Stoney Hill Cattle Farm in Charlestown, RI chemical-free
Some of what we grow is available year-round.
E-mail [email protected]
P.O. Box 147
Wood River Jct., RI 02894
For Businesses and Institutional customers:
Winter is definitely here! Everywhere you look, it is a winter wonderland, just a day late for a white Christmas! Now is the time to make those terrific beef stews to take the winter chill off. We have plenty of delicious stew beef for your favorite recipes.
You can find us at the indoor Pawtucket Farmers Market on Saturdays from 10:00 to 1:00. You may also buy directly from our farm on Wednesday afternoons or by appointment.
We take pride in providing you with the very best of our own farm raised products.
Farm Fresh RI regularly updates the Local Food Guide. Let Farm Fresh RI know if something is inaccurate.
Charlestown, RI - When they treat themselves to eating breakfast out, they know better than to order eggs. It’s sad, really, because Kim and Bill Coulter really enjoy nice, big, proper cooked breakfasts, but the pallid, bland eggs perched on the blue-plate special leave them pining for the rich eggy eggs of home. Don’t even ask about that disappointing roast they once ate, of meat grown off the farm...
It’s not that they’re fussy eaters, but they, along with their son Josh and Kim’s sister Nina Luchka, reap the culinary fringe benefits of their shared passion for farming at every meal. “Some people golf, some have sailboats, and this is what we do for enjoyment,” Bill explains matter-of-factly. There is more too it than that, of course -- all deeply love the land that’s been farmed by the family for the past half-century. They know the land is valuable, but the thought of seeing it developed is too sickening to contemplate. Keeping the farmland working, feeding body and soul, and striving to produce the best meats they can, that could easily be their mission statement.
And what meats! As Bill jokes, people anxious about cholesterol may look at it aghast, but they aim to raise the best steaks possible, coursing with those little streaks of fat that make grilled steak its most succulent. The cattle have full pasture access, and are fed a good percentage of grain and corn silage, the family’s secret to well-marbled meat.
They work side by side raising beef cattle, hogs, laying hens, and Thanksgiving turkeys on the farmland originally bought as a dairy farm by Kim and Nina’s grandfather in 1955. The farm is older than town record books, the original farmstead’s foundations still evident to this day. Nina and Kim grew up into the farm, doting on the horses and joining in all farm chores with their parents. Finally, exhausted by the relentless demands of dairying, the family converted to beef production in the 1960s.
For the sisters, there was never any question of leaving the farm, even as they took outside jobs. Mornings, nights, weekends, and vacations they tended animals and made hay, and as for Kim, she knew any guy she’d marry would have to appreciate that the farm was part of the deal. When Bill came along, he took those terms happily. ‘I didn’t have any farming back ground at all,” he freely admits, “but I like all of it – there’s nothing I don’t like!” He learned the ropes same as the sisters had done, under the patient tutelage of their father, Ken. “We were lucky he gave us all the tools we needed,” Kim says fondly, and her sister nods in heartfelt agreement.
A new set of hands on the farm wasn’t the only change. They found themselves in the pork business. It started out innocently enough, raising a couple pigs every year to keep the family in pork chops, but friends and neighbors hankering for the taste of farm-raised pork began asking to buy some. Meanwhile, Bill and Kim’s son Josh joined the family, growing up showing prize-winning steers through 4-H and studying mechanics (which comes in handy with their beloved old Oliver tractor.)
Ten years ago the family lost Kim and Nina’s father, and the sisters inherited half the original property, the raw lands of woods and brush. They promptly set out to clear new pasture land and build their own barns. “We have a shared goal to produce the best and to succeed,” Kim says, the fire of conviction burning through her lighthearted banter. Seeking confirmation from her family, they nod back. That commitment needed re-affirmation in spring 2007, when their uncle offered to sell them the other half of the original farm. “We were so lucky to start out with land,” Kim acknowledges, but they dreamed of reuniting the whole farm, so they all borrowed to purchase and restore it. Kim admits freely that their inspiration to return the old farm to glory is as much in tribute to the influential legacy of their parents and grandparents as it is the benefit of visitors. Nina, living in the old farmhouse now amid constant reminders of what a full restoration will entail, is no less optimistic. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I really think that what you envision can come true.”
Visions they’ve got a-plenty. Project number one is to fix up the front of the old milking barn to make a salesroom. Stoney Hill Cattle is already licensed to sell from the farm, but they’d prefer a more accessible location, where customers can still see the farm, that allows Kim and Bill a little more separation between home and business. Although the plan for the shop is just to sell their beef, pork, and eggs, as the conversation carries on everyone chimes in with pet projects they’d like to add – Bill dreams of sweet corn, Nina of pumpkins and goat cheese, Kim woodland hayrides… Bill rushes to add “We don’t want to over-diversify, though!” He feels strongly that they shouldn’t take on too much so they can control quality - “We want to be able to keep our names on it.”
Meanwhile, the family has just wrapped up its first year selling meat and eggs at Westerly and URI farmers’ markets, suggested by other members of the RI Raised Livestock Association. Joining the Association was one of their best moves, says Bill, because they’re “great people, and we have everything in common with them.” On top of that, membership has made market sales possible by getting the required USDA-certified slaughter done more affordably and predictably – especially since the nearest slaughterhouses that can prepare meat to their specifications are in Vermont and New York. Now beef and pork return to Rhode Island cut, flash-frozen, and packaged for sale to marketgoers.
“People ask tons of questions!” Bill says, shaking his head in surprise. “They want to know if you use drugs, hormones, feeds… but our number-one question is ‘How do you treat your animals?’ ” They explain their feed choices, how all the animals are free to wander in and out of shelter day and night, how their hens know the simple, instinctive joy of scratching up bugs in the dirt, and how their cattle tend to pick the shelter of the woods over the barn. They end up giving curious customers little lessons in farming and food processing, even converting a former red-meat avoider to the succulent delights of real, juicy beef. Bill’s rather proud of that one.
Kim realized the need to do a little educating by her second market. When a curious customer asked to see a steak, Kim was dismayed to see her make a face, and asked her what was wrong. “It doesn’t look like the meat at the grocery store!” the woman replied suspiciously, and Kim had to explain how they often add dyes to commercial meats to make them look fresher. While Kim tells the story, Bill fetches a package of hamburger from the freezer to show me; instead of lipstick scarlet, it’s a rich rusty red, with little flecks of ivory fat crying out for a charcoal fire to make them melt.
Maybe it’s the season, but as we spoke one topic returned again and again – they joys of haying. While no-one specializes at farm chores, people seem to gravitate to certain tasks at hay time – Bill usually cuts, Kim teds and rakes, Nina bales, and Josh is the pinch-hitter. Kim marvels that Nina really seems to enjoy onerous baling, but Nina thrives on the invigorating labor. Plus, she adds, “I used to sit next to our dad on the tractor, so being on the tractor reminds me of dad, and it keeps him close, you know?” Her sister smiled warmly back, and Bill muses “But you know, there’s a certain kind of peace that comes from just sitting on the tractor.” Kim agrees; “It’s like you’re the only person in the world,” she says, and went on to describe how her grandmother made iced coffee to fuel the haying crew through the exhausting, intensive task. She laughs “Nowadays I sometimes think, do you really enjoy haying, or do you just enjoy reminiscing?!”
In fact, love of the meditative solitude of tractor time seems to be the only divisive issue on the farm – they joke about trying to beat one another home from work to get dibs on the brush-hog and the agony of getting home to find someone else beat you to it. Though the Coulters were always careful not to pressure their son Josh into farming, they don’t hide their delight that he has chosen to keep farming with the family. Josh nods agreement with Kim when she said “We’re a very close family, we all eat together, and we rarely do anything if it isn’t together.”