Carnivorous Inclinations: Your Guide to Locally Sourced Meat
by Playalina Nelson
In challenging times, looking for angles of optimism can help us get through—and writing this piece, I think I found one. Since COVID-19, many more people have an increased interest in purchasing meat and poultry directly from local farms, ranches, or purveyors. This creates a positive ripple effect that helps strengthen the viability of our local food system.
One such farm is Tara Firma Farms, located in Petaluma. They raise meat and poultry on rotationally grazed pasture land and offer cooler middle-of-the-night, home delivery of their subscription boxes filled with meat and poultry. Customers can also purchase products at the retail store on the farm.
Tara Firma has seen a dramatic increase in interest for subscriptions and deliveries, with memberships doubling since March. “It took us some time to figure out how to help all these people and make this happen so that it’s sustainable,” says CSA manager Isabel Squire. Due to additional hiring, adjustments to delivery routes, and new relationships with local meat producers, they’ve been able to meet the current demand.
“People are realizing local food is the most dependable food source. I’m hopeful that continues and the relationships people are making with local farmers will continue after the pandemic is over,” Squire tells me.
Jonathan and Misty Gay, ranchers and owners of Freestone Ranch, expressed a similar sentiment. In West Sonoma County, Freestone Ranch is a family-run cattle ranch that raises local closed-herd, grass-fed, grass-finished beef to be sold at a moderate price. Freestone Ranch focuses on selling quarters of beef that are about 120 lbs. each and are made up of roughly even thirds of steaks, ground, and braising cuts, along with bones (organ meat optional). Buying meat this way can save customers a lot of money, but individual cuts can be bought at local markets, too. Due to increased demand, Freestone Ranch predicts that they will sell out of their beef about two to three months early this year.
“A lot of new customers are asking about other places to buy locally,” notes Misty. “Individually, we can’t do everything, but together we can.” Committed to promoting fellow farmers and ranchers, Misty helps customers find local sources for chicken, pork, and other products they don’t sell.
Adam Parks, who co-owns Victorian Farmstead Meat Company in Sebastopol with his wife Laura, works with a network of 6-8 ranches to source “hyper-local pasture raised” meats. Victorian Farmstead has adapted to this pandemic by providing a more streamlined subscription and delivery system. They have seen a large increase in online orders and subscriptions over the last month or so.
“People are seeing the fragility of the national distribution system,” Adam shares. “Our business model is designed so that if there are state or national meat shortages, Victorian Farms won’t run short on meat. If demand exceeds our production capabilities, our meat box subscribers will always be served first.” He adds, “I hope people remember after this, it was the local store that got them what they needed, not the big chain stores.”
Victorian Farmstead works with Sonoma County Meat Company in Santa Rosa, a USDA-inspected, custom-exempt meat processing facility and a one-stop butcher shop. They specialize in making their own bacon and sausages and feature grass-fed, grain-finished beef raised in Knights Valley from Oak Ridge Angus. They’ve had to adapt quickly by creating an online shop for curbside pickups and shipping.
“We want to have something for everyone—high-end, grass-fed cuts as well as less expensive options,” says co-owner Rian Rinn, who runs the shop with wife Jenine. “Everyone can walk in and feel like there is something for them.”
For more information about the local farms, ranches, and purveyors:
Tara Firma Farms • tarafirmafarms.com • 707.765.1202
Freestone Ranch • FreestoneRanch.com • 707.876.4654
Victorian Farmstead Meat Company • vicfarmmeats.com • 707.332.4605
Sonoma County Meat Company • SoCoMeatCo.com • 707.521.0121
Meet A Local Maker: MJ Lindo-Lawyer
In her Santa Rosa home studio piled high with cactus, ferns and philodendrons, MJ Lindo-Lawyer brings to life alternative universes and whimsical and dark fantastical realms. A self-taught explorer in different mediums, MJ has fallen in love with the depths of texture she has found in oil paint and wooden canvases. Using creamy pastels and rich skin tones, MJ builds worlds of whimsy where a giantess woman can befriend a tiny bear cub, or a family of miniature elephants can keep warm at the campfire of a forest goddess.
Since 2003, MJ has told versions of her own life story and those of other diverse women through depictions of their bold grace on the move through dreamlike spaces and in the company of animal friends.
MJ Lindo-Lawyer lives and works in the Bay Area with her husband and studio mates, Garbage, her kitten, and Mellow, her 160-pound Neapolitan Mastiff.
Editor’s Note: See MJ’s murals in Santa Rosa at 883 Sebastopol Road and 505 Santa Rosa Ave.