River Oak Farm
Located in the shadow of The Priest, a towering Blue Ridge peak in Nelson County, River Oak Farm is a diversified livestock farm. It was started in 2014 and is run by husband-and-wife team Adam Aucoin and Cassy Kelly. They raise pastured chicken and turkey, grass-fed beef and forest-fed heritage breed pork. Poultry is their specialty and the foundation of their business.
The farm is located on 75 acres which the couple owns and lives on. About 45 acres of the property is under management. The farm is committed to regenerative, eco-friendly practices. They use intensive, rotational grazing methods on their herds and flocks to maximize soil health and to provide the animals with fresh forage daily.
“Although the style of farming that we do is very labor intensive,” Adam says, “it means that we can intimately observe the health and well-being of each of our animals. This allows us to make their welfare our highest priority. We strongly maintain that nourishment of the land yields nourishment for the animal, which in turn brings the greatest possible nourishment to our customers and ourselves. With all that said we farm with and for the land, never in opposition to it. Our animals are tended to by hand twice daily allowing us to foster a relationship of trust, respect and admiration.”
Adam is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He began his farming career at the age of 19 on the Warren Wilson College Farm in Swannanoa, NC. For the past decade he has been learning all that he can about animal husbandry, food production and preserving the health of the land. That journey has led him all over the U.S. from a large, organic goat dairy in Montana to leasing a successful grass-based beef and chicken operation (Davis Creek Farm) in Central Virginia. In 2009 he started his own pastured poultry business in Louisiana on borrowed land. He was selling weekly at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market in New Orleans and had the opportunity to supply some of the country’s best restaurants and chefs including John Besh, Emeril Lagasse, and Donald Link - among others. He has an Environmental Science degree with a concentration in Agriculture from Montana State University. In the fall of 2013 Adam realized the dream of owning his own piece of land and together with his wife, Cassy, purchased River Oak Farm.
Cassy is a native of Nelson County, VA. At age 15 she started working summers on Blue Heron Farm, a small vegetable and flower CSA in Nellysford, VA. Eating healthy, sustainably produced food has been a large part of her life since early childohood. Whether it has been through the service industry, procurement, or farming, she has been working hard to to promote and sustain local eating and agriculture. Cassy worked full-time for several years at RelayFoods, including a position as their Senior Category Manager. She graduated from Montana State University with a B.A. in Political Science.
The 0% SOIL Loan received by River Oak Farm from Slow Money Virginia in June 2019 was used to purchase equipment necessary to finish installation of walk-in storage. The farm’s biggest challenge and inhibitor to growth had been cold storage. They had been utilizing 12 large chest freezers and a 6x16 indoor walk-in freezer, requiring product to be carried by hand in the chest freezers from their on-farm USDA certified processing station to the indoor walk-in down a driveway. They also had to rent additional storage space. This situation was not allowing the farm to keep up with current demand, nor to meet the needs for future growth. To remedy this problem they purchased an 8x20 walk-in freezer/refrigeration combo box for outdoor use and Slow Money helped with installation of the condensing and refrigeration unit, as well as making some electrical upgrades on their property to make the storage box work.
Below are some photos of the refrigeration unit being installed in August 2019 and it up and running for processing day in early September 2019: