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Can Gleason Ranch be saved?

Ranch is in imminent peril. Can the community save it?


The clock is running out on Gleason Ranch.

In just days, owners Nancy Prebilich and her sister Cindy Holland may be facing foreclosure on the ranch that has been in their family for generations. Popular with chefs, Prebilich gained national acclaim for her sustainably raised chickens, pork and lamb. But a year of devastating loss has put the operation in immediate jeopardy, and it Prebilich is reaching out to the local food community to help her keep the lights on — literally.

In the short-term, Gleason is hoping to raise about $13,000 to keep the ranch operating for another 60 days. Things like electricity and mortgage payments are in serious arrears, and the ranch hopes to convince restaurants to pre-pay meat purchases for the year in order to raise some quick capital. Supporters like Mark and Terri Stark have helped to fund Prebilich’s operation in past months by paying for chicken, goat and pork for Stark’s Steakhouse and Monti’s in advance. Oliver’s Markets is also helping by purchasing pork from Gleason for its sausage.

Over the next five years, Prebilich has plans to raise about $500,000 in capital by making Gleason Ranch an LLC holding company with investors and a board of directors. She has been working with financial veterans like Dan Smith, who owns French Garden and organized a board to help save Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol, along with a number of other ranchers and farmers to help create a viable longterm business plan. Though she’s confident she can find up to twenty investors to help with the capital over the next few years, it may be too little too late if she can’t pony up some immediate cash to keep the ranch afloat over the coming months.

The problem stack up to what Prebilich calls a “perfect storm of unanticipated events over the last year. Both her mother and father died this year within six months of each other, halving the operational manpower of the farm and creating a experiential vacuum, since Prebilich’s father was a the heart of the ranch’s meat operations. The ranch also lost thousands of chicks during a heat wave last year, then was double whammied by rains that forced them to keep many of the remaining chickens inside and reduce additional operations to control overcrowding. They’ve yet to recover fully. Compounding the problems, the ranch was asked to leave both the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol farmers’ markets after ongoing disputes with market manager Paula Downing, which Prebilich said amounted to about $100,000 in sales each year. Prebilich is currently in litigation over the expulsion. After problems with their distributor, Prebilich also got recent news that the money lender who lent Prebilich’s mother $675,00 against their mortgage has called in the loan and is threatening foreclosure.

Already, many in the food community are coming together to help stem the financial blood flow and aid in immediate needs. Two fundraising dinners are being organized on behalf of Gleason Ranch. Additionally, Prebilich has sent out a letter to potential investors explaining the longterm opportunities.  Over the last months, Gleason has sold to CSA members, at the Healdsburg Market and through Preferred Meats in Oakland, in addition to selling to a handful of local restaurants committed to helping Gleason.

“For the last 2+ years, my sister and I have been working tirelessly to transform Gleason Ranch into a financially viable business and a model of local, sustainable ranching. In our world of industrialized agriculture and competitive markets, this would be a challenging endeavor in any circumstance. But we have built up a sustainable ranching operation, established a great brand, and attracted a loyal following of supporters and individual and wholesale customers,” said Prebilich.

Sustainability, it seems, is only viable as long as the ranchers can sustainably support themselves.

If you’re interested in helping…
A Day of Artisan Butchery, Oct. 15. A benefit for Slow Food Solano’s school gardens project, the Farmer-Veteran-Coalition, and Gleason Ranch.
– If you’d like a copy of the investor letter, please email Nancy.
– Ask your local restaurants to carry Gleason Ranch meats or patronize restaurants like h2hotel’s spoonbar, Oliver’s Markets or the Stark’s restaurants who have demonstrated a commitment to Gleason Ranch.
– If you’re a chef interested in carrying Gleason Ranch meat, please contact Gleason Ranch

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Comments

79 thoughts on “Can Gleason Ranch be saved?

  1. So here is a different perspective (and a little dated as I just found this string courtesey of John Lyle). I own Victorian Farmstead Meat Co. and consider Gleason Ranch one of my biggest competitors. In fact, Nancy and I really don’t like each other that much. Nothing personal, just don’t see eye to eye business wise. Our common ground is an intense passion for the support and growth of locally raised meat. It would be in my companies best interest for Gleason Ranch to go under as it would be less competition. However that is not my interest. I find it offensive that the meat vendors at the SRFM and Sebastopol Farmers Market ae considered “local” (apologies to Salmon Creek).There is no meat raised or even sold out of Sonoma County, other than Salmon Creek. I find it offensive that Paula Downing told me that if I complained about no local meat in her markets, “she would make #$%^&* sure that I never sold in a Sonoma County market as long as I lived”. I find it offensive that one bitter woman can hold the interests of a whole county of farmers and ranchers in her hands and nobody in power will do a damn thing about it. Is it a tough job to run a farmers market? Probably so…but not as tough as as trying to beg and plead your way in to one. I live and farm less than 2 miles from the Sebastopol market, yet every Sunday I get up at 5am and drive to Moraga because “there is no room” for me at Sebastopol. Too many farmers from Potter Valley, Mendocino, etc. In my book thats not local! You know what Paula told me??? Anything raised in California is local as far as ahe is concerned….and that’s a direct quote! I wish that I could say that Nancy & Cindy are the devil and they don’t deserve your support. But the fact is, we need them. I need them! Without fair competition in a local, micro-economy, none of us have a chance long term. Heather, I applaud your support of the Gleason Ranch! And given the amount of comments your articles generate, feel free to come visit our operation some day (lol). But above all else, please direct your attention to the problem, not the symptom. Without farmers markets, none of the small local producers stand a chance. The problem is simple. There is no oversight for the management of one of our most intensley local resources, the farmers market. There are many great market managers I work with. But the one that runs the most lucrative three markets in the county has no oversight, and the only thing county about the meat sold at it is the ground they are held on. How about the county supervisors stepping in? How about a rule that the local farmer/rancher has first right to a stall? I don’t even care if the meat vendors from up north are at the same market, just let us compete! On behalf of a 3 generation Sonoma/Marin farming family and a fledgling meat company, the Parks Family and Victorian Farmstead donate $100 to the support of the Gleason Ranch. I hope you all do the same!

  2. So here is a different perspective (and a little dated as I just found this string courtesey of John Lyle). I own Victorian Farmstead Meat Co. and consider Gleason Ranch one of my biggest competitors. In fact, Nancy and I really don’t like each other that much. Nothing personal, just don’t see eye to eye business wise. Our common ground is an intense passion for the support and growth of locally raised meat. It would be in my companies best interest for Gleason Ranch to go under as it would be less competition. However that is not my interest. I find it offensive that the meat vendors at the SRFM and Sebastopol Farmers Market ae considered “local” (apologies to Salmon Creek).There is no meat raised or even sold out of Sonoma County, other than Salmon Creek. I find it offensive that Paula Downing told me that if I complained about no local meat in her markets, “she would make #$%^&* sure that I never sold in a Sonoma County market as long as I lived”. I find it offensive that one bitter woman can hold the interests of a whole county of farmers and ranchers in her hands and nobody in power will do a damn thing about it. Is it a tough job to run a farmers market? Probably so…but not as tough as as trying to beg and plead your way in to one. I live and farm less than 2 miles from the Sebastopol market, yet every Sunday I get up at 5am and drive to Moraga because “there is no room” for me at Sebastopol. Too many farmers from Potter Valley, Mendocino, etc. In my book thats not local! You know what Paula told me??? Anything raised in California is local as far as ahe is concerned….and that’s a direct quote! I wish that I could say that Nancy & Cindy are the devil and they don’t deserve your support. But the fact is, we need them. I need them! Without fair competition in a local, micro-economy, none of us have a chance long term. Heather, I applaud your support of the Gleason Ranch! And given the amount of comments your articles generate, feel free to come visit our operation some day (lol). But above all else, please direct your attention to the problem, not the symptom. Without farmers markets, none of the small local producers stand a chance. The problem is simple. There is no oversight for the management of one of our most intensley local resources, the farmers market. There are many great market managers I work with. But the one that runs the most lucrative three markets in the county has no oversight, and the only thing county about the meat sold at it is the ground they are held on. How about the county supervisors stepping in? How about a rule that the local farmer/rancher has first right to a stall? I don’t even care if the meat vendors from up north are at the same market, just let us compete! On behalf of a 3 generation Sonoma/Marin farming family and a fledgling meat company, the Parks Family and Victorian Farmstead donate $100 to the support of the Gleason Ranch. I hope you all do the same!

  3. I also am a farmer/rancher and times are tough right now for everyone but I am not playing the sympathy card and trying to raise money through newspaper stories. The price they sold the “Reggie” pig for was way above market value – alot of people raise organic free range livestock and sell it at fair market value. Does mismanagement play a part for any of the problems they are having.

    1. wow. that’s pretty unfair.
      i paid $140 for a similar pig (commercial price) through a meat distributor last year. I felt that $180 was reasonable, and that was the price i offered to pay. could i have gotten the pig cheaper? yes, but lemme tell you…there are VERY FEW ranchers who are willing to let me come out to their operation with a camera, get all up in their grill and put themselves at that kind public scrutiny (not to mention threats by vegans) — so part of the offering price was for that kind of hassle.

      Nancy didn’t ask for this article. I did it because i believe in what she and Cindy are trying to do — as do many chefs. Is it personal? Maybe a bit. I respect these women and know what they’ve been through…Are they perfect people? No. They’ve made mistakes as we all do.

      I guess I respect the fact that they’re trying their damndest to keep a family farm, do the right thing for sustainable meat (not perfect or easy) and allow the kind of open and honest dialogue that most people would shy away from. I admire that and think they deserve a shot at making the ranch work.

      i think we all need to get personal with our producers, and I do my darndest to make that happen. I’m not perfect either, and I don’t do nearly a good enough job. I actually think its a great idea to make a producer a “pet project” each year — sure, why not? Journalists are discouraged from not being objective, but when we have the power to reach so many people, i sort of feel like its ridiculous not to point out when individuals need help. Yeah, I’ve opened myself up to being wrong and being criticized. But it’s worth it to me.

      Gen, if there is something you’d like to talk to me about, please feel free to email. I’m always willing to listen.

      1. What were those threats by vegans that you so vaguely alude to Heather? Again you sully the whole name by using by using the blanket subjugation “vegan”. You have completely lost your objectivity and belong in an op/ed piece instead of an article. You are betraying the trust of people you met with and spoke to. You have been kindly introduced to good, kind people who choose to live a life of little harm to others, and yet you derrogatively stereotype them in your writing. This is shameful. I reccomend that you you either choose your words more carefully (like a reporter of merit) or remove yourself from writing articles in which your passion exceeds your ability to write responsibly.

        1. Clare. basically I can’t win coming or going. There were a contingency of people who threatened both me and nancy and it was awful. They were “radical vegans” if that’s what you want to call it but they self identified as “vegans”. But i was harassed for days until I talked to the compassionate friends and they helped me understand the kind of extremism that there is out there. I still get nastiness, and i’m kind of surprised you joined that bandwagon.

          I wrote an entire piece about how great MANY vegans are, and how compassionate and wonderful. I asked for an entire free space for them at Regatta — something others paid hundreds of dollars for. I appreciate how wonderful nan and everyone was at Regatta…i’ve said that repeatedly.i wrote about you and all the great folks i met. that still stands, but trust me, there are still nutso people out there who won’t respect my feelings or opinions despite DEMANDING i respect theirs.

          i differentiate the people i respect by identifying them as “compassionate vegans” and have done so in so many outlets and in so many ways its insane. i doubt many other “self respecting” reporters would have made the kind of major effort i did.

          it sucks that you feel the need to attack me in the way you are.

          i can take a lot of nastiness, but it really sucks when it hits that close to home.

  4. I also am a farmer/rancher and times are tough right now for everyone but I am not playing the sympathy card and trying to raise money through newspaper stories. The price they sold the “Reggie” pig for was way above market value – alot of people raise organic free range livestock and sell it at fair market value. Does mismanagement play a part for any of the problems they are having.

    1. wow. that’s pretty unfair.
      i paid $140 for a similar pig (commercial price) through a meat distributor last year. I felt that $180 was reasonable, and that was the price i offered to pay. could i have gotten the pig cheaper? yes, but lemme tell you…there are VERY FEW ranchers who are willing to let me come out to their operation with a camera, get all up in their grill and put themselves at that kind public scrutiny (not to mention threats by vegans) — so part of the offering price was for that kind of hassle.

      Nancy didn’t ask for this article. I did it because i believe in what she and Cindy are trying to do — as do many chefs. Is it personal? Maybe a bit. I respect these women and know what they’ve been through…Are they perfect people? No. They’ve made mistakes as we all do.

      I guess I respect the fact that they’re trying their damndest to keep a family farm, do the right thing for sustainable meat (not perfect or easy) and allow the kind of open and honest dialogue that most people would shy away from. I admire that and think they deserve a shot at making the ranch work.

      i think we all need to get personal with our producers, and I do my darndest to make that happen. I’m not perfect either, and I don’t do nearly a good enough job. I actually think its a great idea to make a producer a “pet project” each year — sure, why not? Journalists are discouraged from not being objective, but when we have the power to reach so many people, i sort of feel like its ridiculous not to point out when individuals need help. Yeah, I’ve opened myself up to being wrong and being criticized. But it’s worth it to me.

      Gen, if there is something you’d like to talk to me about, please feel free to email. I’m always willing to listen.

      1. What were those threats by vegans that you so vaguely alude to Heather? Again you sully the whole name by using by using the blanket subjugation “vegan”. You have completely lost your objectivity and belong in an op/ed piece instead of an article. You are betraying the trust of people you met with and spoke to. You have been kindly introduced to good, kind people who choose to live a life of little harm to others, and yet you derrogatively stereotype them in your writing. This is shameful. I reccomend that you you either choose your words more carefully (like a reporter of merit) or remove yourself from writing articles in which your passion exceeds your ability to write responsibly.

        1. Clare. basically I can’t win coming or going. There were a contingency of people who threatened both me and nancy and it was awful. They were “radical vegans” if that’s what you want to call it but they self identified as “vegans”. But i was harassed for days until I talked to the compassionate friends and they helped me understand the kind of extremism that there is out there. I still get nastiness, and i’m kind of surprised you joined that bandwagon.

          I wrote an entire piece about how great MANY vegans are, and how compassionate and wonderful. I asked for an entire free space for them at Regatta — something others paid hundreds of dollars for. I appreciate how wonderful nan and everyone was at Regatta…i’ve said that repeatedly.i wrote about you and all the great folks i met. that still stands, but trust me, there are still nutso people out there who won’t respect my feelings or opinions despite DEMANDING i respect theirs.

          i differentiate the people i respect by identifying them as “compassionate vegans” and have done so in so many outlets and in so many ways its insane. i doubt many other “self respecting” reporters would have made the kind of major effort i did.

          it sucks that you feel the need to attack me in the way you are.

          i can take a lot of nastiness, but it really sucks when it hits that close to home.

    1. Lemme know one thing that is not true. I do feel strongly about this issue and have pleaded the case for numerous restaurants and producers. I am not as a blogger required to censor my opinions though I did attempt to provide balance. I am well aware of MANY of the inside issues of the market and have stayed out of the reportage mostly because they were personal problems between individuals. I have tried in the comments to provide background to people whose perception of the market is wrong. If u want to back up your accusations you are free to contact me anytime. I talked at length to Paula about Gleason. I know the details. Do you?

      1. The srmarket is a private operation and Ms Downing is not their first manager.
        The purpose of the certified market is to allow farmers to sell items unboxed.
        and in assorted weights. Each item is supposed to be certified by the county agricultural dept as grown on that farm

        The market is a membership organization and vendors who are members have
        certain rights. The market rents space from the county but it is not a county or city entity. It is as if Oliver’s were a pop up store. Would you go to Oliver’s and expect to be told how they picked their vendors or gave them shelf space

        It’s not a first come first serve for vendors and there are requirements for selling.
        The health dept also has strict requirements including stepping up inspections since the market increased the number of vendors with meat and poultry or vendors with one product but also selling a taste or prepared version.

        The market has grown considerably in the last few years because there are so many more small producers of all kinds of things. But it takes more than a good product to be a good candidate as a vendor. You have to show up have stock and follow the rules each and every time you are scheduled to sell. You also have to work well with the others who sell in the same market.

        What transparency are you talking about?
        .

        1. con’t

          Many of the rules the market must follow are established by the state law and regulations that allowed farmers to sell direct to consumers including the way the market is laid out.

          Meat , seafood, and poultry are not certified items.

          There is no requirement for items to be grown in Sonoma County, just certified by the ag dept of the county where the farm is located.

          1. Hoping to chat with u in person. This has become too much about market operations and not about Gleason. I think it’s worth a follow up story about the market but I stand by the general details I talked about previously. We are starting to delve into minutae that isn’t part of this story. And why I’ve siad in the past the trying to unravel the market politics is really challenging. I look forward to an offline and frank discussion

    2. Come on, Heather went out of her way to be fair to Paula. I sell at her markets, can’t use my name in public. I knew people kicked out for being rude to Paula.No proof just Paula’s say so. If you didn’t vote for her raise or to have her come back in the market she calls us disloyal when nobody is listening. She figures that’s rude.I go to 4 other markets and their normal and mostly fair not like this one. Even if you sell at Paula’s markets you can’t be a member until its okay with her, then you have no rights. The other markets give member applications that go right to the board of directors. This one’s rigged coming and going. I wish I didn’t have to go to her markets but need the money.

    1. Lemme know one thing that is not true. I do feel strongly about this issue and have pleaded the case for numerous restaurants and producers. I am not as a blogger required to censor my opinions though I did attempt to provide balance. I am well aware of MANY of the inside issues of the market and have stayed out of the reportage mostly because they were personal problems between individuals. I have tried in the comments to provide background to people whose perception of the market is wrong. If u want to back up your accusations you are free to contact me anytime. I talked at length to Paula about Gleason. I know the details. Do you?

      1. The srmarket is a private operation and Ms Downing is not their first manager.
        The purpose of the certified market is to allow farmers to sell items unboxed.
        and in assorted weights. Each item is supposed to be certified by the county agricultural dept as grown on that farm

        The market is a membership organization and vendors who are members have
        certain rights. The market rents space from the county but it is not a county or city entity. It is as if Oliver’s were a pop up store. Would you go to Oliver’s and expect to be told how they picked their vendors or gave them shelf space

        It’s not a first come first serve for vendors and there are requirements for selling.
        The health dept also has strict requirements including stepping up inspections since the market increased the number of vendors with meat and poultry or vendors with one product but also selling a taste or prepared version.

        The market has grown considerably in the last few years because there are so many more small producers of all kinds of things. But it takes more than a good product to be a good candidate as a vendor. You have to show up have stock and follow the rules each and every time you are scheduled to sell. You also have to work well with the others who sell in the same market.

        What transparency are you talking about?
        .

        1. con’t

          Many of the rules the market must follow are established by the state law and regulations that allowed farmers to sell direct to consumers including the way the market is laid out.

          Meat , seafood, and poultry are not certified items.

          There is no requirement for items to be grown in Sonoma County, just certified by the ag dept of the county where the farm is located.

          1. Hoping to chat with u in person. This has become too much about market operations and not about Gleason. I think it’s worth a follow up story about the market but I stand by the general details I talked about previously. We are starting to delve into minutae that isn’t part of this story. And why I’ve siad in the past the trying to unravel the market politics is really challenging. I look forward to an offline and frank discussion

    2. Come on, Heather went out of her way to be fair to Paula. I sell at her markets, can’t use my name in public. I knew people kicked out for being rude to Paula.No proof just Paula’s say so. If you didn’t vote for her raise or to have her come back in the market she calls us disloyal when nobody is listening. She figures that’s rude.I go to 4 other markets and their normal and mostly fair not like this one. Even if you sell at Paula’s markets you can’t be a member until its okay with her, then you have no rights. The other markets give member applications that go right to the board of directors. This one’s rigged coming and going. I wish I didn’t have to go to her markets but need the money.

  5. My family and I have begun buying our produce elsewhere after this. We’ll come back to the SRFM when Gleason is reinstated.

    To the sad, anonymous Vegan, animals are tasty and for everyone you save, I will eat two.

  6. My family and I have begun buying our produce elsewhere after this. We’ll come back to the SRFM when Gleason is reinstated.

    To the sad, anonymous Vegan, animals are tasty and for everyone you save, I will eat two.

  7. I wish both Cindy and Nancy the best of luck! I know what this ranch means to the family and our entire community and how hard they all work everyday to keep it going. With the loss of both their parents within 6 months of each other this year they have struggled to overcome so much! My prayers and love are with you!
    Kim Titone

  8. So what’s the current status of Gleason Ranch’s involvement at the SRFM? Didn’t Downing resign or get fired a while ago? That seems like the quickest way to make a recovery if it was actually $100k/year in sales there. How about other farmer’s markets? I hope they can hang in there, good luck!

    1. Good Question, Vince. I was wondering the same thing… I have, in the meantime, been “boycotting” the Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market.

      1. So i can tell you what I know — Paula was reinstated by members of a fractured board that regrouped after ousting her. The board went through a lot of major changes last year, and Nancy and her sister were among those who were very vocal about their concerns about how the market was run and went head to head with Paula on a number of issues.

        Over the past year, I’ve tried my darndest to get to the bottom of the rift between many longtime vendors and the market, and frankly, am still scratching my head because there don’t seem to be a lot of clear “rights” and “wrongs”.

        What I personally think is that here is something to be said for the years of service that Paula has given to the market and her experience as market manager for both Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. She has been here since the beginning. Running the market is a lot like herding cats and it is inevitable that someone will get their feelings hurt, someone’s feeling left out, someone’s upset, etc. I don’t envy anyone having to deal with that, and folks don’t always understand the delicate balance of having to run the market and deal with the public and the vendors.

        On the other hand, from what I’ve seen at a couple of board meetings and heard from the contingency of people who want to see change, there is a need for the market to evolve. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of transparency in how its run and i think many folks have a legitimate gripe about wanting to see that happen. The increasing demand for markets, local produce and farm-fresh goods have put a spotlight on what has for many years been a charmingly homegrown operation. In my opinion, it now needs clearer business acumen to sustain itself and its farmers. That rift is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by Prebilich against Downing and the market.

        In an ideal world, the market would be able to support both a business manager and a market manager and pay them good wages. But in the real world, that isn’t always possible.

        I can’t say i think boycotting is fair, because that hurts the farmers more than it hurts the market itself. What needs to happen is a continued demand by the public and the farmers to have transparency in how the organization is run. There is increasing frustration with the Santa Rosa market on many levels, and I think that consumer demand will sway how it ultimately changes.

        Nancy is selling in healdsburg, but Paula runs both Sebastopol and Santa Rosa which were the closest markets to Gleason.

        1. Wow, thanks for all the background! Your point of view seems very level-headed, as usual, Heather. No one wants to hurt our local producers, obviously. I wish there was a way the market could include more people and encourage even more local business. Perhaps if this other market that is supposed go in across from the fairgrounds ever coalesces there will be more room for more vendors plus more permanent space for established businesses like Gleason to have their own storefront. We can always hope! Thanks again for another informative article. Like many have said, these issues are extremely important to our community.

          1. Yeah, that big project is dead. I think people would like to see more diversity, but that’s where I don’t envy Paula’s job.

            You want corn and tomatoes in july? Well, they aren’t in season here, so purveyors from the central valley have to come in. There’s also a hierarchy on vendors who have been there a long time versus newcomers (which sucks, but is understandable) and they try to keep out vendors who are doing too much of the same thing (ie: if there’s already one honey guy, there probably isn’t room for another).

            So already, you’ve got a lot of frustration with people who want in but can’t get in. Add to that all the “gentlemen” farmers which include wineries and “project” farms that don’t rely on agriculture to pay the bills. The market does try to give first dibs to people who are farmers for a living. That pisses off certain people, too (talk to Dan Smith sometime).

            boy. maybe i should write an article about all this. I was supposed to do a huge market story for the fall Savor, but i didn’t publish this season, so i never did it. hmmmm.

  9. I wish both Cindy and Nancy the best of luck! I know what this ranch means to the family and our entire community and how hard they all work everyday to keep it going. With the loss of both their parents within 6 months of each other this year they have struggled to overcome so much! My prayers and love are with you!
    Kim Titone

  10. So what’s the current status of Gleason Ranch’s involvement at the SRFM? Didn’t Downing resign or get fired a while ago? That seems like the quickest way to make a recovery if it was actually $100k/year in sales there. How about other farmer’s markets? I hope they can hang in there, good luck!

    1. Good Question, Vince. I was wondering the same thing… I have, in the meantime, been “boycotting” the Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market.

      1. So i can tell you what I know — Paula was reinstated by members of a fractured board that regrouped after ousting her. The board went through a lot of major changes last year, and Nancy and her sister were among those who were very vocal about their concerns about how the market was run and went head to head with Paula on a number of issues.

        Over the past year, I’ve tried my darndest to get to the bottom of the rift between many longtime vendors and the market, and frankly, am still scratching my head because there don’t seem to be a lot of clear “rights” and “wrongs”.

        What I personally think is that here is something to be said for the years of service that Paula has given to the market and her experience as market manager for both Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. She has been here since the beginning. Running the market is a lot like herding cats and it is inevitable that someone will get their feelings hurt, someone’s feeling left out, someone’s upset, etc. I don’t envy anyone having to deal with that, and folks don’t always understand the delicate balance of having to run the market and deal with the public and the vendors.

        On the other hand, from what I’ve seen at a couple of board meetings and heard from the contingency of people who want to see change, there is a need for the market to evolve. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of transparency in how its run and i think many folks have a legitimate gripe about wanting to see that happen. The increasing demand for markets, local produce and farm-fresh goods have put a spotlight on what has for many years been a charmingly homegrown operation. In my opinion, it now needs clearer business acumen to sustain itself and its farmers. That rift is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by Prebilich against Downing and the market.

        In an ideal world, the market would be able to support both a business manager and a market manager and pay them good wages. But in the real world, that isn’t always possible.

        I can’t say i think boycotting is fair, because that hurts the farmers more than it hurts the market itself. What needs to happen is a continued demand by the public and the farmers to have transparency in how the organization is run. There is increasing frustration with the Santa Rosa market on many levels, and I think that consumer demand will sway how it ultimately changes.

        Nancy is selling in healdsburg, but Paula runs both Sebastopol and Santa Rosa which were the closest markets to Gleason.

        1. Wow, thanks for all the background! Your point of view seems very level-headed, as usual, Heather. No one wants to hurt our local producers, obviously. I wish there was a way the market could include more people and encourage even more local business. Perhaps if this other market that is supposed go in across from the fairgrounds ever coalesces there will be more room for more vendors plus more permanent space for established businesses like Gleason to have their own storefront. We can always hope! Thanks again for another informative article. Like many have said, these issues are extremely important to our community.

          1. Yeah, that big project is dead. I think people would like to see more diversity, but that’s where I don’t envy Paula’s job.

            You want corn and tomatoes in july? Well, they aren’t in season here, so purveyors from the central valley have to come in. There’s also a hierarchy on vendors who have been there a long time versus newcomers (which sucks, but is understandable) and they try to keep out vendors who are doing too much of the same thing (ie: if there’s already one honey guy, there probably isn’t room for another).

            So already, you’ve got a lot of frustration with people who want in but can’t get in. Add to that all the “gentlemen” farmers which include wineries and “project” farms that don’t rely on agriculture to pay the bills. The market does try to give first dibs to people who are farmers for a living. That pisses off certain people, too (talk to Dan Smith sometime).

            boy. maybe i should write an article about all this. I was supposed to do a huge market story for the fall Savor, but i didn’t publish this season, so i never did it. hmmmm.

  11. Dear Nancy and Cindy,
    May God give you…For every storm, a rainbow, for every tear, a smile, for every care, a promise, and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer (keeping ranch and preventing foreclosure).

    To the Community:
    Please support Nancy and Carol with a financial donation or by purchasing their products. Any financial support will be appreciated. Do a good deed and support your local farms and ranches (currently Nancy and Carol).

    To ” Are You Kidding:”
    You would do the community and world a favor if you kept your hypocritical views to yourself. What’s your name stranger and where are you from? You say you’re part of the community so why don’t you share your name? Do you raise crops in the area? If so what? Do you ever give back to the community? If so how? I also don’t mean the world community and only mean supporting the local Sonoma County community and specifically the West County Bodega area. Your true selfish character shows through your reply as you make a personal attack on Nancy and Cindy and then hide behind a computer. I recommend you pack your bags and move out of town. Bad neighbors like yourself aren’t wanted or needed in the area. If you don’t move out, then you owe Nancy and Cindy a hand written personal apology for your inappropriate reply. Blood, sweat, and tears have gone into that ranch and all you can say is, “I hope you do lose your operations.” You better hope and pray this doesn’t happen to them. Unfortunately people like you don’t help find solutions but only cause more problems.

    Regards,
    Andrew F. Ryan

  12. I’m fairly certain that no one really understands just how hard each and every member of the Gleason ranch family works to keep the ranch moving forward. I am constantly amazed at the effort put forth from each of them, even the little ones. It’s a hard job. One that requires so very many different skill sets. From land management, to animal husbandry, from knowledge of building and repairs to making the dollars make sense, from weathering the whims of mother nature to wooing chefs and restauranteurs. I couldn’t do half of what Cindy and Nancy manage in a typical day.
    Every member of that family is wholeheartedly committed to the task at hand even when facing what seem like unbeatable odds. If anyone deserves support, it’s this family. They have proven themselves warriors in their field and they certainly have my respect. Now, if only cupcakes and pies could save the ranch I’d be more helpful.

  13. Upon reflection. I realize the column is a fundraising letter so can’t dispute a pr effort. It is what it is.
    But it doesn’t take too much to see why this outfit is in trouble

    Getting help from Dan Smith, who owns French Garden — not to be mean ..but isn’t this the guy who can’t keep a chef or other staff

    The ranch’s biggest distributor, The Sonoma County Meat Buying Club, disbanded officially last year (though it has been resurrected in part without the Gleasons), causing distribution issues. — again just a question — why aren’t they included anymore They seem to have problems with organizations

    The first regular meat distribution through farmers markets was done by the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club and a few meat producers who wanted to vend themselves got the Meat Club kicked out the markets it does seem what goes around comes around

    1. The problem at the SRFM began long before the Gleason’s began raising questions. They are simply the latest in a long line of vendors who have clashed with Paula Downing over ethical issues. In fact, the entire previous Board resigned in protest after serious and longstanding problems with Ms. Downing. If you’re looking for a pattern of behavior, I suggest you start by examining Ms. Downing’s letters & e-mails….beginning with her letter to Sheana Davis in 2009.

      Making veiled character accusations is easy. Putting the facts before a judge requires a deep commitment to the truth, which is why I support Gleason Ranch.

      1. “Making veiled character accusations is easy. Putting the facts before a judge requires a deep commitment to the truth, which is why I support Gleason Ranch”

        or people looking to work the judicial system and know that it is often cheaper to settle

        Speaking of veiled accusations
        “.beginning with her letter to Sheana Davis in 2009.” Is that a public document

        1. It is a public document. I read it at a County office and I believe it can be viewed at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.

          As for working the judicial system, I’ve done business with the Gleason’s for years & I think time will prove that isn’t the case here.

  14. They might want to collect all the money Sonoma Direct owes them as well

    If the food community is serious about supporting enterprise such as this — someone should buy the Fulton processing plant so that all the chicken production in the county has a place to go

    There has been a great explosion in the number of small meat producers in this area — people raising animals safely and humanely and resources that benefit all of them such as packing houses close to the county are necessary.

  15. Dear Nancy and Cindy,
    May God give you…For every storm, a rainbow, for every tear, a smile, for every care, a promise, and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer (keeping ranch and preventing foreclosure).

    To the Community:
    Please support Nancy and Carol with a financial donation or by purchasing their products. Any financial support will be appreciated. Do a good deed and support your local farms and ranches (currently Nancy and Carol).

    To ” Are You Kidding:”
    You would do the community and world a favor if you kept your hypocritical views to yourself. What’s your name stranger and where are you from? You say you’re part of the community so why don’t you share your name? Do you raise crops in the area? If so what? Do you ever give back to the community? If so how? I also don’t mean the world community and only mean supporting the local Sonoma County community and specifically the West County Bodega area. Your true selfish character shows through your reply as you make a personal attack on Nancy and Cindy and then hide behind a computer. I recommend you pack your bags and move out of town. Bad neighbors like yourself aren’t wanted or needed in the area. If you don’t move out, then you owe Nancy and Cindy a hand written personal apology for your inappropriate reply. Blood, sweat, and tears have gone into that ranch and all you can say is, “I hope you do lose your operations.” You better hope and pray this doesn’t happen to them. Unfortunately people like you don’t help find solutions but only cause more problems.

    Regards,
    Andrew F. Ryan

  16. Dear Nancy and Cindy,
    May God give you…For every storm, a rainbow, for every tear, a smile, for every care, a promise, and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer (keeping ranch and preventing foreclosure).

    To the Community:
    Please support Nancy and Carol with a financial donation or by purchasing their products. Any financial support will be appreciated. Do a good deed and support your local farms and ranches (currently Nancy and Carol).

    To ” Are You Kidding:”
    You would do the community and world a favor if you kept your hypocritical views to yourself. What’s your name stranger and where are you from? You say you’re part of the community so why don’t you share your name? Do you raise crops in the area? If so what? Do you ever give back to the community? If so how? I also don’t mean the world community and only mean supporting the local Sonoma County community and specifically the West County Bodega area. Your true selfish character shows through your reply as you make a personal attack on Nancy and Cindy and then hide behind a computer. I recommend you pack your bags and move out of town. Bad neighbors like yourself aren’t wanted or needed in the area. If you don’t move out, then you owe Nancy and Cindy a hand written personal apology for your inappropriate reply. Blood, sweat, and tears have gone into that ranch and all you can say is, “I hope you do lose your operations.” You better hope and pray this doesn’t happen to them. Unfortunately people like you don’t help find solutions but only cause more problems.

    Regards,
    Andrew F. Ryan

  17. to:are you kidding: the veggie fraud has people taking so many supplements and figuring out how to get specific nutrients that claims of health and happiness are bogus. The veggie world is filled with scammers who slap healthy labels on anything. It also supports illegal aliens that compete with legal workers, and many health problems rise from lack of toilet facilities to these workers who then use the fields and plants as their toilets.

    your meanspiritedness is probably from your lack of complete nutrients. That pasta like substances are the primary food source for vegans with pasta like veggies close behind. Many of us are pasta sensitive and we can claim with a straight face that meat is essential for us and that trying to stigmatize meat owners is onerous. This is not the meat packing industry here. This is local farming typical to historical roots, with many small ranchers providing food to the area users. Most people in the area support this type of food ndustry. It not only provides healthy food, as the money stays in the area and keeps getting re-used in the area, it provides for open land its preservation.

    There are very few real negatives to say about this business other than it needs to learn how to survive and not get people mad at it.

  18. @Are You Kidding – It’s not difficult at all to have sympathy, unless you’re a judgmental, hateful person who insists on pushing your lifestyle on others. You obviously don’t read the Bible, or you’d at least have heard about not judging others, lest you be judged. You didn’t read the article, or you’d understand that it was their parents who started the farm…
    You’re seriously HOPING that they fail? You’re too stupid to realize that if they do fail, that some corporation will step in and provide the meat anyway, and that all the success you would have achieved is to further hurt our local economy.
    You seem to conveniently skip over the part of the article which states that they had to reduce operations in order to control overcrowding…is that NOT a humane way of raising animals?
    I wonder how you can sleep at night knowing that you wish harm on a fellow human being? How is that any different than what you accuse them of doing? Being so harsh and judgmental must take a lot out of you.

  19. Cindy,

    Best of luck to you and your sister Nancy. Contrary to popular belief (AreYouKidding) many restaurants and markets need these types of operations to keep their businesses running. You seem to have a great following and I know you will get great support from our “Ag Community.”

    Kari

  20. It is very difficult to have any sympathy here, You chose to use your land to profit from the slaughter of all those innocent animals, and now you beg the community to help save you? I will make a donation….to the Animal Legal Defense Fund or other such organization, in your honor. With all due respect, I hope that you do lose your operations. Sell your land and move on to another industry not based in death. You have no right to deprive those animals of their lives. I am part of this community and while I am sorry that you are facing financial hardship, I am not sorry that you face the possibility of having to stop harming those animals. There is no such thing as humane slaughter – it’s a big lie people tell themselves in order to sleep at night with their bellies filled with animal flesh. Transform your operations into farming sustainable crops or some other peaceful use, and I would be delighted to donate.

      1. Frankly, I say release her email. It’s required for this site. Nothing grates my cheese more than people who think that they have power or testicular fortitude due to the fact no one knows who they are.

      2. Heather-
        I am disapointed that you use the wording “another angry vegan”. I had been impressed with your being non-judgemental, but this is stereotyping. Insert any word after “another angry” and you stereotype whatever comes after it. This seems unprofessional, especially on your own blog. You have your own causes. Vegans are generally a merciful group, who want to see animals being allowed to live and breathe along with us, insead of killing them. Surely you can afford others with a passionate desire for mercy to have space on your blog without snarking at them.

    1. WOW…are you kidding me? Eating meat (protein) is essential to a carnivore’s diet and has been going on since the beginning of man. You vegans/vegetarians/animal lovers are a bunch of hateful terrorists. These two people are providing food for those of us who eat meat. How dare you attack a natural need as eating meat. Someone has to raise and slaughter animals and from what I have gathered from this article these two women are providing an essential service. Get over yourself!

    2. Well have you ever heard a tomato plant scream in agony when you rip that ripe fruit off? No you say, hmm maybe because you choose not to so you can sleep at night? Did that innocent plant want you to come along and eat it, or put it to slave labor just so you could harvest it? Plants are living things, or did you conveniently forget ?

      Good luck with your diet of water, air and peace of mind

      Let me guess, you are against harvesting trees but yet you live in a wooden home?

      I hope you loose your sanity but I think you already did

  21. I’m fairly certain that no one really understands just how hard each and every member of the Gleason ranch family works to keep the ranch moving forward. I am constantly amazed at the effort put forth from each of them, even the little ones. It’s a hard job. One that requires so very many different skill sets. From land management, to animal husbandry, from knowledge of building and repairs to making the dollars make sense, from weathering the whims of mother nature to wooing chefs and restauranteurs. I couldn’t do half of what Cindy and Nancy manage in a typical day.
    Every member of that family is wholeheartedly committed to the task at hand even when facing what seem like unbeatable odds. If anyone deserves support, it’s this family. They have proven themselves warriors in their field and they certainly have my respect. Now, if only cupcakes and pies could save the ranch I’d be more helpful.

  22. I’m fairly certain that no one really understands just how hard each and every member of the Gleason ranch family works to keep the ranch moving forward. I am constantly amazed at the effort put forth from each of them, even the little ones. It’s a hard job. One that requires so very many different skill sets. From land management, to animal husbandry, from knowledge of building and repairs to making the dollars make sense, from weathering the whims of mother nature to wooing chefs and restauranteurs. I couldn’t do half of what Cindy and Nancy manage in a typical day.
    Every member of that family is wholeheartedly committed to the task at hand even when facing what seem like unbeatable odds. If anyone deserves support, it’s this family. They have proven themselves warriors in their field and they certainly have my respect. Now, if only cupcakes and pies could save the ranch I’d be more helpful.

  23. Upon reflection. I realize the column is a fundraising letter so can’t dispute a pr effort. It is what it is.
    But it doesn’t take too much to see why this outfit is in trouble

    Getting help from Dan Smith, who owns French Garden — not to be mean ..but isn’t this the guy who can’t keep a chef or other staff

    The ranch’s biggest distributor, The Sonoma County Meat Buying Club, disbanded officially last year (though it has been resurrected in part without the Gleasons), causing distribution issues. — again just a question — why aren’t they included anymore They seem to have problems with organizations

    The first regular meat distribution through farmers markets was done by the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club and a few meat producers who wanted to vend themselves got the Meat Club kicked out the markets it does seem what goes around comes around

    1. The problem at the SRFM began long before the Gleason’s began raising questions. They are simply the latest in a long line of vendors who have clashed with Paula Downing over ethical issues. In fact, the entire previous Board resigned in protest after serious and longstanding problems with Ms. Downing. If you’re looking for a pattern of behavior, I suggest you start by examining Ms. Downing’s letters & e-mails….beginning with her letter to Sheana Davis in 2009.

      Making veiled character accusations is easy. Putting the facts before a judge requires a deep commitment to the truth, which is why I support Gleason Ranch.

      1. “Making veiled character accusations is easy. Putting the facts before a judge requires a deep commitment to the truth, which is why I support Gleason Ranch”

        or people looking to work the judicial system and know that it is often cheaper to settle

        Speaking of veiled accusations
        “.beginning with her letter to Sheana Davis in 2009.” Is that a public document

        1. It is a public document. I read it at a County office and I believe it can be viewed at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.

          As for working the judicial system, I’ve done business with the Gleason’s for years & I think time will prove that isn’t the case here.

  24. They might want to collect all the money Sonoma Direct owes them as well

    If the food community is serious about supporting enterprise such as this — someone should buy the Fulton processing plant so that all the chicken production in the county has a place to go

    There has been a great explosion in the number of small meat producers in this area — people raising animals safely and humanely and resources that benefit all of them such as packing houses close to the county are necessary.

  25. to:are you kidding: the veggie fraud has people taking so many supplements and figuring out how to get specific nutrients that claims of health and happiness are bogus. The veggie world is filled with scammers who slap healthy labels on anything. It also supports illegal aliens that compete with legal workers, and many health problems rise from lack of toilet facilities to these workers who then use the fields and plants as their toilets.

    your meanspiritedness is probably from your lack of complete nutrients. That pasta like substances are the primary food source for vegans with pasta like veggies close behind. Many of us are pasta sensitive and we can claim with a straight face that meat is essential for us and that trying to stigmatize meat owners is onerous. This is not the meat packing industry here. This is local farming typical to historical roots, with many small ranchers providing food to the area users. Most people in the area support this type of food ndustry. It not only provides healthy food, as the money stays in the area and keeps getting re-used in the area, it provides for open land its preservation.

    There are very few real negatives to say about this business other than it needs to learn how to survive and not get people mad at it.

  26. @Are You Kidding – It’s not difficult at all to have sympathy, unless you’re a judgmental, hateful person who insists on pushing your lifestyle on others. You obviously don’t read the Bible, or you’d at least have heard about not judging others, lest you be judged. You didn’t read the article, or you’d understand that it was their parents who started the farm…
    You’re seriously HOPING that they fail? You’re too stupid to realize that if they do fail, that some corporation will step in and provide the meat anyway, and that all the success you would have achieved is to further hurt our local economy.
    You seem to conveniently skip over the part of the article which states that they had to reduce operations in order to control overcrowding…is that NOT a humane way of raising animals?
    I wonder how you can sleep at night knowing that you wish harm on a fellow human being? How is that any different than what you accuse them of doing? Being so harsh and judgmental must take a lot out of you.

  27. @Are You Kidding – It’s not difficult at all to have sympathy, unless you’re a judgmental, hateful person who insists on pushing your lifestyle on others. You obviously don’t read the Bible, or you’d at least have heard about not judging others, lest you be judged. You didn’t read the article, or you’d understand that it was their parents who started the farm…
    You’re seriously HOPING that they fail? You’re too stupid to realize that if they do fail, that some corporation will step in and provide the meat anyway, and that all the success you would have achieved is to further hurt our local economy.
    You seem to conveniently skip over the part of the article which states that they had to reduce operations in order to control overcrowding…is that NOT a humane way of raising animals?
    I wonder how you can sleep at night knowing that you wish harm on a fellow human being? How is that any different than what you accuse them of doing? Being so harsh and judgmental must take a lot out of you.

  28. Cindy,

    Best of luck to you and your sister Nancy. Contrary to popular belief (AreYouKidding) many restaurants and markets need these types of operations to keep their businesses running. You seem to have a great following and I know you will get great support from our “Ag Community.”

    Kari

  29. Cindy,

    Best of luck to you and your sister Nancy. Contrary to popular belief (AreYouKidding) many restaurants and markets need these types of operations to keep their businesses running. You seem to have a great following and I know you will get great support from our “Ag Community.”

    Kari

  30. It is very difficult to have any sympathy here, You chose to use your land to profit from the slaughter of all those innocent animals, and now you beg the community to help save you? I will make a donation….to the Animal Legal Defense Fund or other such organization, in your honor. With all due respect, I hope that you do lose your operations. Sell your land and move on to another industry not based in death. You have no right to deprive those animals of their lives. I am part of this community and while I am sorry that you are facing financial hardship, I am not sorry that you face the possibility of having to stop harming those animals. There is no such thing as humane slaughter – it’s a big lie people tell themselves in order to sleep at night with their bellies filled with animal flesh. Transform your operations into farming sustainable crops or some other peaceful use, and I would be delighted to donate.

  31. It is very difficult to have any sympathy here, You chose to use your land to profit from the slaughter of all those innocent animals, and now you beg the community to help save you? I will make a donation….to the Animal Legal Defense Fund or other such organization, in your honor. With all due respect, I hope that you do lose your operations. Sell your land and move on to another industry not based in death. You have no right to deprive those animals of their lives. I am part of this community and while I am sorry that you are facing financial hardship, I am not sorry that you face the possibility of having to stop harming those animals. There is no such thing as humane slaughter – it’s a big lie people tell themselves in order to sleep at night with their bellies filled with animal flesh. Transform your operations into farming sustainable crops or some other peaceful use, and I would be delighted to donate.

      1. Frankly, I say release her email. It’s required for this site. Nothing grates my cheese more than people who think that they have power or testicular fortitude due to the fact no one knows who they are.

      2. Heather-
        I am disapointed that you use the wording “another angry vegan”. I had been impressed with your being non-judgemental, but this is stereotyping. Insert any word after “another angry” and you stereotype whatever comes after it. This seems unprofessional, especially on your own blog. You have your own causes. Vegans are generally a merciful group, who want to see animals being allowed to live and breathe along with us, insead of killing them. Surely you can afford others with a passionate desire for mercy to have space on your blog without snarking at them.

    1. WOW…are you kidding me? Eating meat (protein) is essential to a carnivore’s diet and has been going on since the beginning of man. You vegans/vegetarians/animal lovers are a bunch of hateful terrorists. These two people are providing food for those of us who eat meat. How dare you attack a natural need as eating meat. Someone has to raise and slaughter animals and from what I have gathered from this article these two women are providing an essential service. Get over yourself!

    2. Well have you ever heard a tomato plant scream in agony when you rip that ripe fruit off? No you say, hmm maybe because you choose not to so you can sleep at night? Did that innocent plant want you to come along and eat it, or put it to slave labor just so you could harvest it? Plants are living things, or did you conveniently forget ?

      Good luck with your diet of water, air and peace of mind

      Let me guess, you are against harvesting trees but yet you live in a wooden home?

      I hope you loose your sanity but I think you already did

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