We teamed up with a Wingate University Service-Learning course to visit farms across Union County. This series of articles is written by Wingate University students.
Meet Greg and Nikki, the owners of Rocky River Farms. You can find Rocky River Farms beef, pork, and egg products at the Union County Farmers Market on Saturdays.
In 2015, Greg and Nikki purchased a rundown chicken farm and built their house along with the rest of Rocky River Farm. Moving to Monroe, NC and running a farm was a somewhat easy transition for them from their city lifestyles as they both came from agricultural families. Once a chicken plant, their green pastures and property can be seen with 150-200 chickens and ducks roaming free. Rocky River produces beef cattle, pasture pork, free-range chicken eggs, and duck eggs.
"When you go to a farmers market, you gotta ask what they feed their cows. We are what we eat, and they are too. " -Greg
Rocky River Farm is an Animal Welfare Approved Farm, which requires a yearly audit. For this label from A Greener World, animals cannot be fed animal by products. Greg has to be quite resourceful in feeding his animals, as his cattle consumes over +1,000 pounds of grass and grain before going to production. One way he does this is by using stale bread from a local distributor to feed his chickens. Rocky River is adamant about the quality of their animals and feeding them the best diet possible, so there are never antibiotics or hormones added to their animals' diets.
The most important business at Rocky River is their beef cattle. Greg and Nikki use "pad grazing." This is a system of dividing up a property to move cattle so that their grass can recover after the cattle have grazed and eaten in a certain pad for a few days. Greg and Nikki add a high protein grain into their cattle’s diet to make their meat the highest quality. Greg produces both USDA Prime and Choice grades of beef. You can see the difference in marbling in the photo above. Rocky River also produces pork, but Greg and Nikki work with another farmer to get pork processed and delivered so that they are able to balance their work.
Overall, Greg and Nikki Stephens work hard to produce a quality product that is healthy for the consumer. They emphasize their goal to come up with the best product while also maintaining the same prices as commercial producers so that customers can choose which meat to go with. Greg is always trying to find new ways to market his products, including a new thinly sliced sirloin option, so you can make an easy philly cheese steak easily at home. Make sure to drop by the Union County Farmers Market on Saturdays to meet Greg! You can also find Rocky River at the Stallings and Cotswold markets, or pre-order from their website: https://www.rockyriverfarmsnc.com/