First came the drought then the USDA forced Rancho in Petaluma to recall 9 million pounds of meat. I’ve been sprinting to keep up. There is so much to tell. I honestly don’t know where to find the time to write about it all for a few more days. But even though I might be invisible at times here, you can keep up with everything on Twitter —@GleasonRanch — and Facebook/gleasonranchfilm.
Here are some photos from yesterday. David Evans of Marin Sun Farms bought Rancho in record time — with some Silicon Valley tech VC dollars. A worker was already painting over the sign yesterday.
Here is an interview with Evans about the recall.
Livestock growers from Mendocino, Marin and Sonoma counties I spoke to were, as one of them put it, “cautiously optimistic” about the deal because Evans now has tremendous control over the system. Translation: Evans is doing what many of the big players do: integrate all points in the process, from growing to slaughter to marketing. That’s good business but the big worry is whether, in time, he will squeeze out the independent producers. The drought was bad enough: How do you raise pure grass fed beef and making a living if there’s no pasture and you’ve culled as much as you can afford, plus you’re having trouble finding organic hay — expensive organic hay. Livestock growers are burning through gas and dollars driving to get to a slaughterhouse/cut and wrap operation. That’s not what the local food movement was supposed to accomplish. But such is the dilemma the Rancho closing created. Poultry is another story: in Northern California you go to Modesto or nowhere.
I haven’t asked Evans all these questions yet but I have been pestering his press rep for some phone time.
The recall and the takeover were the topic of conversation at the Farmers Guild meeting last night at Shed in Healdsburg (and btw walking into Shed is like being in some kind of food sensory nirvana; the place just makes you feel gorgeous and rich and like life is best with a bottle of Chardonnay). The Guild invited Evans but I think everyone understood he was busy. Still things have moved so fast, are still moving so fast, that there are many questions left unanswered about how this affects the local food system they are trying to weave. There were enough questions without the Rancho recall. Now…