Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Greg and Nikki Stephens, with Rocky River Farms, are two of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!
Sometimes farming is born in your blood and other times it’ s instilled in your family heritage. Greg and Nikki Stephens were both both into farming families with Nikki’s family operating a dairy farm and Greg’s family operating a beef farm. Although neither of them necessarily grew up on the farm, they were familiar enough with the industry that it became a dream that brought them full circle with their family heritage in 2015. “When we moved to Monroe from Charlotte, I wanted to have more control over my food once I retired,” Greg said, “and we settled on beef farming because I am not a morning person, so getting up at the crack of dawn to milk cows was just out of the question.”
Currently home to 25 Angus cows roaming on 50 acres of land, Rocky River Farms NC is well-known for their delicious pasture-raised, grain supplemented meat products. “Cows eat grass, it’s part of their nature and there is no greater joy than releasing my cows into a new field with beautiful green grass and seeing them run and jump at the site of all that new food,” Greg said, “so we always ensure they have enough hay and grass, but at night we feed them a supplement full of vitamins, minerals and 14 percent protein to ensure the best quality meat for our consumers.”
A typical day on the farm starts with morning chores such as collecting eggs from the farm chickens and ducks, putting out hay for the cows and seeding or fertilizing the pastures. “Our typical day depends heavily on what season it is,” Greg said, “sometimes we are having to seed the fields or do farm maintenance and other seasons we are watching new baby calves being born and caring for them, but it’s an exciting lifestyle all year round.”
Once the cows are market ready, the beef is dry-aged in a temperature controlled environment for 28 days. “We dry age the whole cow, not just pieces like you see in the grocery store, because it tenderizes the meat and adds flavor to it,” Greg said, “we come as close as we can to a restaurant piece of meat with no additives.” Although planning ahead to make the budget work can be challenging, Greg says he finds true enjoyment out of working with the cows and seeing the babies being born each year.
Products from Rocky River Farms can be found either on their website or the farmers market on-site at their farm, open on Saturdays. In addition to their meat products, you can find a variety of local products and value-added items from nearby farms, including pork products, honey, vinegar, oils and elderberry syrup. “Everything that we sell on-site coordinates together,” Greg said, “if you buy some vinegar or oil, I suggest using it either as seasoning on the meat of your choosing or as dressing on a side salad.”
His favorite way to eat beef from the farm is by using a French way of cooking known as Sous Vide. “You can control the device from your phone and it cooks the meat in a vacuum seal bag to your liking,” he said, “so mine is usually set at 131 degrees for one hour, which is a medium cooked steak, and once done you sear it in a pan with a little avocado oil, salt and pepper to create a perfect flavor all around.” They also have directions on their website on how to oven cook the perfect steak for those that do not own a Sous Vide.
No matter how you cook it, Greg encourages buying meat from local producers because, he says, it is an entirely different way of eating. “You get to taste what the meat actually tastes like when you buy from local producers because there are no additives involved,” he said, “and it puts money into the pockets of your neighbors and community members.”
In the future, Greg and Nikki hope to find someone with their same dream and passion for raising beef to take over the farm and keep the legacy going. When they are not farming, you can find Greg and Nikki enjoying a nice massage at The Omni Grove Park Inn.