As a sixth-generation farmer, Brett Bullock of Screamin’ Hill Brewery understands the importance of the farmer-consumer connection.
“We give tours to everyone who comes to the brewery and explain the crops we grow, plus the trials and tribulations of growing them,” Bullock says. “I think it’s really important that people know where their food comes from. People enjoy having things that come from their own town, but there’s a disconnect between consumer and producer. It’s nice to be able to talk to them and explain. Our tasting room is surrounded by a field of wheat.”
Brewing a Legacy
Bullock farms with his father, mother, aunt and uncle on their Cream Ridge farm, which has been in the family since 1860. They grow corn and soybeans, and sell Christmas trees in the winter, tomatoes in the summer and pick- your-own pumpkins in the fall.
Bullock and his partners, Ryan Cole and Pat Jones, had been home brewing for about 11 years, and had always dreamed of opening a brewery. The idea really got rolling with the thought of merging the brewery with ingredients grown on the farm.
“We’ve been growing ingredients for beer since about 2014,” Bullock says. “We planted malting barley and then started growing hops. We already grow wheat and rye on the farm, so we’re using all of that in our beer.”
Along with the key ingredients needed for delicious brews, Screamin’ Hill uses some of its specialty crops to make interesting flavors as well.
“We grow habaneros for one of our blonde ales, and our seasonal pumpkin beer is also really popular,” Bullock says. “We use about 150 pounds of pumpkins for each batch that we brew.”
The brewery rotates about nine different beers throughout the year, all with some type of ingredient straight from the farm. Bullock says the goal is to grow as many of the ingredients as possible.
Cooking Up a Farm-Fresh Success
Ashley Stratton of the Farmer and the Chickpea agrees that using local products is important for both New Jersey farmers and consumers. The farm-to-table restaurant began at the Metuchen Farmers Market, serving fresh, local food to customers. After seeing great success, expanding to a few other farmers markets, and developing relationships with growers, Farmer and the Chickpea opened a brick-and-mortar store in Somerville.
“If you walk into our store, we bring out what we started making at 6 a.m. that day,” Stratton says. “People want to know where their food is from and what’s in it. Knowing that we got it from a farm an hour away makes them feel good.”
Stratton plans the menu around what’s in season and what she can get from local farmers.
“I change my menu every week because we don’t have a written, set menu,” she says.
The food itself has a Mediterranean influence, and each dish contains five ingredients or fewer, made fresh from scratch daily.
Stratton says some of her biggest sellers include vegetable lasagna that uses fresh, seasonal vegetables, and a veggie burger that features Brussels sprouts, kale and corn.
As for the future, Stratton says the plan will stay the same.
“We started sourcing local before it was hip and cool, because getting fresh ingredients just made sense.”