Pozzi Ranch, Valley Ford
356 ACRES MALT-PROTECTED SINCE 1993
A long, winding road separates Pozzi Ranch from the rest of the world. Sheep graze in pastures that line the road, which ends at a turn-of-the-century home and barns. Fourth generation West Marin rancher Joe Pozzi runs this sheep and cattle ranch, which supplies 100 percent grass-fed and pasture-raised lamb to Whole Foods Markets in Northern California. Joe also markets his, and many other local ranchers’, wool to natural bedding companies and Pendleton Woolen Mills, which weaves the wool into fabric for Joe’s wool program. Joe says, “wool is a great renewable resource, and it has many incredible qualities, including being naturally fire retardant – which is good for the bedding companies.”
In the late 1980s, after graduating from college, Joe launched his own ranch business with a new model focused on diversification and selling directly to consumers. His goal was to create a holistic ranch that took everything into account, including the bottom line for family farmers.
“The health of the animals, the land and ensuring it is viable for family ranches are all important,” says Joe, who is also the District Manager of the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District. “There is so much at stake in ranching and carrying on the legacy of the land for the next generation. It’s an important responsibility.”
But in the 1980s, when Joe started out on his own, ranches were closing. The model of selling to middlemen, while it takes less time and energy than direct-to-consumer sales, wasn’t working. For many ranches, the price set by middlemen wasn’t enough to keep the business going.
“If we couldn’t set prices that would keep the ranches in business, we would have continued to lose producers. We needed to figure out a way to pay the producers more.”
With that goal in mind, Joe developed standards for raising 100 percent natural, grass-fed lamb. For the past two decades, has developed a business model where a premium is paid for the high quality lamb our local ranchers produce. The premium prices help our local ranches remain viable and sustainable over the long haul, even if it means Joe needs to spend more time away from the land and ranching to focus on marketing and sales. Ranchers, he said, get so busy with the ranch itself that they don’t have the time. The direct to market model is nearly a full-time job in itself for Joe. But the rewards are there for all of the ranchers.
“We’re trying to bring value back to the ranches in the area so that they are compensated for what they do and produce,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to see people enjoy what we’ve created here on the ranch. That’s the future of agriculture here, whether it is lamb, milk or wool.”
Where to Find Pozzi Ranch Products
Today, Joe and the other ranchers who participate in Joe’s direct-to-consumer program sell their lamb under the Pozzi Ranch Lamb label to Whole Foods Markets throughout Northern California. To learn more about Joe and his practices, please visit www.pozziranch.net.
Photos and More
MALT guests enjoyed a rustic, one-of-a-kind Field to Fork supper on Pozzi Ranch in 2013. View photos of the local food and beautiful landscape»
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