River Rock Farm Roots
The land on Five Bridge Road in Brimfield, Mass. has been a working farm, with various crops and livestock, for over one hundred years. When the Konove family purchased the property in 1993, it was with the intention of enjoying a pastoral weekend place, with plenty of room for their three children, Elissa, Jonathan, and Drew, to roam and run.
Jon didn’t show any interest in farming until after high school, when he spent nine months working at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. As a member of the staff at the International Learning Center of Heifer Project, Jon learned about all kinds of livestock and agriculture. The experience made a lasting impression on him and instilled a desire to make a living from the land.
The initial venture into cattle began several years later, when two steers were finished for the family freezer. Ron Konove, a native of New York City, had fond childhood memories of visiting his cousin’s farm in New Jersey and wanted to try raising cows. Jon, a student at Haverford College in Penn. at this time, directed the feed and care program for Ron and his mother, Kay. The result was some mighty tasty beef and way too much for the family freezer. It also became apparent that the 28 acres of fields needed more livestock to keep down the grass.
And so the first little family of cows arrived: Bertha with her calf, Angie, and Louise with her calf, Chuck. A surprise bonus appeared the following winter with the birth of Louise’s calf, Alice. That was pretty much the last time the Konoves named the cows, as the prospect of running a beef cattle business, not just a hobby, became a reality.
During a school break in 1999, Jon and his father attended a conference on raising beef. They met a very enthusiastic farmers’ market manager, who encouraged them to bring their beef to the Newton, Mass. market. They signed up for half the summer season, which turned out to be just enough of a success to plant the seed of future commerce. The Konoves invested in some serious Black Angus breeding stock and planned for future markets.
Jon graduated from Haverford in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, having been accepted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. He deferred his first year, opting for hands-on experience at a large dairy farm in Bloomsburg, Penn. He returned to River Rock Farm many times during that period to create and maintain the beef program in Brimfield, as the cattle population had grown to over 20 head by then.
As summer approached, Jon decided that he would live in Brimfield full time to manage the family farm. Another successful market season prompted Jon to defer vet school for one more year so he could devote all his energy to the burgeoning business. And what incredible energy and vision he had. He did everything – build fences, construct shelters, coordinate with the slaughterhouse, solicit restaurant customers, sell at the markets, etc. Along the way, however, everyone in the family pitched in at the markets or wherever they could to help Jon with his dream.
After he decided to give up his spot in the vet school class of 2002, Jon devoted his efforts to River Rock Farm Natural Beef. He did the work of a dozen people and charmed everyone with whom he came in contact. While this was a family business, it rested squarely on Jon’s broad shoulders. He loved being outside, schmoozing with the customers, and building a business of his own.
It is a testament to Jon’s passion and commitment that River Rock Farm could continue after the devastating loss of this farmer/cowboy who created it. Jon was tragically killed in a truck rollover on November 26, 2006. He was returning home after a typical Saturday night at a customer’s restaurant, grilling burgers for his date and friends.
The family has had help from so many loyal and caring people since Jon’s passing. Kim Morse bravely managed the farm through the initial period. Louise, Nathan, and Cody Couture-Olsen have been farm angels for years. Drew took a semester off from graduate school to live at the farm, a tribute to his beloved brother. Tom Moriarty, whose brother was a close friend of Jon’s from Heifer Ranch days, revitalized River Rock when we most needed it. We are now happy to have another close friend of Jon's from the Heifer project, Charlie Sayer. He and his wife, Lindsay, carry the torch. Additionally, Glen Veit has provided invaluable guidance and friendship. And we must mention that without Ron Dziembowski, the farm would not be what it is today. Also, without the incredible response from our customers, we would never have made it through this difficult period.
We thank everyone within the community that Jon built for their support. The family is committed to continuing to provide quality beef to our customers.
Ron, Kay, Elissa and Drew Konove