A Lesson on Real Food and Where is Comes From
Fallon Hills Ranch is a small, family-run ranch that straddles to boarder of Sonoma and Marin Counties west of Petaluma. California. With 2 young children, Kevin and Erika Maloney have introduced the 6th generation to their family’s ranch, which dates back into the 1800’s.
Offering naturally raised beef, pork, lamb, chicken and rabbit to conscientious consumers throughout the Bay Area, the Maloneys’ approach to food production hearkens back to a bygone era, where neighbors helped each other through good times and bad.
They were not looking to get rich, but simply wanted to provide real food for their family, selling their surplus in town and shipping any excess to the greater Bay Area.
Following this same model, Fallon Hills Ranch offers both standard and custom order cuts for pick-up at the ranch, at pre-planned delivery locations in Petaluma and at Bay Area farmers’ markets.
“We try to offer standard cuts week in and week out,” Kevin Maloney said. “But we also do some seasonal stuff, like London Broil in the summer for grilling, and Top Round in the winter for roasting.”
Mr. Maloney studied agriculture at SRJC before moving on to CalPoly San Luis Obispo, where he majored in animal husbandry. Wanting to get back into the farm life, Mr. Maloney left school early to pursue a career with a dairy equipment company and later a dairy feed ingredient company.
But, in Y 2010, he returned to his ancestral home and started Fallon Hills Ranch, hoping to make a business of his hobby of raising animals. Initially the business supplied Bay Area restaurants with high-quality meat, but it has since turned its attention to direct sales of his food to the more discerning home chefs around the Bay Area through local farmers’ markets and direct sales.
I spent much of my childhood among the ranches that dot the Petaluma countryside, sometimes helping my friends with chores, sometimes fishing their stock ponds, and sometimes just enjoying a good home-cooked Italian dinner.
No stranger to ranch life, I jumped at the rare opportunity to attend a Fallon Hills Ranch tour a few weeks ago on one of the warm Indian Summer afternoons.
The crowd was an equal mix of Maloney’s fellow farmers, like childhood friends Rob and Debbie Royer, who supply Mr. Maloney with his pork, and regular farmers’ market customers from throughout the Bay Area.
Compared to the Maloney’s, growing up in Penngrove on 1/4-acre with a few chickens and a pig makes me a city slicker. But flanked by these city folks, costumed up in their best country western boots, hats and plaid shirts, I actually felt like a bona fide local.
After playing with piglets, snacking on charcuterie, cheese and smoked salmon, and topping off our wine and beer glasses, we followed Mr. Maloney down the driveway for the start of the tour. He is completely at ease explaining the intricacies of land and livestock management.
He speaks with an expertise about food that one would expect from a nuclear physicist or rocket scientist, not a rancher, but that is because most people do not understand what is involved in raising livestock for food, especially when dealing with naturally raised livestock.
We learned how different animals and even different breeds within a species process feed differently and how Fallon Hills Ranch can take advantage of natural distinctions in mating patterns.
Mr. Maloney explained that by choosing breeds that grow slower than those chosen by factory farms, by feeding them grass, instead of filler, and by raising them on open fields instead of feed lots, he not only offers his livestock a better life, but offers consumers more flavorful and nutritious meats.
Fallon Hills Ranch offers everything from beef jerky to sausages to eggs to bacon jam to quarters, halves and whole animals, along with your regular everyday cuts of meat.
Currently customers can pick up a selection of sausages from the cooler at Charley’s Deli in Petaluma.
Although offering a broader selection at Bay Area farmers’ markets, locals are advised to contact Mr. Maloney directly at [email protected] to place a direct order, which can either be picked up, or arrangements can be made for in-town delivery.
Although pricier, Fallon Hills Ranch is in a completely different class of protein than what one finds in the grocery store.
Home chefs will want to tone down their herbs and spices in order to allow the natural flavors of Fallon Hills meats to come through loud and deliciously clear.
Raised naturally, on a historic local ranch, by 6th generation natives, Fallon Hills Ranch offers food products that is far superior in every way to what we normally consume, and is yet another example of how Petaluma is helping to set the standard when it comes to local culinary delights.
“Really, at the end of the day, we farm grass,” Kevin Maloney noted. “Protein is just a byproduct.”
By Houston Porter/Argus-Courier
Paul Ebeling, Editor