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.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Food that Plays/Playing with Your Food

We’ve all heard parents ask their children not to “play with their food.” At our house one of our goals is to get our kids to play with their food. Well, not at the dinner table, but on the farm. Planting seeds, weeding, harvesting, caring for animals these are all ways that our kids interact with (or “play” with) their food before it’s anywhere near their plates.

Our son "playing with his food."

At our farm we do more than encourage our children to “play with their food,” we encourage our food to play, too The industry standard is to keep pigs inside on concrete floors with very little room to move around and nothing to explore. Pigs are naturally curious and playful animals. At Climbing Tree Farm our pigs live outside, with varied terrain, and natural wonders to explore; like snow, plants, fallen trees, mud, rain, leaves, bugs, squirrels, you name it.
Pig jungle gym. One ove,r two under!

There are infinite reasons why  we raise pigs the way that we do;  like that our meat is significantly more healthy for you than conventional pork, that there is less environmental degradation when pigs are raised in a natural environment in small numbers, that buying locally creates jobs, and that farms keep the countryside green and beautiful. Most of us know these things, but did you know that when given the chance, pigs play? We know we are doing our job well when the pigs are obviously having fun!
It is my opinion that when more people " play" with (or  interact with) their food, few people will choose the industrial status quo, and there will be more food that gets to play.

Curious pigs inspecting the hay sled.

Pig-made tunnel in the root ball of a fallen tree.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"You are what what you eat eats"

Pig eating pasture

Do you have any idea how much a pig eats? A LOT!
Last year we spent almost $11,000 in grain alone. This year we are on a mission to reduce grain expenses, while increasing feed nutrition. Because it's expensive to feed a pig to slaughter weight it is common for farmers to try to cut feed costs. Pigs are omnivores. They'll eat essentially anything....and people have exploited pigs because of this. For example, it's not uncommon for commercial hogs to be fed crates of expired chewing gum (still in the packaging), or other inedible "foods." It's very common for small scale hog producers to feed bakery left overs, like doughnuts and pastries. It seems that, in an effort to reduce spending, many, many, if not most, pig farmers sacrifice quality of feed. We don't do that at our Farm.
At our farm we believe "you are what what you eat eats" (read it again, it's not a typo, it's a quote from farm guru, Joel Salatin). We, the farmers at Climbing Tree Farm, don't eat pastries (or wrapped packages of chewing gum for that matter) for every meal, because we think that's gross and that it would make us unhealthy. The same follows for our animals. Not only would our animals' quality of life suffer, but their meat would be less healthy for human consumption, and it wouldn't taste as good. We're going for animals that are happy, healthy on and off the hoof (when they are alive and when they're on your plate), with the best possible flavor, which means we have to feed them well.

Photo: We're on a mission to reduce grain expenses, while increasing feed nutrition. We are currently experimenting with a mix of grass-fed dairy, whey, local grain, vegetables, and spent barley (from local breweries). These piggies eat better than most people! (No expired chewing gum for these guys- like you could find on a large-scale conventional farm). 

It's amazing to watch these beautiful pigs grow on food that would otherwise have become garbage. 

Thank you High Lawn Farm, Berkshire Blue, Abode Farm, Ioka Farm, Cricket Creek Farm, Wandering Star Brewery, and Beer Diviner!
Grass-fed Dairy (You should see our weekly recycling!)

 So, what have we done to reduce grain costs? Our animals are kept outside on pasture and moved frequently to ensure that they have plenty of roots, tubers, and plant material to nibble on (this is uncommon- most commercial pigs are kept indoors, while most small scale producers keep their pigs in permanent pig pens where it quickly becomes so muddy that plants for the pigs to eat cannot grow). Rotating the pigs through field and forest provides free food. We plant vegetables, like turnips, beets, peas and mangles for the pigs, which they harvest for themselves, and eat. We are also experimenting with a mix of dairy from local grass-fed cows, whey from local cheese makers, local grain, vegetables gleaned from local farms, and spent barley (from local breweries- mostly locally grown). These piggies eat better than most people!

Spent Barley from Local Brewery
Where do we get this food? We collect healthy, edible, "waste" from several local cheese, dairy, vegetable, and beer producers (like left over pumpkins after Halloween, bruised apples, and whey that comes out of the cheese making process).  It is a pain in the neck to collect and manage the foods that we feed our animals.There's a lot of schlepping, and hauling, and milk jug recycling, and mixing, and phone correspondence that goes into feeding our pigs.  But, it's amazing to watch these beautiful pigs grow on nutritious food that would otherwise have become garbage. And so, working together with other local producers we are able to raise pigs that are happy, healthy on and off the hoof, with the best possible flavor, all the while reducing our grain bill.

Piggie Breakfast Cereal:
Locally grown hog feed, spent barley, local grass-fed dairy/whey


Pig eating local gleanned pumpkin after Halloween.

 Thank you:
High Lawn Farm
Berkshire Blue
 Abode Farm
 Ioka Farm
 Cricket Creek Farm
Wandering Star Brewery
 Beer Diviner

Pork Chop

Pork Chop by our friend Jake (from the Meat Market) and his finance, Silka.

Visit their beautiful blog to learn more about "cooking simply and eating locally":

"Wow, so good on a cold late winter night!....thanks"

Photo: From a customer: 
"Wow, so good on a cold late winter night!....thanks"

Photo from a customer who said:
"Wow, so good on a cold late winter night!....thanks"

An Iowa Farmer’s Quest for No Ordinary Pig- article

Interesting article: "An Iowa Farmer’s Quest for No Ordinary Pig"

My thoughts:
Sound like nice pig genetics. However, the pictures don't show pigs on pasture and didn't mention how they are fed. We attribute the flavor and marbling of our pork to the pigs healthy, stress-free, outdoor lifestyle and the good food that they eat.  I wonder how amazing Iowa Swabian Hall pork would be when kept on pasture and fed really well?

The Perfect (Tasting) Pig: Carl Edgar Blake II, an Iowa pig farmer, believes he has bred the best-tasting pork ever.
IONIA, Iowa — There once was a young boy who built motorcycles with his father, raised pigs for Iowa county fairs and eventually fell in love with computers when his fingers first tapped on a Teletype portal in middle school. He would write programs to help with eighth-grade algebra and use ASCII code to create images resembling Playboy centerfolds.
Stephen Mally for The New York Times
Stephen Mally for The New York Times A Russian wild boar.
Some of Carl Edgar Blake II’s pigs, an Iowa Swabian Hall, left, and a Meishan sow, at a finishing farm.

Mr. Blake, proud of his unconventionality, has a “man cave” at his farm, right.
Stephen Mally for The New York Times
When he grew up, he would parlay his ingenuity into a career of building Internet portals for cities and computer networks for big companies. He would spin another business from a whim and a joke — building aquariums out of old Macintosh computers. And when he reached his mid-40s, rather than settle into his career, he embarked on a new unconventional endeavor, one he hopes will revolutionize an industry.
Carl Edgar Blake II has tried to breed the perfect pig. Fatty and smooth. Meaty and flavorful.
He crossed a Chinese swine, the Meishan, with the Russian wild boar — emulating a 19th-century German formula created when King Wilhelm I imported the fatty Meishan to breed with leaner native wild pigs in what is now the state of Baden-Württemberg. They called that one the Swabian Hall. With dark and juicy meat, it assumed a place among Europe’s finest swine.
Mr. Blake, 49, has bet that his 21st-century American version — the Iowa Swabian Hall — can be equally delectable.
The early reviews have been promising. Two years after his operation began, his pig won a heritage pork culinary contest in 2010, Cochon 555 in San Francisco.
“It was great meat,” said Staffan Terje, the chef and owner of Perbacco in San Francisco, who prepared Mr. Blake’s pig for the competition.
“It was rich in flavor and well-marbled,” said Michael Anthony, the executive chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York, who cooked dishes for his restaurant with an Iowa Swabian Hall.
At a glance, Mr. Blake would hardly be considered part of the upscale culinary culture. His 6-foot-2-inch balloonlike frame, and his beard, ponytail and signature overalls with the left strap unslung (he owns a dark pair for funerals), scream more André the Giant than Jean-Georges. He shoots guns and soaks in “hillbilly hot tubs” (dig a hole, lay a tarp, fill with water and dive in).
Then again, Mr. Blake has long taken pride in his unconventionality.
“I can build a motorcycle, I can fly a model airplane, I can throw somebody out of a bar, I can wrestle a pig and I can program a computer,” he said. “I’m a strange duck, that’s for sure.”
His leap into the heritage pork business started when he read an article online about a popular breed, the Mangalitsa, that a businessman was raising in Washington State. Unable to buy any of the businessman’s stock, Mr. Blake began researching heritage pigs and said he discovered that the Swabian Hall regularly outperformed other fine swine in taste contests.
After asking around, he eventually found Meishan hogs that Iowa State University was using for research and bought several of them. He bought a Russian wild boar named Hercules from a hunting reserve. In November 2009, the first Iowa Swabian Hall pigs were born.
They are floppy-eared with black fur, broad jowls, a thick rump, creased foreheads, and long bodies and snouts. When butchered, they have a broad slab of ivory fat to go with deep red meat, the antithesis of the “other white meat” craze when the pork industry moved toward leaner hogs.
But Swabians have not been universally admired.
Herb Eckhouse, the owner of La Quercia, a cured meat manufacturer near Des Moines, made prosciutto from one of Mr. Blake’s pigs and said he would not work with them anymore because they were too fatty. He said he was having difficulty selling the meat.
“We found that we preferred other breeds to that breed for their flavor,” he said.
Criticism is among the smallest bumps in Mr. Blake’s porcine journey. He has had to wrestle aggressive pigs and once even shot one. State inspectors have visited, demanding to see his wild boars out of concern that he possessed them illegally.
The police have responded to accusations of maltreated pigs. The gaunt backs of his Meishan pigs were normal, the result of their belly fat stretching the skin, he said he told the police, who were initially skeptical. “You ain’t taking them over my dead body,” Mr. Blake said he told the authorities, who, after further investigation, let him be.
There was even a suspected case of poisoning, Mr. Blake said. One morning in the middle of 2009, two men — one tall, one short — showed up in a black truck at a farmstead where Mr. Blake kept his pigs, he said. The family living there thought the men were friends of Mr. Blake’s, and they entered the barn with a black satchel. About a week and a half later,he said, his sows were birthing dead piglets.
At one point, Mr. Blake said, his herd had grown to more than 1,200. But the numbers have since decreased sharply through sales, samples he gave away and some hitches in the raising process. There was one instance, he said, when a man he had hired to raise the pigs botched a castration, leaving one testicle attached.
Mr. Blake also struggled to finance his operation, which he calls Rustik Rooster Farms. He went to banks, the government, angel investment groups and individuals but could not get anyone to invest. Things became so dire that one day last summer he had decided to quit, only to receive a call the next morning from a producer of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” saying the network wanted to feature him in an episode. The episode was broadcast on Monday, and Mr. Blake said he has been inundated with calls from people across the country wanting pigs and bacon.
Over the past year, Mr. Blake has stepped back from his operation to regroup. He has hired Amish farmers in eastern Iowa to raise his pigs so he can focus on the marketing and sales. Several times a week, with a Rockstar Energy Drink in hand, he slides into a red, rusted 1994 Toyota pickup truck to make the five-hour round-trip journey from his headquarters here to the farmers’ rolling pastures.
By March, he said, he hopes to have about 50 of his Swabians market-ready — he sells them for $3.75 to $4.50 per pound. Within the next seven months, he said, he hopes to have enough pigs to begin selling them weekly. In the meantime, he is supporting himself by selling bacon, beef sticks, novelties like bacon floss and bandages, and roasting pigs for special events.
But Mr. Blake is never quite satisfied. He speaks giddily of the hydroponic chambers (not “hippie hydroponics,” he says) he uses to make barley to feed his pigs, and of a “super pig” he is breeding — one with the tasty qualities of the Swabian that can be raised at the speed of commercial pigs. For now, he is not saying much more than that.
“I think we’re on the verge of something,” he said.

The Feminization of Farming- article

Interesting NY Times Article: "The Feminization of Farming"
Feeling thankful to be a woman farmer in the U.S., where I am free to purchase seed, livestock, equipment, and secure an education for myself and my children with little or no gender discrimination. I relate with the struggles of international women farmers who juggle motherhood, household responsibilities, business management, and farming. It's a crazy balancing act!

The Feminization of Farming

For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.
ACROSS the developing world, millions of people are migrating from farms to cities in search of work. The migrants are mostly men. As a result, women are increasingly on the front lines of the fight to sustain family farms. But pervasive discrimination, gender stereotypes and women’s low social standing have frustrated these women’s rise out of poverty and hunger.
Discrimination denies small-scale female farmers the same access men have to fertilizer, seeds, credit, membership in cooperatives and unions, and technical assistance. That deters potential productivity gains. But the biggest barriers don’t even have to do with farming — and yet they have a huge impact on food security.
As sole or principal caregivers, women and girls often face a heavy burden of unremunerated household chores like cooking, cleaning, fetching water, collecting firewood and caring for the very young and the elderly. These uncompensated activities are equivalent to as much as 63 percent of gross domestic product in India and Tanzania. But they result in lost opportunities for women, who don’t have the time to attend classes, travel to markets to sell produce or do other activities to improve their economic prospects.
To be sure, some female-headed farm households get remittances from absent men, but that is often not enough to compensate for the economic pressures they face. And we know that when women get more education and improve their social and economic standing, household spending on nutrition increases, child health outcomes improve and small farms become more productive.
A 2000 study of developing countries by the International Food Policy Research Institute found that as much as 55 percent of the reduction in hunger from 1970 to 1995 could be attributed to improvements in women’s status in society. Progress in women’s education alone (which explained 43 percent of gains in food security) was nearly as significant as increased food availability (26 percent) and health advances (19 percent) put together.
Many governments have recognized the causes of the poverty trap but have not done enough to remove the obstacles facing women. For example, several Asian countries have introduced stipends to keep girls in school, but many schools lack adequate sanitation facilities; there is a paucity of female teachers, which discourages socially conservative parents who do not want their daughters to be taught by men; and not enough is done to prevent farmers from pulling their children — girls first, usually — out of school to till the fields.
Countries like Indonesia have introduced microfinance programs to help women pursue small-business ideas instead of housework. But creditworthy women are sometimes used as intermediaries to obtain loans for businesses run by their male relatives.
In a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council that is being released today, I urge a comprehensive, rights-based approach focused on removing legal discrimination and on improving public services — child care, water supplies, sanitation and energy sources — to reduce the burden on women who farm. But such an approach must also systematically challenge the traditional gender roles that burden women with household chores in the first place.
In Bangladesh, a program begun in 2002 by a nonprofit group, Building Resources Across Communities, shows how this might be achieved. It provided women with poultry (easier to raise than pigs, cows, goats and sheep); subsidized legal and health services; clean water and sanitary latrines, and a temporary daily stipend to tide over extremely poor women who were working as maids for extra income, so that they could focus on farming. The program also secured support from local elites, who among other things could help ensure that the women’s children were enrolled in school.
In the Philippines, a conditional cash-transfer program, started in 2008, covers 3 million households. Aiming to improve women’s access to obstetric care, and to improve spending on children’s health and education, the program includes a “gender action plan” that requires that bank accounts be set up in women’s names (which protects their control of the money and prevents fraud); trains women on their rights with respect to domestic violence, child care, nutrition and other areas; and trains fathers to share responsibility as caregivers.
In Yunnan Province in western China, women’s groups were enlisted for a rural road-maintenance program in 2009. The participants, mostly drawn from ethnic minorities, received an average payment of $686 for an average of 110 workdays, allowing them to rise above poverty. The women were able to work while maintaining other income-generating activities like raising pigs or selling vegetables. They also got training to improve their agricultural productivity.
Recognizing the burden that the feminization of global farming places on women requires us to overturn longstanding gender norms that have kept women down even as they feed more and more of the world. The most effective strategies to empower women who tend farm and family — and to alleviate hunger in the process — are to remove the obstacles that hinder them from taking charge of their lives.
Olivier De Schutter, a professor of law at the Catholic University of Louvain, is the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Porcine a Suiter Comes to the Farm

Tina meets her new suitor: "Ug"

We have officially begun breeding piglets...

The-Ever-Dazzling Tina and her handsome beau, Ug, are expecting their first born(s) on June 7th!

Tina is a Large Black/Duroc cross. Ug is a Tamworth cross. Ug is visiting us from the Hancock Shaker Village.

Ug the Boar- 650ish lbs. of man-pig