Where Does Our Food Come From?
It is something that we at River Valley have become increasingly concerned with over the last few years – where does the food that we serve come from?
We believe in serving food that is ethical, local and environmentally-sustainable. We pride ourselves in our ever-evolving search to producing wholesome, healthy food. And so, we started River Valley Acres.
The regenerative vegetable gardens, happy free-range chickens, and buying local free-range foods, are an expression of our core beliefs about the holistic nature of what River Valley does and how we operate. It is a natural fit for a company that firmly believes in protecting the environment, but more than that, a belief that we are a part of that environment and need to tread lightly.
It is also an expression of a desire to eat “real” food, food that we know where it comes from and what went into growing it. This is the opposite of “fake” food that Super Market aisles are full of.
Home Grown Vegetables From River Valley Acres
Our regenerative and spray free vegetable gardens, which are ever-expanding, supply many of our summer salad vegetables and herbs, ensuring freshness and taste.
A large amount of the vegetables served at the River Valley Cafe from mid Spring to mid Autumn come from our gardens. These vegetables, mostly salad types, onions, shallots, garlic, carrots, beans, beetroot, tomatoes, plus a range of herbs such as basil and coriander, and that old standby, Rhubarb, are picked fresh and served that day. We also have an array of fruit trees that we are increasingly utilising in the cooking in our restaurant.
What this all means is you get to eat truly fresh vegetables with meals served from the Cafe. The gardens are raised bed. This requires that you do not walk on them ensuring the loam remains friable and free draining.
A great way to use up and store any extra vegetables, is by making them into relishes. Our chefs can make delicious relishes, chutneys and jam from excess vegetables like tomatoes, beetroot, zucchinis, chilis and rhubarb. These are either served with our food, or for sale from the cafe.
We generally use heritage seed when growing plants for planting out. We also buy ready to plant seedlings from reputable growers.
We use compost to feed the garden. This compost comes from 3 sources.
- Composted horse dung from River Valley Stables mixed in with chipped or shredded wood and garden waste.
- A mix of wood shavings and chicken dung from the housing of our free range chickens.
- Compost made here at this site which consists of coffee grounds, waste paper, kitchen waste and weeds from the gardens.
Free - Range Meat
The Lodge restaurant serves free-range meat for the dinner meals.
Our beef is all free range grass fed meat. These animals spent their lives doing what they were designed for, foraging on grass.
Our chicken comes from the organic, free-range poultry farm Bostock’s Organic Chicken Farm also located in Hawkes Bay. We believe that stocking organic poultry meat is important in New Zealand as unfortunately, the term “free-range” has become a rather nebulous term. While there are codes of welfare/minimum standards around the definition of free-range, these are not legally binding or regulated and therefore can be used freely by poultry farms as an easy marketing catch phrase. Chickens marketed as free-range can theoretically be raised at the same density as conventional barn chicken houses, with a few small doors that ensure only a handful actually choose or can use to explore outside.
Organic chicken farms on the other hand, are held to a much higher standard of welfare care than ‘free-range’ chickens. For a chicken farm to become certified organic, they are required to meet strict standards that are regulated by a certifying body. One of the standards organic farms are required to meet is that the chicken’s beaks cannot be clipped. The chickens are kept in much lower density, with greater freedom to move outside, giving them greater opportunity to express their “chicken-ess”.
Our Happy Chicken's Eggs
Our free range hens produce those richly coloured, oh so tasty eggs you find in the dishes on our breakfast menu. The hens are moved about the River Valley Acres pastures frequently, to new feeds and are most of the time seen nearby our top vegetable gardens as you drive into River Valley.
Our egg laying chickens are on grass all day, and are moved regularly in their egg mobiles to fresh pasture.
What is more they also get to be chickens. They get to scratch around, dust bathe, eat grubs and insects, and do all those things that chickens should be able to do.
And we get those beautiful bright yellow eggs!
In fact, our chickens are currently producing so many eggs that they are often sold to the locals in the community around River Valley when there is excess.
It is also a wonderful way for us to dispose of kitchen scraps from the restaurant, which in turn becomes manure for the gardens. During the winter months, the chickens are kept in the garden tunnel house which was built this year to start producing more vegetables year-round. Their dropping will fertilise the bed of the tunnel even further, mixed with carbon rich mulch to absorb it periodically and dilute the strength of the chicken manure. This is our first year testing out this system and we hope that it will lead to some delicious healthy vegetable plants this spring!
We believe that a significant part of our permaculture journey, is learning and then passing this knowledge on. It is an ever-changing journey that we take pleasure in sharing with our staff and our visitors. Throughout the summer season we often run garden workshops and tours, details of which can be found below…
“A Taste For Nutritionally Dense Food”
A full day workshop which includes:
- Why is River Valley on this food journey?
- What is Nutritionally Dense food and why is it important?
- Garden Layout & Planning
- Bed Preparation
- Fertiliser & Compost
- Pests & Diseases
The workshop includes lunch (made using fresh ingredients picked that morning) and will also include some course notes to take home.
Dates: Please enquire if interested.
“Garden to Table Cooking Classes”
A half-day experience which includes:
- learning about the River Valley garden journey
- foraging for foods
- cooking your own three-course garden-inspired meal, and
- pairing each course with regional New Zealand wines.
Dates: Please enquire if interested.