serving time. Serve at room temperature with warm, crusty baguette.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hungry Pigs

"Pumpkin Head"

As the days grow cold, our pigs grow hungrier. Fortunately, nature has a plan for that -the fall harvest.  We are lucky to have good farmer friends who share excess apples and pumpkins with our hungry creatures. Our pigs, sheep, and chickens all eat pumpkin and apples enthusiastically. 

Thank you Ioka Valley Farm! (

Pigs "getting into" their breakfast cereal (local grain with whey).
We work with Berkshire Blue and Cricket Creek Farm to feed our pigs raw whey,
a byproduct of cheese making.
Check out our cheese making buddies at:

All of our animals have jobs- the sheep mow, the cats hunt, the chickens fertilize the fields.
The pigs are just finishing turning our garden! (And theyre planting a pumpkin patch!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Winter Market:Lebanon Valley Farmer's Market 2012

LVFM - New Lebanon, NY

Come visit us at the New Lebanon Valley Farmer's Winter Markets!

Located on Route 20 and 22 New Lebanon, NY in the Midtown Mall

Sunday November 11th, 2012
Sunday December 9th, 2012

Use your SNAP/ EBT card at our lovely farmers market and receive a $2 for each $5 in tokens purchased. NO LIMIT!

Holiday Farmer's Market


Farming With Love in our Hearts

Raising children on a farm has been done for several thousand years. We have been doing it for about five. We don't pretend to be experts. We constantly wonder whether we're doing it right.
Our son has always been rough, he runs fast, climbs high (he is the inspiration for our farm name, Climbing Tree Farm),  a game of tag for him is a contact sport. And, he has been coming to the slaughter house with us since he was a toddler. We hoped it wouldn't encourage him to be more rough or callous him to the idea of death. It terrified us when he was three and announced that he wanted to be a "killer"when he grew up. (Which turned out to be his name for a butcher, and made sense because he loved going to visit the butchers twelve children). Mostly he has seemed to understand that our animals have the job of making meat and that, while we treat them well, they are not pets.
When an animal is born here, or when we buy one in, we make it clear immediately to our son which animals will be staying on the farm indefinitely, and who will be used for meat. As a three year old he could tell you: "We keep the girl lambs, but not the boys. The red chickens will lay eggs and we can keep them for two years. The white chickens are for meat and we don't keep them." 
Pigs, while we love them, and scratch behind their ears,  are never kept as pets. 

Until last winter we never formally named a pig (though some have gotten names like Chubby, Big Mama, or Spot to differentiate in the field). That is, until our son met Funny Eyes. A fuzzy runt, named for her beautiful light turquoise eyes with long dark lashes, our son was immediately smitten. (Our pigs usually have deep brown eyes). He could pick his special pig friend out from fifty yards, and often visited with her, despite her shyness.
Because Funny Eyes was the smallest she stayed on the farm much longer than her litter mates. For the past eight months we've been  reminding our son that his pretty-eyed friend would not be able to stay forever. Last week Funny Eyes reached her optimal size and was loaded for slaughter. Our son was there when she was loaded in the trailer, but couldn't look her in her liquid blue eyes to say 
goodbye. All he could do was sob. 
Later, when Funny Eyes had gone, he cried some more, and then 
brightened. "Mama" he asked "can we get Funny Eye's heart back{from the butcher}?" I didn't know where he was going with this, but agreed and asked why."Because, mama, the heart is where all the love is. I want to eat her heart to keep her love." And, so, with this gruesome request, it has become clear: our son is a lover, not a "killer." While initially it creeped me out that our son wants to eat his beloved pig-friend's heart, it made me enormously proud that he thought of a way to transcend the death of his buddy and store up her love. (Not to mention his culinary adventurousness). It also reminds me of the adage "you are what you eat," and makes me thankful that we have the opportunity to feed our children and our community pigs who have been adored, scratched behind the ears, and who have love in their hearts. One question remains, what's the most delicious way to serve pork heart?
Young Funny Eyes....not sure why she's so dirty in this picture, she must have been having fun!

All You Need to Know to Eat Good, Grass-Fed Meat

Informative article:

All You Need to Know to Eat Good, Grass-Fed Meat :

Beauty and Danger in the Air

Above is a photo of a particularly beautiful, and particularly hungry neighbor of  ours. We recently sold our flock of laying hens and this pretty bird is one reason why. He/she was dining twice a day on chicken! While it was a bummer to lose our birds, the silver lining was getting to see this hawk up close, watching it swoop and dive at the"bird food" in the field. It moved with unbelievable speed and precision. 
Predation is a constant problem on our farm. Each predator has a different style; for example, weasels sneak in and slaughter the whole flock, raccoons love chicken breasts, and the hawk seems conscientious. It eats all of the meat off a chicken. We have not figured out how to deal with hawk predation (we move our birds at least weekly, so a covered run would be impractical). Because the hawk is the least wasteful and puts on the most beautiful show of the predators on our farm, I think I like and respect them more than our other chicken-hungry neighbors. Our short term solution to our hawk problem was selling off the layers for the winter. We will have layers again in the spring and are looking for a successful hawk deterrent, besides shooting them, which hardly seems fair to a neighbor who pre-dates us at the farm, and will only encourage another bird to take its place (and is illegal). If you know of a possible solution please pass it along, we'd love to give it a try! No idea too ridiculous.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

We eat by the grace of Nature, not by the grace of Monsanto

I found this article interesting and important:

We eat by the grace of Nature, not by the grace of Monsanto

Posted by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez on September 8, 2012
“Organic, schmorganic,” fumes New York Times columnist Roger Cohen sarcastically in an article entitled “The Organic Fable.”
He bases his sweeping dismissal of the organic foods movement on a new Stanford University study claiming that “fruits and vegetables labeled organic are, on average, no more nutritious than their cheaper conventional counterparts.”
Cohen does grant that “organic farming is probably better for the environment because less soil, flora and fauna are contaminated by chemicals…. So this is food that is better ecologically even if it is not better nutritionally.”
But he goes on to smear the organic movement as “an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype.
“To feed a planet of 9 billion people,” he says, “we are going to need high yields not low yields; we are going to need genetically modified crops; we are going to need pesticides and fertilizers and other elements of the industrialized food processes that have led mankind to be better fed and live longer than at any time in history.
“I’d rather be against nature and have more people better fed. I’d rather be serious about the world’s needs. And I trust the monitoring agencies that ensure pesticides are used at safe levels — a trust the Stanford study found to be justified.”
Cohen ends by calling the organic movement “a fable of the pampered parts of the planet — romantic and comforting.”
But the truth is that his own, science-driven Industrial Agriculture mythology is far more delusional.
Let me count the ways that his take on the organic foods movement is off the mark:
  • Organic food may not be more “nutritious,” but it is healthier because it is not saturated with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and preservatives, not to mention antibiotics, growth hormones and who knows what other chemicals. There are obvious “health advantages” in this, since we know—though Cohen doesn’t mention—that synthetic chemicals and poor health, from asthma to cancer, go hand in hand.
  • Organic food is only elitist if it comes from Whole Foods—the one source Cohen mentions. I grow organic vegetables in my backyard, and they save me money every summer. We don’t need the corporatization of organic foods, we need local cooperatives (like the CSAs in my region) to provide affordable organic produce that doesn’t require expensive and wasteful transport thousands of miles from field to table.
  • About feeding 9 billion people: first of all, we should be working hard to curb population growth, for all kinds of good reasons. We know we’ve gone beyond the carrying capacity of our planet, and we shouldn’t be deluding ourselves that we can techno-fix our way out of the problem. Industrial agriculture is a big part of the problem. It will never be part of the solution. Agriculture must be relocalized and brought back into harmony with the natural, organic cycles of the planet. If this doesn’t happen, and soon, all the GMO seed and fertilizers in the world won’t help us survive the climate cataclysm that awaits.
  • Mankind is better fed and longer lived now than any time in history? Here Cohen reveals his own elitist, Whole-Foods myopia. Surely he must know that some billion people go to bed hungry every night, with no relief in sight? Mortality statistics are also skewed heavily in favor of wealthy countries. So yes, those of us in the industrialized nations are—again, depending on our class standing—living longer and eating better than in the past, but only at the cost of tremendous draining of resources from other parts of the world, and at increasing costs in terms of our own health. Just as HIV/AIDS is the scourge of the less developed world, cancer, asthma, heart disease and diabetes are the bane of the developed world, and all are related to the toxic chemicals we ingest, along with too much highly processed, sugary, fatty foods.
  • For someone who is calling the organic movement “romantic,” Cohen seems to have an almost childlike confidence in authority figures. He says he trusts “the monitoring agencies that ensure pesticides are used at safe levels — a trust the Stanford study found to be justified.” And I suppose he also still believes in Santa Claus? We cannot trust that the “safe levels” established by the EPA or FDA are in fact safe, given the fact that we operate in an environment where thousands of chemicals enter the market without sufficient testing, presumed innocent unless proven guilty—but to win the case against them, first people must get sick and die.
  • Cohen’s zinger, “I’d rather be against nature and have more people better fed,” displays his own breathtaking blind spot as regards the human relation to the natural world. Human beings cannot be “against nature” without being “against ourselves.” We are a part of the natural world just like every other life form on this planet. Our fantasy that we can use our technological prowess to completely divorce ourselves from our material, physical reality is just that—a fantasy. We eat by the grace of nature, not by the grace of Monsanto.
For the entire history of homo sapiens, we have always eaten organic. It’s only been in the last 50-odd years, post World War II, that wartime chemicals and technologies have found new uses in agriculture.
The result has been the rapid and wholesale devastation of vast swaths of our planet—biodiversity giving way to monoculture, killer weeds and pesticide-resistant superbugs going wild, the weakening and sickening of every strand of the ecological web of our planet.
The relevant fable to invoke might be the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. We might be able to grow a fantastically huge beanstalk if we fed it with enough chemical fertilizers, and we might even be able to climb it and bring back a goose that lays golden eggs.
But in the end, that beanstalk will prove to be more dangerous to us than it’s worth—we’ll have to chop it down, and go back to the slow but solid organic way of life that has sustained us unfailingly for thousands of years.

Note from Schuyler:
One thing I would like to add, is that some farms (like ours) that are not "organic" are that way intentionally. Our animals all live on pasture, and those that eat grain (pigs and chickens, but not sheep) eat  locally grown grain. We have chosen locally grown grain over organic, because the grain we feed travels far less far to get to the farm, is fresher, and is cheaper (allowing us to keep our costs affordable for more people). We feel that by opting for local rather than organic grain we are making the right choice. With that said, we would love a good, local, affordable organic grain source!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The OK Farmer

I read an article recently by a farmer who said that he began farming because he couldn't find anything he was great at. We believe that as farmers you don't have to be great at any one thing, but you have to be OK at a lot of things. So much of farming is about figuring things out as you go, and wearing many, many hats. Almost every day we have a problem to solve on the farm: how to keep the sheep in their fence, how to make a piglet shelter in two hours before we pick up a litter of pigs, how to keep a brooder of chicks warm on an unusually cold night, how to print labels using a broken printer, how to advertise for a particular event, etc. Having to think on our feet, and solve these continuous small problems (and sometimes big ones), is what keeps farming fun for us. It's like a puzzle. Honestly, farming can make you feel hooked..."well, the chickens didn't work out this year, but if we tweaked just this one little thing for next year we may have it made...." Because farming is a series of problems to solve and small victories it keeps you coming back even after failure, like a game of solitaire that you come so close to beating. While you don't have to be great at anything to be a farmer, optimism, curiosity, stubbornness, and loving the puzzle, or game, of farm problem solving seems to help.
Example of problem solving:
We had about two hours to find a place to house six new piglets.
 When we moved here there was no barn, so we reused an old turkey coop as a barn
for building supplies and feed.
 All of the stuff strewn about our field in the above photo was in the coop/barn.
Now we have emptied the turkey coop/barn to use it as a piglet house.

Here is the piglet house in action.
It keeps the piglets dry, and is movable so that they can have access to fresh grass
 while they are trained to the electric fence
 (which is attached to the inside walls of the once-turkey-coop).
We move this piglet house daily and the piglets leave behind a
perfectly tilled rectangle of ground for next years garden.

These are the piglets that now have a dry, shaded place to play (for about a week) until they are trained to their fence.

Problem Solved!

Please note: Have you ever noticed that small, family farms are often messy, or junky? This whole "problem solving" thing is probably why most farms look that way. The junk pile in the above photo has been picked up now, but was a "byproduct of innovation" for several weeks. When little problems keep coming at you it can be hard to keep the picturesque farm scene picturesque.

Fireflies and Sheep Eyes

Our farm is on a dirt road, and sometimes you can count the number of cars that pass in a day on one hand. Though our rural setting makes for a very disappointing lemonade stand, it is perfect for watching fireflies. At our house the first warm day of spring brings anticipation of fireflies to our five year old. We wait months for them to begin flashing. The first few sparkly flies bring great joy and hours of chasing, in order to make a firefly jar to bring inside for the night. As summer really kicks in so many fireflies blink and sparkle in the deep black sky that it is hard to tell where the stars end and the pasture begins. Summer nights here are louder and busier than the days, full of life, as millions of bugs sing and hum and flash.  

It is fall now, but it hasn’t yet frosted. It’s getting darker earlier, and last night I moved the sheep to new pasture in the dark. When the days get shorter we rely on headlamps to extend our working hours on the farm. While I worked I noticed that the bugs are still singing and humming as in summer, but the fields are conspicuously dark and feel lonely, empty, with our friends the fireflies no longer flashing; mixing pasture and stars. We’ve become so used to the fireflies that we’ve forgotten the joy that they brought in the early summer, and no longer catch them for nightlights. As I worked, the headlamp cutting blue paths through the dark I saw them; pairs of lights bobbing up and down in the pasture. The reflection from my headlamp shone in dozens of sheep eyes, lighting up the field just like the summer fireflies. There aren’t so many flashes in the fall field, they move more slowly, and with measure, but they are there. They bring life, and the stars and the night sky right down into our pasture. It’s almost as though our sheep have gobbled up the feel of summer along with its lush grass, preserving it for winter nights when the fields would otherwise be lonely and conspicuously dark.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This Little Piggy Went to (the Farmer's) Market

Our top salesgirl

 Many of our customers say that their weekly trip to the farmer's market feels like going to church. It is a place to learn about town social happenings, and to catch up with friends (a place that doesn't require cleaning your house or sitting in a stuffy resturant). The farmer's market is a place to relax.  It is a place to let your kids run wild - learning about kohlrabi, where food comes from, and how to make the correct change for a quesadilla. The farmer's market is also a place to get closer to your food- to see what this little valley can grow, to meet the farmers that grow it.

Family at the market July 2012

Here is what it is like for a farmer on market day:

Wake early- many start work with the sun
Harvest vegetables/care for animals/wash eggs/pack coolers
Guess how much of what to bring with you (knowing that what isn't bought will probably be unsaleable later, but wanting to have enough in case people want it.)
Pack truck- coolers, tents, tables, displays, farm literature, book keeping gear, scale, etc. (usually takes 30 minutes)
Deal with disasters (usually many)
Set-up at market (usually takes about 30-45 minutes, longer depending upon number of kids in tow)
Stand in hot sun for five hours
Talk to lots of people (most are kind and interested, some are rude and demanding and unappreciative)
Answer lots of questions (most are thoughtful, some are repetitive, a few are extremely weird and make you wonder what planet people live on and how they have survived to adulthood).
Trade left over stuff with other vendors
Talk to other vendors and procrastinate before packing up
Pack up (usually takes 30-45 minutes, by this time farmers are tired and melting from heat- at this time of day the farmers day dream about swimming in ponds, napping, and eating popsicles)
Drive home quickly to unpack before remaining produce/meat/eggs/cheese is ruined
Unpack (usually takes 30-45 minutes)
At around 4 most farmers who went to market are done with market tasks. Some farmers take the rest of the day "off," meaning that they only do the evening chores that prevent plants/animals from dying. Other farmers leave the market with 20 acres of hay to bring in before dark, or animals to move, or vegetables to weed/water. Most are too tired to swim in ponds. Most are too busy to nap. Some eat popsicles.
Eat a simple dinner- many ingredients coming from trades made at the end of the market
Most farmers go to bed early on market day.

 Recently I was on a panel of farmers who were participating in the New Farmer's Narrative Project, through the Farmscape Ecology Program at Hawthorn Valley Farm. The panel of farmers was asked to explain if it is worth it for them to go to market every week. Every farmer on the panel said it was NOT financially worth it to be at the market, but each one of us had something that brought us back each week. Some said that they liked going to market because it connected them with the community and the people who eat their food. Some farmers use it as a day off, in order to socialize with other farmers and the community. Some farmers said that being with all of the other farmers behind their stands feels like group therapy- we learn from each other, and take comfort in knowing that someone else is or has struggled with the same farming challenges that we are. For farmers, market day isn't all about relaxing, but there is something to it that keeps us coming back (and it's not the money)- it is probably you (the customer).

At the market customers occasionally scoff at the price of the vendors' products. The question that I posed to the audience listening to the panel was- how should farmers convey to you that when you buy locally grown, environmentally and socially sensitive foods you're not getting something that you could buy off a grocery store shelf....without seeming dooms-day-y, and like a grumpy, self-interested alarmist. Comparing and contrasting the two methods (or many, many types) of farming seems to turn people off. However, in almost every way you are getting a better product (whether it is a head of lettuce, an egg, or a pork chop) when you buy from a farmer at the farmer's market (particularly vendors-only-markets like the Lebanon Valley Farmer's Market). For example: our meat is to conventional meat what a Coach bag is to one of those free nylon neon fanny packs that they sometimes give away at car dealership sales events. My instinct is to be honest and transparent about the differences in the quality between our products (and those of our friends at the market), and conventional ones. Food production and farming have been hidden from customers- here's to transparency!

More to come about the "actual" cost of food.

Our friends Morgan (of Black Quen Angus) and Ellen (of Hand Hollow Farm) making the market fun! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Eating Someone You Know: Conscientious Meat-Eating

Tonight, while barbequing lamb sausage, I was looking out over the pasture while Colby moved the sheep. The lambs were baaing, and the flock was sprawled out in a great, bucolic, chain across the hillside following their shepherd. Our flock is small, usually around 10-15 sheep and lambs in all. Needless to say, with children around, each sweet, new lamb gets a name. Tonight I grilled Cartman, a big, strong guy that we've known since he was a baby.

When people hear that we are meat farmers they almost always say something like "I don't think I could eat an animal I raised." Which always strikes me as funny, because I can't imagine eating an animal that I didn't raise. As a matter of fact, until we became meat farmers, I didn't eat meat. At the age of seven I became a vegetarian, citing animal rights and environmental issues (I was a kind of intense kid...).  It took over two decades for my vegetarianism to wane, but in the past several years, as our meat production grows, so too does my meat consumption. Here's a brief explanation of why: As a vegetarian I often turned to beans, soy, and dairy for protein. Most beans and soy are grown half a world away, mainly in China, meaning that while they have a smaller footprint to produce than meat, they have an enormous carbon footprint due to transportation. Our animals (and their food) are grown right here in my valley. And, dairy operations (for the ovo-lacto vegetarian) are rarely as picturesque as the side of a milk carton would have you believe, many have deplorable conditions, and most young dairy bulls are fed into the commercial veal market, which isn't known for animal welfare. I'm guaranteed (and so are you) that the animals at Climbing Tree Farm live well, because we're taking care of them, and their welfare matters to us, the farmers. In short, if I am concerned with the environment and with animals being treated justly, it makes sense for me to raise my own protein in the form of meat. (We do grow soy too, but there's only so much edamame you can eat!)

Does it feel weird to eat an animal, with a name, that you raised from infancy? I would be lying if I said "no." It's really weird, but anything turns weird if you think about it enough. At dinner tonight our five year old son asked if we were eating Cartman.   When we said "yes" his response was, "oh, he's good." Our society has been so divorced from meat production for so long, that we forget that meat is animals. My hope is that as people become more involved with local, small farms, we will remember that meat comes from real animals on real farms. And, that more people will choose farms, like ours, where the farmer's kid calls his lamb sausage by name.

As a farmer the ethics of eating meat comes up a lot in our everyday life. Below I have copied an essay from The New York Times that was written by a professor at Warren Wilson College (where I went to school). It seems pertinent:


The Ethicist Contest Winner: Give Thanks for Meat

A few weeks ago, we invited readers to make an argument for the ethics of eating meat. Thousands of readers submitted essays, and thousands more voted on the finalists that we posted online. Our panel of judges — Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Andrew Light, Michael Pollan and Peter Singer — chose the essay below as the winner. It will be published in the May 6 issue of the magazine.

As a vegetarian who returned to meat-eating, I find the question “Is meat-eating ethical?” one that is in my head and heart constantly. The reasons I became a vegetarian, then a vegan and then again a conscientious meat-eater were all ethical. The ethical reasons of why NOT to eat meat are obvious: animals are raised and killed in cruel conditions; grain that could feed hungry people is fed to animals; the need for pasture fuels deforestation; and by eating meat, one is implicated in the killing of a sentient being. Except for the last reason, however, none of these aspects of eating meat are implicit in eating meat, yet they are exactly what make eating some meat unethical. Which leads to my main argument: eating meat raised in specific circumstances is ethical; eating meat raised in other circumstances is unethical. Just as eating vegetables, tofu or grain raised in certain circumstances is ethical and those produced in other ways is unethical.
What are these “right” and “wrong” ways of producing both meat and plant foods? For me, they are most succinctly summed up in Aldo Leopold’s land ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” While studying agroecology at Prescott College in Arizona, I was convinced that if what you are trying to achieve with an “ethical” diet is the least destructive impact on life as a whole on this planet, then in some circumstances, like living among dry, scrubby grasslands in Arizona, eating meat, is, in fact, the most ethical thing you can do other than subsist on wild game, tepary beans and pinyon nuts. A well-managed, free-ranged cow is able to turn the sunlight captured by plants into condensed calories and protein with the aid of the microorganisms in its gut. Sun > diverse plants > cow > human. This in a larger ethical view looks much cleaner than the fossil-fuel-soaked scheme of tractor-tilled field > irrigated soy monoculture > tractor harvest > processing > tofu > shipping > human.
While most present-day meat production is an ecologically foolish and ethically wrong endeavor, happily this is changing, and there are abundant examples of ecologically beneficial, pasture-based systems. The fact is that most agroecologists agree that animals are integral parts of truly sustainable agricultural systems. They are able to cycle nutrients, aid in land management and convert sun to food in ways that are nearly impossible for us to do without fossil fuel. If “ethical” is defined as living in the most ecologically benign way, then in fairly specific circumstances, of which each eater must educate himself, eating meat is ethical; in fact NOT eating meat may be arguably unethical.
The issue of killing of a sentient being, however, lingers. To which each individual human being must react by asking: Am I willing to divide the world into that which I have deemed is worthy of being spared the inevitable and that which is not worthy? Or is such a division hopelessly artificial? A poem of Wislawa Szymborska’s, “In Praise of Self-Deprecation,” comes to mind. It ends:

There is nothing more animal-like
than a clear conscience
on the third planet of the Sun.

For me, eating meat is ethical when one does three things. First, you accept the biological reality that death begets life on this planet and that all life (including us!) is really just solar energy temporarily stored in an impermanent form. Second, you combine this realization with that cherished human trait of compassion and choose ethically raised food, vegetable, grain and/or meat. And third, you give thanks.

Jay Bost, who says he has been "a farmworker, plant geek, agroecologist and foodie for the past 20 years," teaches at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C., and plans to head to Hawaii next year for a Ph.D. in tropical plant and soil science. His deepest interest is in agrobiodiversity, a field he will be better able to explain once he and his partner, Nora Rodli, get their 5-month-old son, Kailu Sassafras, to sleep.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lambs (and Accidental Farming)

Our sheep on pasture: today.

We never meant to be farmers. We have always had a garden and always knew that we wanted to feed our own family, but our sheep turned us into farmers. We were given nine scraggly looking sheep in the Spring of 2007, and we hoped to keep the grass down from around the barns at my grandmother's (non-working) farm. It killed us to see the buildings deteriorate and the grass be mowed, rather than eaten.

We thought we had all ewes (girl sheep), but a shearing revealed that we had three rams (one of whom was named Susie). Lambs followed soon after this discovery. Our flock grew and we were soon in the business of selling lamb. Our flock has stayed small, fluctuating between five and fifteen sheep usually, though we will be expanding soon to our growing pastures. All of our animals have a job. The sheeps' job remains mowing. We move the sheep on pasture in electric netting. They mow the grass down to a suitable height for the chickens, who move in next. The chickens scratch the sheep manure (spreading fertilizer on our fields), and eating larva and bugs that are laid in the sheep manure. The sheep and chickens are a good team and we have seen pasture fertility improve greatly using this system. We can't wait to see what they'll do for the pastures here at our new farm.

Some of our first lambs...the one's who got us into farming.

We don't have a particular breed of sheep. They're a mix of many different hardy, meaty, gentle animals. We have mixed a little Merino into the mix, which makes for nice skins, and beautiful yarn. Our favorite time of year is lambing, which is like Christmas every time.
The sheep are grass-fed. They eat from the pasture during the summer, and eat hay during the winter. Because their diet does not contain grain their meat is far less gamy tasting than most lamb. Many people who don't usually care for lamb have told us that they like ours because it is so mild. It is also less fatty than conventional lamb.
Our most popular lamb product is lamb sausage. People seem to get hooked on it! We also sell chops, roasts, racks, shanks, ribblets, organs, etc, and machine washable sheep skins. Come visit us at the Lebanon Valley Farmer's Market to give our grass-fed lamb a try!

Cousin Mark comes to visit and wins a lamb catching competition.

Our son taking the world "head on."
The sheep get comfortable with us, because we move their fences often, and they are sweet, and docile. Our son knows that most of the girl lambs will stay on the farm, and that the ram lambs will be around until the fall.
We all love the sheep.
Our sheep on pasture today. Notice: their shelter is made of pallets and above ground swimming pool siding.

Happy Pigs on Summer Pasture

Pig taking a stroll through a field of dinner.

Yum! Our pigs are adventurous eaters.

Staying cool in mud.

Sausage on Legs!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Whole or Half Pigs

We have whole and half pigs available. $7 per lb. (plus a small per lb. fee for smoking and linking if you choose it). We raise heritage-mix, whey-fed pigs on pasture. And, they are delicious. A whole pig weighs about 135 lbs. When you buy a pig by the whole or half you can select your favorite cuts. Share a pig with another family or go “hog wild” putting an entire pig in your own freezer. Freezer space is always an issue, as a point of reference: a half pig would easily fit into a small, above the fridge, type of freezer.  Pre-order for a whole or half must be in by Tuesday June 26th. Right now you can also find our meat at Hand Hollow Farm in New Lebanon, Forager's Market in Brooklyn, or come see us at the Lebanon Valley Farmer's Market on Sundays from 10-2.
Contact Colby or Schuyler at Climbing Tree Farm with questions or orders.
Phone: (413) 884-3446. Email: or see our blog at:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Climbing Tree Farm Accident

This is the kind of accident you are likely to find at a farm named Climbing Tree.

Note: No children were hurt in the taking of this photograph.
And, no, this wasn't staged.

Growing a Climbing Tree

When we married, almost seven years ago, we gave everyone who came to our wedding a little blue spruce tree. The baby trees happily zig-zagged their way across country with our wedding guests, were planted, and we promptly forgot about them. A year and a half later our first child was born. We kept his placenta, hoping to find a meaningful and permanent place to bury it beneath a special tree for our son. The placenta hung around our freezer (our personal one, not one of the freezers we sell meat out of!) looking like steak. Four years after that our second child was born, which produced a daughter, a second placenta, and a growing need for a meaningful and permanent place...luckily we moved to Climbing Tree Farm when our daughter was two weeks old. However, we still didn't have the right tree for the job. A few weeks ago our dear friend brought us a housewarming of the little blue spruce trees from our wedding. These photographs are of our family putting down roots at our new farm. With our placentas planted, and our wedding roots in the dirt, this place is officially ours. Now, we wait, for this sweet little tree to become a proper Climbing Tree (for our grandchildren!).

Not Half Bad

Spring view from our deck.

We moved to Climbing Tree Farm about six months ago, from my family land. We lived and worked at Bar None Ranch, my great-grandfather's farm for six years. Bar None Ranch is the place where my grandmother grew-up (and lives today), where we were married, and where both of our children were born. While we lived there we were surrounded by stories, lore, and old farm implements that harken back to "the good old days" in my family's history. My grandmother tells us that her father would sit on the back porch, admiring his fields and the breath-taking view, and shake his head slowly saying "Not half bad." It was bitter-sweet to move to our own land, away from 99 years of family history on that farm...but I have to say this new place of ours is not half bad.
Summer View from our deck.

Winter view from our deck.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pork and Lamb Coming Soon!

Coming June 16th:

Hot Lamb Sausage
Sweet Lamb Sausage
Lamb Chops
Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Hot Italian Pork Sausage
Sweet Italian Pork Sausage
Chorizo Pork Sausage
Breakfast Pork Sausage
Pork Tenderloin
Pork Spare Ribs
Pork Ribs
Pork Chops
Boneless Butts



Schuyler with three babies- and chickens in their winter home.... by the dozens.
Notice: the chicken house is roofed in recycled billboard tarp.

Our hens are almost all brown egg laying, Red Sexlinks. They are relatively small, have a fair amount of color and pattern variation and are excellent layers. We keep somewhere between 300 and 500 layers. We move our hens on pasture about 8 months of the year, the remaining months they are kept stationary in a large fenced area to avoid damaging the grass for the summer months. Unlike many laying hens, our chickens have outside and pasture access all of the time. People ask if our chickens are “free range,” which is a tricky question. Our chickens are contained in fenced areas, but they are moved somewhere between daily and weekly as the grass allows (during spring, summer, fall months) to insure that they have the best grass to eat. In a way pasturing chickens in this way is beyond free-range, because rotating pastures means that the grass is never over-taxed and is always fresh. Our chickens rotate through our fields following our sheep. The sheep mow the grass to a manageable height for the chickens to graze on. The chickens
scratch through the sheeps' manure looking for bugs to munch on, and by scratching break up the manure and help to fertilize our fields to help new grass grow.

NOT Your Average Egg:
The yolk in our eggs is bright orange. They are extra nutrient rich from eating grass and bugs in the field.
Our eggs are difficult to peel when they are hard boiled, because they are so fresh (they don't have time to evaporate and form an air sack inside the shell).
The yolks in our eggs stand up, and the whites don't spread- signs of fresh eggs!
Every box of our eggs is different- the eggs vary in size, shape and color. They're all beautiful.
Pasture-raised eggs have been associated with actually LOWERING cholesterol.
Pasture-raised eggs are higher in vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll than conventional eggs.

Come visit us at the Lebanon Valley Farmer's Market to pick up a dozen of the best eggs around.

Chicks can be fun to play with!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Our pigs come to our farm at around eight weeks old, when they weigh about 50 pounds. Our pigs are various mixes of heritage breeds. Pigs are naturally curious and playful, they also LOVE to dig. We try to appeal to their “piggishness” by rotating the pigs through our fields and forest so that they have fresh forage, plenty of space to exercise, and room
to explore. We employ our pigs, and their love of digging, to turn our garden(they fertilize while they till to!), and to manage invasive plant species on our land.

Our son moving the pigs into the forest, where they work to clear unwanted brush and invasive plant species.
Our Pigs eat locally grown grain, local raw milk, cheese, and whey, excess vegetables from local farms, and grass and roots from our pastures and forest. We have opted to feed our animals locally grown (not organic) grain for several reasons:
  1. Most organic grain is grown in China, Canada or (best case) the Midwest. Our food is grown 20 minutes down the road, which means it travels far fewer miles to our farm.
  2. We support local farmers and commerce.
  3. The grain we feed our animals is freshly ground.
  4. Organic feed costs 2 ½ times more and pigs eat a lot. The cost of feeding organic would be prohibitively high on a small, local farm like ours.
  5. You are what you eat- our pigs eat well and taste amazing.
  6. Pigs on grass are "happier than a pig in s**t."
     We do not use artificial hormones or routine antibiotics. In a few rare cases we have had to use antibiotics. We will not allow our animals to suffer, and when it is possible to restore an animal to health using a therapeutic dose of antibiotics, we will administer them. However, our animals are well cared for, and have required any kind of medical intervention fewer than a handful of times.
  7. Pig herd foraging on winter grass
    We use our pigs' natural curiosity to load them into the trailer when it is time for them to go to market, making loading (typically a stressful event)completely stress-free. Our USDA inspected processing facility  is only a 15 minute drive from the farm.   Our processor is Animal Welfare Approved, and holds a NOFA-NY organic handler certified.  Our pigs are usually between 190 lbs. and 250 lbs hanging weight when they go to market, depending upon our customers' preferences.  We usually sell our pigs whole, by the half, or in primal cuts. Most of our pigs go to restaurants (a large percentage to restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn, NY), though we are open to selling to families and love to see our meat stay local in our valley.

Pigs can be fun playmates!

Who Are We?


Formerly, Bar None Ranch, of Berlin, NY, we are now Climbing Tree Farm, of New Lebanon. We raise PASTURED PORK, POULTRY, EGGS, and LAMB. We keep our animals true to their instincts- letting our pigs dig, our chickens range, our sheep graze. We feed local grain, graze rotationally on pasture and are working towards silvo-pasturing. We work with local raw milk dairies to feed our pigs whey. We are conscientious stewards of the land, and our animals.

You can find us at:
The Lebanon Valley Farmer's Market- New Lebanon, NY
Cricket Creek Farm- Williamstown, MA
Foragers Market - Brooklyn, NY
Castle Street Cafe- Great Barrington, MA
On menus throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY

For more information:
Schuyler and Colby Gail
436 West Hill Rd.
New Lebanon, NY , 12125
(413) 884-3446

Our five year old- providing inspiration for our farm name.