What a year! I know I am not the only one who feels like this year has gone by in a flash. This year brought a lot of changes to Gunthorp Farms. I hope you enjoy my recap of some of the biggest happenings of 2017. (If you want to compare 2017 to 2016, you can find my 2016 recap here.)
The Gunthorp Team Expands
Our team is always evolving, but this year we had some major changes to the roster. In May, my husband (then fiancé), Ed Babinec joined our team as our new farm manager. Ed has a degree in Ag Systems Management from Purdue University and he has a lot of experience in the feed and grain industry. We threw him head first into managing a pasture based livestock operation and I know I speak for the whole family when I say he exceeded our expectations. Ed has done a great job in his first 6 months, and speaking as someone who was in his shoes as the newest full-time team member a year ago, I cannot wait to see what the next year holds for him.
This summer we did run into some problems with staffing. For awhile, it was just plain hard to find employees who want to do farm or processing work. Thankfully, we are no longer extremely short-handed. A temp service, Leaders Staffing, agreed to help us find employees. Sometimes processing facilities and farms are labeled as dangerous so the staffing agencies refuse to work with them, but they are working with us and have kept a steady stream of employees through our doors when we need them.
Normally Thanksgiving is our worst time of year when it comes to labor needed vs. labor we have. This year though, we advertised for seasonal positions to help with our "Hell Week" and it worked! We had a full crew that came in during Hell Week, on top of our normal crew, to help us get all of the turkeys slaughtered, processed, and packaged. Evan did a great job of describing Hell Week in this blog post, which he actually had time to write during Hell Week. That tells you how un-hell-ish this Hell Week was compared to years past, he actually had time to write a blog!
The Gunthorp Family Grows
Last year in the 2016 year in review, I wrote about how I had recently gotten engaged to Ed. We had thought we would get married in February of 2018 because he was supposed to work at his job in Toledo until December of 2017. As you can see from the paragraph above, he left Toledo to come to Gunthorp Farms in May, so we had no reason to wait until 2018 to get married. We decided to move the wedding up to August so that we could get married in my Grandpa Ted and Grandma Jo Gunthorp's barn, right down the road from Gunthorp Farms.
The wedding was in the perfect location. Evan officiated the ceremony and did an amazing job. Greg and Evan roasted a pig. Matt Rogers with 800 Degrees brought his pizza oven and made pizzas with our pork. Matt also used tons of vegetables from my grandparents garden for the sides! We had kegs of beer from Junk Ditch Brewing Company. We had guests from as far as Colorado! All in all, it was a perfect celebration of Ed and I's relationship and I couldn't be happier how it all turned out!
(If you talked to me at all over the summer though, you probably got a very delayed response. I had no idea how much work it was to plan a wedding! Especially one that wasn't at an event venue... So anyways, thank you all for your patience through this crazy time!)
The wedding was the perfect start to our life as a married couple, but it was also the beginning of another relationship. Evan has always had a very strict "no dating employees" rule, but that is no longer the case. Maekenzie has worked for us for 3 years now in the processing plant with Evan. Somehow, after 3 years, she still likes him and they started dating shortly after hitting it off at the wedding. Maekenzie has a great work ethic and a heart of gold and we couldn't be happier to have her at family functions now in addition to having her at work. She has been a huge help for Evan, besides just putting him in an overall better mood, she has taken over managing the part-time processing employees, keeping track of inventory, and whatever other tasks get put in front of her. She does all of this while working towards her degree in Agribusiness at Ivy Tech.
In The News
Gunthorp Farms had the opportunity to be featured in some publishings this year. Check them out!
Greg is still fighting for sustainable agriculture and very small processors every chance that he gets. He is still attending the quarterly stakeholder meetings between USDA and very small processors in the hopes of getting scale appropriate regulations and getting rid of the retaliation that this industry often sees.
I was able to be a part of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network for the past year and I'm happy to announce that our website is now live! Check it out here, they even used my testimonial on the home page! NILFN has great ideals and I'm very excited to see the connections that can be made throughout the upcoming year through the help of this organization.
We are always more than happy to show students around the farm. This year we hosted Merry Lea/Goshen College, Purdue's Small Farm class, Ivy Tech's Ag Innovators, and the IMPACT Institute's culinary department. We love talking to young individuals who are excited about sustainable agriculture.
There is more cool stuff that happened with our customers than what I can list, so please forgive me if I forgot something! Here are some highlights:
The Hard Times
This year hit our family pretty hard. On May 6th, my grandma (my mom's mom) Martha Jackson lost her battle to cancer. Grandma was a part of the reason that we chose to move the wedding day up to August; we really hoped that she could be at the wedding. Then just two short weeks after Grandma passed, Grandpa Larry (my mom's step-dad, Grandma Martha's husband of 35 years) was in a severe motorcycle accident. He was hit from behind while turning into his own driveway. He was airlifted to the hospital in Toledo and we were unsure of whether he was going to make it. He was on the ventilator for a long 18 days.
Our whole family went through a lot of hurting this summer. Thankfully, Grandma must have been watching over Grandpa, because he is very much so alive and well with us today. You can find him watching my sister's basketball games, just where you would have expected to find him if none of this all had occurred. He's even rode his motorcycle since the accident.
This summer taught us all a lot about grief and how we all process it differently. I, for example, leaned into my work to try to hold onto the aspect of my life that wasn't grieving. My customers were all so kind to me throughout the loss of my grandma and the time when my grandpa was in intensive care. I wrote a blog post about it that you can find here.
As we plan for 2018, it is hard to tell where the next year will take us. This year is our 20th anniversary of being in the meat business though, so we have a lot of ideas up our sleeves on how to celebrate. We will be hosting a big celebration at the farm with guided tours and of course, lots of good food! Be on the look out for more information coming soon!
Thank you for your continued support over the years. There is no way we would be where we are now if it weren't for consumers, chefs, purchasers, and supporters like you encouraging us along the way.
Have a safe and happy new year!
~Kara Babinec and the rest of the Gunthorp Farms team
Allow your passion to become your purpose and it will one day become your profession.
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