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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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!