Double Brook Farm
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Double Brook Farm takes an all-encompassing approach to farming

and embrace their community in the process

July 25, 2013 | Photo courtesy Double Brook Farm

When our friend Pamela talks, Francesca and Marisa listen. After all, she’s the one who told us about that delicious Griggstown Farm chicken pot pie. So when she told us about a couple who left the corporate world to start their own farm and were now building a market and restaurant, we were intrigued. We’ve spoken with a lot of farmers here at 150ish and we’re constantly amazed at their hard work and dedication. They all have similar concerns, yet we find that each has a unique approach. At Double Brook Farm in Hopewell, New Jersey, we found a great example of how a small farm can grow into a thriving, multi-layered business.
Here’s the dish. Back in 2002 Robin McConaughy was reading “Power Steer,” Michael Pollan’s landmark cover story about the beef industry for the New York Times Magazine. A lot of people read that piece and became vegetarians, but for Robin and her husband Jon, it planted the seed for what would become Double Brook Farm.
The couple were working in the corporate world (she for a sports media company, he for Credit Suisse), but with kids came the desire to move out of the city and, says Robin, “we now knew we wanted to raise our own meat.” She continues, “We always knew we wanted to do something else down the road. The ‘something else’ became ‘we’re going to buy some land and raise and grow what we eat.’”
To pursue this, Robin and Jon did extensive research, becoming avid followers of third-generation alternative farmer and author Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. “He makes it sound so reasonable to get your animals out on the land,” Robin says. The couple, who grew up near Princeton and met in high school, started Double Brook Farm in 2004, raising beef, chicken, and sheep for their own consumption. “As we took our first cow to slaughter, we had friends and family wanting to purchase meat from it. As more people became interested in buying our meat and then our eggs, we began to sense that we might have to follow a different model,” she explains. 
The McConaughys soon realized that a method by which they could raise, slaughter, butcher, sell, and serve their farm products direct to local customers was the way to go. Robin says, “Ultimately, I want a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and onion on whole wheat bread and know that everything comes from right here.” Referencing the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pontico Hills, New York,  and Dan Barber–led restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, she says, “That’s a great model for us, but we want to be more accessible and affordable for our community.”
Before their market in downtown Hopewell opened this year, the McConaughys had monthly sales at the farm to both get animals and produce that were ready for market off the land and pique customer interest. It was very much a farm stand vibe with limited products and limited scale.
In May, the couple opened the Brick Farm Market, housed in the former Malek Chevrolet building (a beautiful 1930s brick building that once held an auto repair shop). The market is currently open Fridays through Sundays while the butcher shop and bakery are being completed. Under its motto “the food you want from the farmer you know,” the market is selling produce, meat, charcuterie, and some dairy products and cheeses from Double Brook Farm, along with a curated selection of local and non-local products, including additional cheeses, baked goods and fine chocolates. The market also has a thriving prepared foods counter, featuring a menu of seasonally inspired salads, sandwiches, brick-oven specialties, and other dishes to eat in or take away. There is even a rotisserie oven for chickens, turkeys, ribs, roasts and more.

“The idea,” says Jon, “is to hone our offerings around what we can bring in from the farm. And to use the prepared foods section to capitalize on what might not have been sold in the meat, cheese and produce cases, but what would be ultra-fresh and perfect used in a pork pot pie, tea infusion, roasted vegetable platter, or even at the juice bar.” The aforementioned juice and coffee bar serves juices made from fresh-pressed vegetables and fruits from Double Brook and other local area farms.
When the lovingly restored 1810 farmhouse next door came up for sale, the McConaughys purchased it as the future home for their restaurant, the Brick Farm Tavern. Set to open next year, the 125-seat space will have an open kitchen and a view of the farm, which will supply the majority of the restaurant’s ingredients.
Of course, it all comes back to the farm. When they started with their first 60 acres, the first step was to make the farm as sustainable as possible, and that extends throughout the farm’s management: solar power runs the radiant heating that runs through the floors in the barn, and their electric ATVs are charged by solar power as well. The farm follows organic principles, but is not certified; if an animal is sick, they will treat it with antibiotics and then sell it to another conventional farm. “Even though we won’t end up selling a treated animal, we don’t want to see any animal suffer,” Robin says.
To that end, the McConaughys have designed and are building a mobile slaughterhouse that will enable them to take care of their own animals right on the farm. “First and foremost for us is humane treatment of the animals,” Robin explains. “Since the only certified humane slaughterhouse in New Jersey has shut down, we now have to take our animals to Pennsylvania. We want them to be taken right to slaughter by people they know, making it as stress-free as possible.” A USDA inspector will be on site whenever it’s in use. They hope to be operational in 2014.
The farm now consists of about 1,000 acres, including land they own and land they lease. About 50 acres of that is devoted to a wide range of vegetables, but the majority of the land goes to the Devon cattle (a breed that’s known for excellent beef when the animals are pastured on grass) for grazing. Four different heritage breeds of pig (Ossabaw, Tamworth, Berkshires, and Old Spots) have been added to the family of livestock, as have five heritage breeds of turkey: Narragansett, Black Spanish, Bourbon Red, Blue Slate, and Broad Breasted Whites and Bronzes. Freedom Ranger and Rhode Island Red chickens and Katahdin sheep round out the mix.
It’s an ambitious program, for sure, but the McConaughys don’t pretend to do it on their own: they take justifiable pride in the fact that the farm and now the market provide 85 local jobs, including farm managers and skilled artisans. “Jon and I are very much the administrators,” Robin tells us. “We’re putting the pieces together so that we can be successful, but it’s important to realize that within our business are many smaller businesses: the cows, the hogs, the poultry, the produce, and now the market (with separate cheese-making, baking, butchering, and prepared food operations) and soon the restaurant. And we’ve hired great people to run all these different divisions.”
The McConaughys have shown what can happen when passion, business savvy, and vision combine. And as for Robin’s dream of that 100-percent Double Brook ham and cheese sandwich? “There is nothing more satisfying than to hear a customer say that they were blown away by the quality and the taste in the sandwiches, in the salads, in the juices and in the meats that they bring home and cook for themselves. I guess the ultimate compliment is when I hear ‘this really tastes like it should’ and to know that it came from our farm and was made by our people in a way that is good for the animals and good for the environment.”
Double Brook Farm 
P.O. Box 96 
Hopewell, New Jersey, 08525
609 466-3594
Brick Town Market 
65 East Broad Street 
Hopewell, New Jersey 
609 466-6500 

The Market is open Friday, 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM; Saturday, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM; and Sunday, 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
Copyright © 2013 150ish. All Rights reserved.
425 East 63rd Street, Suite E7C, New York, NY 10065

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