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.

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or contact us with questions or to place orders.

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!