Restaurant patrons increasingly want – and deserve – to know where their food is coming from. At Summit House, we’re excited to not only share that information, but to show it.
We recently spent some time at River Bend Farm, set on 375 acres of stunning pastureland nestled among the rolling hills in Somerset County, New Jersey. It’s there that farmer Corné Vogelaar raises some of the finest Black Angus beef and Berkshire pork in the Northeast, through dedication to sustainability and all-natural, antiobiotic- and hormone-free farming practices.
“I started in ‘96, figured I’d do it a few years,’’ Vogelaar says with a chuckle when talking about his career. “Somehow, I’m still here.”
Vogelaar's success stems from his ability to raise truly superior livestock and to build strong relationships with the area’s top restaurants. That includes Ninety Acres, where Summit House Executive Chef Martin Kester spent the past six years as chef de cuisine before joining our team.
“Corné was one of the first farmers to respond to restaurants' needs,” says Chef Martin, using River Bend’s staggered livestock-breeding practice as an example. “Most farmers grow everything in one shot. It’s great if you can buy local pigs or cows, but if you’re only getting them once a season, it’s difficult.”
The result of River Bend’s effort is meat that’s ready for consumption just when Chef Martin needs it.
The farm, which dates back to the late 1800s, under Vogelaar first focused on developing pure-bred Angus cattle, later adding Berkshire hogs, chickens and turkeys.
The Black Angus cattle are raised humanely and sustainably, creating beef that is fresh and of superior quality, with a high degree of marbling and tenderness.
"When our calves are born they weighs about 80 pounds," Vogelaar says. "By the time they're six months old they're up to about 600 pounds, and that’s just from grass."
The Berkshire hog has a heritage, legend has it, that dates back more than 300 years to the English Civil War, discovered in the shire of Berks by Oliver Cromwell's army. Berkshire pork is celebrated for its flavor, tenderness and juiciness. At River Bend, the pigs arrive from a breeder at around eight weeks old and are raised on wholesome grains, garden scraps and loads of apples. They're full-sized about five months later at 300 or so pounds.
Among the more interesting sights at River Bend are its chickens, which graze off the land and live in three portable trailers. Laying about 500 eggs per day, they’re protected by two Maremma sheepdogs, indigenous to central Italy and bred to guard livestock. Though the dogs live just a few hundred feet from the farmhouse, they’ve never been in it. Instead, they live happily among the chickens, protecting them from predators.
Summit House also had the recent pleasure to visit 40 North Oyster Farms. The scenery at River Bend is perhaps equally breathtaking – and another example of the amazingly diverse and beautiful New Jersey terrain that surrounds our community. We're delighted to have River Bend as a partner as we work to bring the best of the season to the heart of Summit, New Jersey.