Backstory, BiteClub, Local Products, Meat

Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meats

Pleased to Meat You: Sonoma County Meat CSA sells sustainably-sourced chicken, pork, beef and turkey

Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meats
Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meats

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The slogan “Life’s too short to eat crappy meat” is written into the concrete in front of Adam Parks’ Sebastopol butcher shop. More than a clever saying, it’s become a mantra for the owner of Victorian Farmstead Meats. Written, essentially, in stone.

Parks’ mission: A direct, hoof-to-table connection between ranchers and meat consumers. Though the scale of his operation is small–just a few hundred pounds of local beef, pork, lamb and poultry sold each week, it’s part of a growing trend toward knowing just where our food comes from. In other words, Parks knows exactly how your steak got from the field to your plate.

Victorian Farmstead’s growing local meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program has more than 100 members who receive bi-weekly meat boxes filled with grass-fed steaks, lamb roasts, hams, bacon, sausage or chickens from his own ranch or those of his partners at Marin’s Stemple Creek, Petaluma’s Langley Farms and a few carefully chosen others.

“I strive to have a shop that specializes in local, all-natural meats as well as specialty and custom cuts you can’t get at the chain stores. Meat raised, slaughtered, and cut the right way, the way it used to be done,” explains Parks.

“Shop” may be a bit of a stretch to describe the 200-square-foot outbuilding the Sebastopol rancher has set up on his Gravenstein Highway farm. In addition to his own chickens, Parks sells sustainably grown meats from his nearby Stemple Creek and Langley Farms.

Tucked behind the stately blue Victorian house that once belonged to his grandparents, Parks slides open the barn doors of his Chop Shop to reveal a large freezer and a packed deli case. There’s just room to slip inside for a peek, but mostly you stand at the door and pick up your VF Subscription box or just order a la carte from what Parks has written on the chalkboards nailed to the door. It’s the antithesis of the carefully shrink-wrapped pieces of anonymous feedlot meat you find at a big-box store.

Rarely without his signature fedora, sunglasses and sly grin, Parks later this year hopes to open a second Chop Shop at the forthcoming Barlow Center. The culinary and retail space in downtown Sebastopol, still under construction, promotes itself on a corrugated-tin sign at the constructin site as β€œThe Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker.”

“I want to be the Butcher,” says Parks.

But the path to becoming a sustainable-meat purveyor hasn’t been an easy one. A former PGA Tour director, Parks spent most of his life avoiding his family’s rural roots. In 2009, he and his wife took over operation of his family’s iconic Christmas tree farm, and began transforming the five-acre plot into a poultry farm. He currently raises chickens for eggs and meat, along with seasonal turkeys. Parks has an additional plot nearby where he pastures several hundred birds.

Walking the grounds, its apparent most of the birds live a pretty pastoral existence, fledging in an impeccably neat barn, then moving out to moveable “tractor” pens to pick and scratch at the pasture until they’re ready for processing. But that’s where things get a bit more complicated.

With the closure of the Fulton Farms processing plant, Sonoma County lost its last chicken slaughterhouse–the last USDA-approved plant to commercially slaughter chickens within 100 miles. So, to comply with federal standards, ranchers instead are required now to transport their animals to Stockton for slaughter, then bring the processed animals back to Sonoma County to sell. It’s something Parks says is not only unsustainable and against the idea of a local food movement, but puts the animals under unnecessary stress.

For awhile, Parks slaughtered about 150 chickens per week on his Sebastopol farm under what he claimed was a USDA exemption for slaughter on private land. The county balked, and shut down the slaughtering. He’s currently working with the county to resolve the dispute, and compliance could cost him up to $40,000. So instead, he trucks the birds to Stockton.

“Anyone can pick, wash and put up a vegetable stand. So why can’t I have a meat stand?” said Parks. “So much of this is just common sense. The last thing I’m going to do is make someone sick. I’d be out of business five minutes ago,” said Parks.

Parks’ chickens retails for up to $25, compared to $6-$12 for grocery store chickens. It’s a significant difference, but the cost of raising the birds sustainably, in addition to trucking them to slaughter, adds to the cost. The flavor, however, is unmistakable — less mushy, more “chicken-y.”

Whether at local farm markets or his own Sebastopol stand, Parks is a constant champion for locally-raised meat. “Life really is too short to eat crappy meat,” he says.

Want to join the CSA or find out more? Check out Parks’ site at vicfarmmeats.com

Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.

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Comments

32 thoughts on “Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meats

  1. http://vicfarmmeats.com/cycle-life/

    Tough to support a business where the owner is posting blog entries about “hating cyclists.” Sure am glad that Adam inherited some land from his family and has given up working on the PGA tour, but this sort of invective makes it impossible for me to support this business.

  2. http://vicfarmmeats.com/cycle-life/

    Tough to support a business where the owner is posting blog entries about “hating cyclists.” Sure am glad that Adam inherited some land from his family and has given up working on the PGA tour, but this sort of invective makes it impossible for me to support this business.

  3. Thanks for all the nice comments everybody! It is very rewarding to know that we are on the right track. I wanted to reply to Mark’s comments about price, profit and affordability. I completely agree and am super sensitive about our price points. I also know that not everyone can afford to eat our prime city’s every night. However, I think with a little thought, budget and a sense of adventure you can eat well and still support a local business. Our subscription boxes can save you as much as 25% off our retail prices. But even if you don’t want to make that commitment, come on in and challenge me! You give me a budget and a number of people you are feeding and I will not only find something that fits the bill, I can usually give you some options to choose from. I look forward to seeing you at the Chop Shop!

  4. Thanks for all the nice comments everybody! It is very rewarding to know that we are on the right track. I wanted to reply to Mark’s comments about price, profit and affordability. I completely agree and am super sensitive about our price points. I also know that not everyone can afford to eat our prime city’s every night. However, I think with a little thought, budget and a sense of adventure you can eat well and still support a local business. Our subscription boxes can save you as much as 25% off our retail prices. But even if you don’t want to make that commitment, come on in and challenge me! You give me a budget and a number of people you are feeding and I will not only find something that fits the bill, I can usually give you some options to choose from. I look forward to seeing you at the Chop Shop!

  5. Once you try their ham you’ll never eat a store bought ham again! Throw the bone into a pot of heirloom beans and you’ll think you’ve just died and gone to heaven! Love all Victorian meats not to mention the family.

  6. Once you try their ham you’ll never eat a store bought ham again! Throw the bone into a pot of heirloom beans and you’ll think you’ve just died and gone to heaven! Love all Victorian meats not to mention the family.

  7. Great write up ! After working with Adam and the entire Parks family . I have learned so much . thanks to him I’m a better chef & a much better informed Meat eater !!!

  8. I think it’s great what he’s doing. And it’s true, “you get what you pay for”. But with cost and profit considered, the prices are still quite a bit steep for the average joe. I think making the products more affordable would boost business and make more people go out of their way to eat well….Just a thought…We’re not all “SoCo” Yups πŸ˜‰

  9. Great write up ! After working with Adam and the entire Parks family . I have learned so much . thanks to him I’m a better chef & a much better informed Meat eater !!!

  10. I think it’s great what he’s doing. And it’s true, “you get what you pay for”. But with cost and profit considered, the prices are still quite a bit steep for the average joe. I think making the products more affordable would boost business and make more people go out of their way to eat well….Just a thought…We’re not all “SoCo” Yups πŸ˜‰

  11. Adam and the entire Parks family are a credit to meat growers and our community ! I have had the pleasure of working with them many times and am a better informed Chef and Meat eater for it !!!!!! Great write up !!!

  12. We were one of Adam and Laura’s first customers and we’ve never looked back! We’re eating less meat but much better meat; we get different cuts every month and once you master how to cook grass-fed meat, it’s definitely the way to go. We will never again buy meat from a grocery store….yay!

  13. Adam and the entire Parks family are a credit to meat growers and our community ! I have had the pleasure of working with them many times and am a better informed Chef and Meat eater for it !!!!!! Great write up !!!

  14. We were one of Adam and Laura’s first customers and we’ve never looked back! We’re eating less meat but much better meat; we get different cuts every month and once you master how to cook grass-fed meat, it’s definitely the way to go. We will never again buy meat from a grocery store….yay!

  15. I signed up for a monthly box today (and mentioned I had read about them on Bite Club). I’m really looking forward to getting my first box next week!

  16. I signed up for a monthly box today (and mentioned I had read about them on Bite Club). I’m really looking forward to getting my first box next week!

  17. I have been buying their bacon at the Sunday Windsor Farmer’s Mkt. THEE best bacon I have EVER had!! It doesn’t leave you dying of thirst an hour later, not salty at all, just wonderful flavor. I LOVE how their whole family is involved. Their teenage son works the market sometime and he is so friendly and knowledgeable.

  18. I have been buying their bacon at the Sunday Windsor Farmer’s Mkt. THEE best bacon I have EVER had!! It doesn’t leave you dying of thirst an hour later, not salty at all, just wonderful flavor. I LOVE how their whole family is involved. Their teenage son works the market sometime and he is so friendly and knowledgeable.

  19. I’ve been a member for a few months now, getting 5 lbs. every other week. It’s the best beef, pork and lamb I’ve ever had and Adam ensures that you’re satisfied with the meat. Plus it feels good to be supporting a local business.

  20. I’ve been a member for a few months now, getting 5 lbs. every other week. It’s the best beef, pork and lamb I’ve ever had and Adam ensures that you’re satisfied with the meat. Plus it feels good to be supporting a local business.

  21. Great article and I completely agree, been going there for a while now and their pork is the best I’ve had. Everything is great, can’t recommend more highly.

  22. Thanks again Heather for hunting down something wonderful for us. I had the pleasure last Fall to not only meet Adam (& his family), but I did so at his farm and ate his wonderful chicken (lovingly prepared by John Lyle and Co.) while I worked my first Chosen Spot dinner. The Farm was a fine example of what can be done even on a fairly small amount of land. Adam is a fine example of hospitality, warmth and why community is the key to most all things “good”. Everything is better when you share it and are a part of something. It’s just soooo much better when you know where the parts come from, and what they actually are πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks Sean. I designed this column specifically to be able to highlight some of the wonderful, hardworking people in our food community. Adam has patiently waited for me to get around to writing this for about six months. πŸ™‚

  23. Great article and I completely agree, been going there for a while now and their pork is the best I’ve had. Everything is great, can’t recommend more highly.

  24. Thanks again Heather for hunting down something wonderful for us. I had the pleasure last Fall to not only meet Adam (& his family), but I did so at his farm and ate his wonderful chicken (lovingly prepared by John Lyle and Co.) while I worked my first Chosen Spot dinner. The Farm was a fine example of what can be done even on a fairly small amount of land. Adam is a fine example of hospitality, warmth and why community is the key to most all things “good”. Everything is better when you share it and are a part of something. It’s just soooo much better when you know where the parts come from, and what they actually are πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks Sean. I designed this column specifically to be able to highlight some of the wonderful, hardworking people in our food community. Adam has patiently waited for me to get around to writing this for about six months. πŸ™‚

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