Our mission is to forge a direct connection between chefs and farmers to improve the lives of the people and animals that feed us.
Our mission is to forge a direct connection between chefs and farmers to improve the lives of the people and animals that feed us.
Rising Spring Meats (RSM) is our gateway to the farming community. All farmers need to have their animals processed and turned into salable cuts of meat, but the number of small slaughterhouses is rapidly shrinking. Farmers who have raised their animals responsibly want to make sure that their animals are respected, that their work is respected, and that the people who are killing and cutting the animals they put so much hard work into know what they are doing. RSM fits the bill.
The story of Rising Spring Meats is the story of the American agricultural system. The plant itself is one hundred years old; however, as the processing industry began to consolidate to meet the needs of large companies, the old plant went out of business. The small farmers in the area recognized that they needed a plant where they could have a relationship with the people who play an integral role in turning animals into food. So, three farmers grouped together to obtain financing to buy the old plant, bringing RSM back from the dead.
We are glad to have found RSM. Without them we wouldn't have any delicious meat from the Happy Valley, and that would be a shame.
Smucker’s Meats is a third generation meat processing company. In 1965 David Smucker purchased a small custom butcher shop in Manheim, Pa. He had spent the previous eight years working for his brother-in-law cutting meat and going to a farmers market. Now he and his family were able to focus their energies on custom cutting beef and hogs for local farmers. From the very beginning the family was a vital link in production. Martha, David’s wife, wrapped the meat to be frozen and also did all the bookkeeping. The kids would help out after school every day and as they grew up assumed more and more responsibility. That business grew steadily slaughtering approximately 20 cattle and 15 hogs weekly over the winter months. Summer was the slow time allowing the family to catch their breath and also do some traveling.
Wade Wolfe is known for having the best beef in Central PA. Instead of buying young beef cattle that another farmer raised, Wade has a cow-calf operation - his calves are born on his own farm and raised on that same land until it's time to harvest. All of his animals are raised out on pasture and when the time is right, they are given grains to ensure a perfect, buttery, beautifully marbled steak.
George Lake is not your average farmer. He is a polymath that pushes the word expert to new limits. George runs a 100% grass-fed operation with his wife Christy and five work dogs captained by their leader, Mac.
George regularly lectures at agricultural universities and conferences on the nuanced differences between varieties of grass, effective grazing schedules and ensuring soil health. Much of George's vast knowledge on grass comes from time he spent working as a commercial airline pilot. In between flights, George would visit European farms, absorbing the science of their generations of traditions.
Leroy Bickle is a third generation beef farmer in Centre Hall, PA. His methods are tried and true. From feeding his cattle organic hay, to putting them on pasture that is never chemically treated, to feeding them homegrown grains, Leroy does what it takes to raise amazing beef.
Bethany and Adam Coursen run a small dairy farm that's been in Adam's family for generations. Recently, Valley Wide Farm has started raising beef cattle, an expansion that helps the dairy minimize waste and gives a purpose to the milkless males. All animals graze out on pasture and are only fed grains that are grown on Valley Wide Farm. As a small operation, Beth and Adam have the chance to work more closely with their animals. So closely, in fact, that they name every animal they raise. Seriously, the first animal we bought from Adam and Beth was named Dave.
Modzel Family Farms is a family operation, run by Dennis Modzel, Sr. and his two sons, Dennis Modzel, Jr. and Matthew Modzel. They feed their animals grass and corn silage, producing beautifully finished beef. Denny Jr.'s ability to easily explain beef production, his wealth of knowledge and gregarious nature make him a great teacher and partner. We love escaping the big city to hang out with the Modzel family. Denny Sr.'s culinary skills rival those of his chef visitors - every time we’re down there, he inundates us with pies while Denny Jr. shows off his homemade bourbon and moonshine.
Jake Tanis is a third generation dairy farmer who has always loved keeping beef cattle. Originally, his family ran a large dairy in New Jersey. But Jake decided to move his family to Pennsylvania where he has become a pillar of the farming community. His animals are grass fed and grain finished, and antibiotic and hormone free. Even in retirement, Jake works hard to produce some of the best beef out there.
John Espy is knows how to finish beef. He works with local Pennsylvania farmers that raise cattle from birth until they are old enough to go to John to be finished. When he brings in new cattle to finish, temperament is key. He looks for docile animals that won't cause trouble with the rest of the herd. His beef are so beautiful that they are in high demand in Japan, where they demand only the best. All the grains are grown on John's own property where he built practically every building. One of the marvels of Espy's farm is the planning that went into the layout. When the animals are loaded or weighed, they are led effortlessly though walkways designed to keep them calm. John stuck to the Temple Grandin rules for animal welfare - no sharp corners, high gates or choices that put extra stress on the animals. John doesn't use any hormones or prophylactic antibiotics.
Dan Shook's farm is only minutes from Rising Spring, which helps keep his beef stress-free until the end. Most farmers have to travel hours with their animals to a slaughterhouse, but Dan gets to avoid this high stress point and get his animals from farm to fork with less transportation. Dan's animals are raised on pasture and finished with grains he grows on his own property.
Ste-Wan Farm is run by husband and wife Steve and Wanda Hook in Middleburg, PA. The Hooks are known for raising and showing their pure-bred Simmental cattle. Simmentals are large animals with big steak muscles and spot-on marbling. When we first started out, Ste-Wan's beef were intimidatingly large - their carcasses weighed upwards of nine hundred pounds (big!). Ste-Wan's beef is exceptional, so we're glad to have more of it. Steve and Wanda raise their animals on pasture and then finish with grains they grow on their own property.
Chris Kunes is a restauranteur in Happy Valley, PA. After looking around for beef that met his high standards, he ended up raising his own. Chris, with the help of his herdsman Jaimie, now raises more than his restaurants can handle. That's where we come in. Kunes farm is located two miles from Rising Spring Meat Company, which reduces the stress put on the animals before slaughter. Typically, farmers have to truck their animals many miles to reach the slaughterhouse. This transport causes stress, so we're happy to work with local farms whose cattle don’t take a long trip to the slaughterhouse. Kunes raises Herefords on pasture, and finishes them with grains grown on his own property to ensure perfect marbling. Chris doesn't use any antibiotics or hormones, giving us natural, healthful meat.
Rattlesnake Mountain Farm is run by Charlie Hall, his son Mark, and now his grandson Dalton. Charlie decided to start raising beef on his Julian, PA farm, and named it after the mountain on which the property sits. Charlie says there are still rattlesnakes on the mountain, though bites are rare. The Halls raise hogs as well as beef. Dalton showed his Future Farmers of America beef steer at the Center County Grange Fair this year and won Grand Reserve Champion!
Shady Ridge is run by Scott Brown. Scott used to be a dairyman, who raised beef cattle for himself. He decided to try his hand at the beef business and expand the beef herd he raised for himself -- we think he's doing a great job. Scott's father raises elk on the farm, and we're excited to see if we can try to work with Shady Ridge on some new and exciting proteins.
When we first started working with Yoder Farm, it was Mahlon - the Yoder family patriarch - with whom we worked. Mahlon had bought some cattle from a friend and decided to raise them. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to jump headfirst into the beef business. Now his son Amos, a self described businessman, has taken over and sees the value in healthy beef. We're proud to work with the Yoders - the Amish won't work with just anybody, which tells us that we must be doing something right. It’s a good feeling.
Masonic Village Farm is part of a former Free Mason commune. Founded in 1910, Masonic Village was built as a completely self-sustaining retirement community for Masons. They grew their own food - cattle for beef and milk, orchards for fruit, and plenty of vegetables. During the 70’s, the USDA imposed more regulations on farms and labor costs increased exponentially. While Masonic Village is still an active retirement community (not just for Masons), only the beef cattle and fruit orchards are still operating. The head farmer, Frank Stolfutz, has been on the farm since the 80’s and keeps a close, scientific eye on the herd. Masonic Village has a cow-calf operation, meaning they have momma cattle that produce calves that Frank finishes for beef.
Ardry Farm is run by Mark Ardry and his father Willis. They've been doing beef since the 80s but their real specialty is potatoes. They grow the best potatoes in PA. That said, their beef is pretty terrific as well. Mark recognizes the market for responsibly raised beef, so he’s taking over the beef from Willis and planning to grow the operation.
Distant cousins to Mark and Charlie Hall of Rattle Snake Mountain Farm, Barry Hall and his son Barry Hall have a beautiful plot of land in Julian, PA. They have a cow-calf herd that graze through idyllic wooded plots. Barry Sr. taught me that wilted cherry leaves could kill calves, though on the trees the leaves are harmless. Unfortunately, one of Barry's neighbors didn't know this fact and threw wilted cherry leaves within eating distance of a unknowing and curious calf. Losing a calf is a big loss for anyone especially a small farmer. Unlike poultry, lambs, goats and pigs where a farmer can harvest within a year, the investment in beef is at least two years! The Barrys don't use any antibiotics or hormones and finish their cattle on grains.
Dan Kniffen doesn't usually sell beef, he's in the breeding business. Dan helps other farmers improve their herds by raising pure Herefords. We met with Dan trying to find other farmers that might want to work with us and to our great surprise, our model piqued his interest. Sure enough, Dan got held back some beef and raised them for us. His beef have a deep red color and yellow fat cover with white fat closer to the meat. The flavor is out of this world. We're glad to have given Dan another way to make money for his farm. Dan's beef are pasture raised finished on grains without antibiotics or hormones.
Grassy Meadow Farm is run by Amos Beiler, an Amish farmer from Jersey Shore, PA. Amos raises delicious California Red lamb for us out on pasture. He finishes his animals on non-GMO grains towards the end of their lives. His lamb are extraordinarily tender and have a nice pronounced lamby flavor. Amos also raises 100% grass fed beef.
We're so honored to count these restaurants amongst our clients
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At Happy Valley we believe a return to local, direct farming is key to improving the lives of farmers and food animals. This belief is what our business is based on, and it’s why all of our meat comes from farmers who take their time and treat their animals right.
By the end of 2018, all of our farms and slaughter facilities will be following our welfare standards and, by 2021, independently certified by Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, or other third-party programs recognized by the ASPCA’s Shop With Your Heart program. To get there, Happy Valley will work alongside our farmers using publicly published welfare guides, on-farm tools, and funding to support the welfare of our animals.
Our standards adhere to the “5 Freedoms” that all animals under human care must have:
by ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor
by providing an environment with appropriate shelter, comfort, and climate
by prevention, rapid diagnosis, and treatment
by providing sufficient space, facilities, and company of other animals of the same species
by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering
Rising Spring Meat Company is our most important partner; on top of being the gateway to the agriculture community of the area, they also serve as our eyes and ears ensuring consistent high quality beef.
The plant knows who produces the best beef in the area and how they raise their beef. With that knowledge, we go out and meet the farmers who are a good fit for our program. We let the farmer tell us the price that he/she needs to survive.
We take whole animals so the farmer doesn't have to deal with the messy side of business. They can focus on what they do best, farming.
We dry age the beef for two to three weeks to ensure that deep, beefy flavor.
Chefs request custom cuts that aren't industry standard and the butchers are all too happy to oblige.
The plant inspects each piece of meat to make sure it's the best we can send out.
We partner with FedEx so that we can track our packages every step of the way. FedEx is one of the most efficient users of hydrocarbons in the world, and we benefit from their expertise.
Traceability is one of our key values. We want our restaurants to know who raised their meat, where and how. We take chefs out regularly to meet the farmers and see Happy Valley.