Interview: Anya Fernald (Belcampo Meat Co. + Home Cooked)

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Food Entrepreneur California


JL: What are the limits to Belcampo? Any chance to expand acreage or beyond California?

AF: Definitely. We’re looking to add farmland right now. We’re going to be adding a grain farm in the near future because the irrigation limits to scaling pork are pretty significant. Right now, a small amount of chicken and pork meat comes from our farm, but we don’t have a lot of irrigated land. I want to do 100% of our own grain production. We can feed all our pork and poultry from our farm. That’s one big area for me.

In terms of being beyond California, I like the idea of doing that, but there is so much market for us in California, and we’re committed to not being a huge company. We’re committed to getting 30,000 square feet of real estate in operation in California. Right now we’re at about 12,000 square feet. We’ll be a little bit more than double of what we are. I don’t want to get to 100,000 square feet. I don’t think we’ll do well at that scale. I would love to help other people start something similar in another area, and not just take this bigger and bigger and dilute it further.

JL: How has the draught affected expansion, if at all?

AF: The draught has just basically made my life suck. It didn’t really affect expansion, since we already committed to the leases. It just made me burn more money. It was a problem that money solves. We had to buy more hay.

JL: Do you have to buy more water too?

AF: No, we’re not in an area where you can buy water. We don’t work off the irrigation district. We work off rainfall. All the water rights people are buying, that’s all in the Central Valley where you’ve got big pipes of water coming in, and people pay for those spigots. Where we are, it’s whatever God gives you, and that’s about it. There’s not enough agriculture around there for people to organize an irrigation district.

JL: Getting back to one thing you mentioned earlier, the notion that mutton doesn’t sell that well. What do you think it would take to get goat and lamb meat more respect?

AF: I don’t know. If I knew, I would have done it. It’s not anything for us to sell. This is where, in my own life, it’s not that I’ve had to admit defeat, but there are things that I can change, and things that I can’t change. I can spend a lot of money and time fighting the fight of getting people to eat goat, but that’s not really the fight that I need to win. So kind of accepting that and moving on is the key to my own sanity. It’s frustrating.

JL: What about turkey? It’s just so associated with the holidays.

AF: Turkey’s been doing great. People like turkey ground. That’s the key. Five years ago, we had a huge turkey theft on our farm. Our poults were stolen live, which is crazy. We don’t know why, it’s never happened before. In any case, we had to go outside, because a lot of our facility was damaged in the theft. We outsourced to BN Ranch for a couple years and now we’re in-sourcing again because we’ve seen huge growth in turkey. I’ve been surprised that nobody likes goat, because for me, goat’s like a better lamb. Lamb is an East Coast thing, people like it more, but I’ll take goat over lamb any day.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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