After eleven years as a trusted fresh meat supplier and friend, John Stoltzfus of Weaver Valley Farms is retiring from the cattle farming business. It is with deep gratitude that we will be saying goodbye to John and his grass-fed beef products over the coming few months. During this period, we will be transitioning our local beef program to a new farm so that we can continue to offer our customers high-quality, 100% grass-fed beef from a local farm.
We are very excited to introduce you to Nolan Thevenet of Stryker Farm, who will be our new supplier. We recently caught up with Nolan to learn more about his high-quality grass-fed beef products, and to hear about how he got his start.
How did you get started in this business? Tell us about the farm.
Stryker Farm began from nothing more than a recurring classroom daydream. It was 2009 and I was 20 years old attending Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Instead of listening to my professors I was doodling in my notebook, planning out my future as a livestock farmer. My education was not in agriculture and there were no farmers in my family, but that didn’t stop me. I was on a mission to teach myself everything there was to know about livestock husbandry. So in the spring of 2010 I returned to the 47 acre property that I called home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The land was not ideal for farming. It was rocky, overgrown with brush and situated on the side of the Appalachian mountains. I also had to convince my parents to let me farm since they owned the land. For months I was told “No, you can’t make a living doing that” and “You’re wasting your time” but finally they realized I could not be talked out of it. I began with 6 pigs and 3 goats and the rest is history. We have since added poultry, cattle and sheep to our diverse farm operation.
Explain the day-to-day life of cattle at Stryker Farm.
Our cattle and all of our livestock spend their days outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Cattle, lambs, and goats all live together in our wooded mountain pastures which provide shade and protection from the elements. Once a day we check on the livestock to make sure food, water and all other necessities are taken care of.
Why do you raise livestock the way you do?
I raise livestock the way that I do because I enjoy it. I founded Stryker Farm because I did not want to be stuck in a cubicle all day. I imagine animals feel the same way so I let them roam freely outdoors without confinement. Meat production around the world has become increasingly industrialized and centralized by a few large companies so whenever you can support an independent family farm it is a good thing!
Where do you source the cattle from?
We are working with John Stoltzfus of Weaver Valley Farms in order to provide the same grass-fed beef sourcing that Kimberton Whole Foods customers are accustomed to. The young grass-fed cattle begin their lives on pastures of North Carolina and Virginia and then are brought to Pennsylvania to be properly finished. There, the grass is plentiful and land is less expensive. By comparison, most of the grass-fed beef available in stores is shipped in from the Midwest or even New Zealand.
We finish the cattle on only grass pasture, grass hay and minerals. “Finishing” cattle is the final few months of feeding to ensure proper beef flavor and quality. Finishing time depends on the age and condition of the cattle when they arrive in PA. Our finishing period can range from 1-4 months.
Tell us about how the cattle are processed.
We use only USDA inspected butchers which ensures the live cattle are healthy and the meat has been properly inspected by the USDA. All our beef is segregated from other farm’s beef at the butcher shop to ensure traceability and quality standards. We feel that you can taste a difference in the freshness and quality of beef raised locally and butchered only days prior to delivery.
What are the cattle fed during the winter months?
True grass-fed beef can only be fed hay during the winter months. We feed grass hay, alfalfa hay and baleage hay. They also get salt, minerals and molasses.
Stryker Farm grass-fed beef is currently available at our Kimberton, Malvern, and Ottsville stores. These products will become available in our Collegeville, Douglassville, and Downingtown stores later this summer. Also look for Stryker Farm’s pasture-raised pork sausages, available at select stores.