If you ferment veggies, or make miso, or keep a nuka bed, you know the value of good stoneware crocks. There are usually two sources: antique or junk stores, and hand-me-downs. I've scored one big one at a junk store, but most I've found have been out of my price range. My mom has several that she got from her mother, who lived in a farming community in North Dakota. I've made it clear to my mom that I've got my eye on her crocks, but for the time being they're being used as planters. With all old crocks, you need to be sure they hold liquid, that they don't contain lead, and that they aren't cracked or otherwise damaged. I ferment plenty of things in glass jars and plastic buckets (food grade, of course), but we all know that aesthetics are important in food prep and presentation. Working with beautiful, solid tools of the trade make work more pleasurable. Plus, the less plastic touching the food, the better!
Maybe I'm late to the game, but I was thrilled to learn that traditional stoneware crocks are available new. A company called Burley Clay makes them, and has been since 1933. Most crocks have a symbol stamped on the side, with a number indicating how many gallons they hold. (My oldie has an acorn with a six in it.) The new crocks have a bluebird, because, the story goes, this clay-rich area in Ohio is also cold. All the farmers and potters who settled there couldn't work the land in winter (or dig up clay), but each spring, the appearance of the bluebird let them know the land was unfrozen, and malleable. Thus, all pottery made in this area is known as bluebird pottery.
Not only are bluebird crocks available in a range of sizes, with no worry about lead or leaks, they're also cheap compared to those found in antique stores. If you live in the NYC area, bluebird crocks are available at The Brooklyn Kitchen.