It’s been a bittersweet year for Nancy Prebilich and the Gleason Ranch family. Beloved by discerning local chefs for her pasture-raised chickens, lamb and pork, the West County rancher was featured in both Food & Wine magazine (where her lamb made the cover) and on “Meat in America” on The History Channel this spring.
But behind the scenes, Prebilich has struggled to keep her family business alive after the recent death of her parents, losing her space at the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market, the weather-related devastation of her chicken flock and the closure of Fulton Valley Farms, a custom meat processing plant that catered to small-scale ranchers in the North Bay. She now has to drive more than three hours to the nearest USDA plant.
“My sister and I are just strung out. We’re having to make up for lost hands combined with a serious financial impact. We just haven’t been able to get our chicken production back up,” she said. Though they do still have enough chickens to fulfill their CSA orders, their signature slow-growing heritage breed chickens are still in short supply and the ranch has been unable to wholesale to grocery stores and restaurants. “We’re plugging along and trying to get it back in the cases and on restaurant plates,” she said.
Despite the shortage, the local food community has rallied behind Prebilich. This spring, Stark Restaurants made a significant pre-payment to the ranch, committing to using the Gleason’s goats for their Monday night goat roasts at Monti’s Rotisserie as well as suckling pigs, rabbit, lamb and pork for catering events. “They’ve really helped me get through some tough times,” said Prebilich.
Most recently, Oliver’s Markets has made a financial commitment to the ranch by purchasing Gleason pork for their house-brand sausage. Hot Italian and Sweet Italian sausage is selling for $8.99/pound, a price that helps her continue to keep the ranch afloat and raise her Duroc pigs.
Though she still has a long road ahead, Prebilich is determined to continue her family’s nearly 100-year legacy in Sonoma County. “I tell people if you want my chicken tomorrow, please buy my pork today.”
– Read BiteClub’s original article: “Saving Gleason Ranch”