It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Let me start with a massive “THANK YOU”. I’m a longtime reader and fan and you have truly inspired me in multiple ways. It’s not likely I would be where I am today without your insights, advice, and expertise.
My name is Paul and I’m a 28 year old shepherd in Southern California. Yes, you read that right – I own and farm Primal Pastures, the largest 100% pastured, grass fed/grass finished lamb farm in Southern California, about an hour away from Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego in the city of Temecula. In addition to “Primal Lamb”, we also raise pastured chicken for meat and eggs. But things have not always been this way…
I grew up in the city (Seattle, WA), about as opposite from an agricultural upbringing as possible. In college I was an All-American spear thrower and found my 22 year old body in a degenerative arthritis state with increasing pain in my knees and shoulders from heavy Olympic lifting combined with lots of beer and pasta. Ice baths and Motrin were the prescribed fix-all, but it wasn’t working and things were getting worse.
After college I went on to become an Intelligence Officer in the Marine Corps. I was trained in infantry tactics, sniper command, and some spycraft and interrogation skills. After a deployment to Southern Iraq I learned about paleo from some CrossFit buddies. I was immediately hooked on all things Primal, and my entire worldview was affected by this revelation of health, wellness, longevity, and happiness.
After having the opportunity to lead a 500-man Amphibious Tank unit, I departed the Marine Corps and dove headfirst into corporate America. I proceeded to stare at a computer screen for a few thousand hours (stand up desk of course), and three years later a CPA license popped out. What a change from the Marine Corps days, I thought to myself. Obviously I had no idea what was coming next…
My entire family’s lives were affected by Primal principles. My father-in-law Tom lost 80 pounds, and my brothers-in-law Jeff and Rob trimmed down significantly back to their days as college basketball players. We were on board and feeling great with the Primal plan, but kept struggling to find a good clean source of real, pastured, soy and GMO free chicken here in Southern California. Finally after some discussion, Rob walked into the living room beaming as he stated that 50 chicks were on order and would be delivered in less than two weeks. So in April of 2012, we received our first 50 birds and raised them the way we believed they should be: outside, on grass, with room to roam, picking and scratching for bugs and worms, and when supplemented, fed an all-organic, GMO-free, soy-free feed.
We really didn’t know what to expect demand-wise, but we were shocked when the birds completely sold out even before harvest. By the time we harvested (a skill we picked up via Youtube) and had birds ready for market, “Primal Pastures” had a waiting list of over 100 families. The company grew organically – going from 50 birds to 100, to 150, to 200 per month. People were ecstatic about the product (I remember one lady jumping up and down and dancing in excitement) and enjoyed being able to visit the farm and see things for themselves since we are within an hour of the major urban centers of LA, OC, and SD. We provided tours, spoke at local events, interacted with gyms and CrossFit boxes, and constantly posted updates, photos, and stories to our social media sites.
The farm continued to grow through 2012 and 2013, but we were all still working full-time jobs. As a CPA I was working 10 hour plus days and running the farm business on the side. I also started the MBA program at UCLA Anderson and my wife and I were blessed with our first child during this time. Tom was running a construction company, Jeff was teaching full0time, and Rob was working full-time as well. Our combined “plate” was overflowing.
Just when we thought our capacity was maxed out, we received a call from a neighboring farm. Before this phone call, we considered venturing into grassfed sheep and were trying to decide between starting with 10 or 15 head, but definitely not more than 20 head. This would be a manageable number that we could get comfortable with before expanding, we thought. However, fate had other plans and this neighboring farm had 100 head of grassfed sheep and they were leaving town the next month, needing to sell everything quickly. They loved the way that we operated and even though they had multiple higher offers for the herd they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, and that night we became shepherds in addition to chicken farmers.
Now things were really moving along, and right at the same time we were introduced to an excellent cattle rancher in Southern California. Previously, we hadn’t re-sold beef products because we did not feel comfortable with the quality or locality of our options for doing so (we don’t have our own cattle…yet). We have built Primal Pastures around the concept that we will provide the absolute highest quality meat products in and from Southern California. This old rancher is less than 2 hours away with 4,000 acres of free-ranging cattle that have access to 4 miles of running river and only grazed on local, seasonal, native forage. We inspected the ranch and confirmed that this was all true and the highest quality beef we had ever seen. After a taste test we decided to add grassland beef to the Primal Pastures lineup of product offerings, and it is excellent.
Grassfed beef, grassfed lamb, pastured chicken and eggs – this was becoming a real farm, not just a backyard hobby! Primal Pastures continued to grow and word of mouth spread like wildfire as people continued to demand high quality meat that they could trust. Something had to give, and Farmer Rob was heading off to PA school in a couple of weeks. The opportunity was there, I loved everything about farming, and business was growing exponentially. I was awarded the Larry Wolfen Entrepreneurial Spirit Award out of more than 100 applicants through UCLA Anderson which allowed me the financial flexibility to chase this dream. After some thought and discussion with my wife, we decided to “take the plunge” into full-time farming.
As you might imagine, life on a beyond organic sustainable farm is incredible. I feel a patriotic sense of importance, meaning, and purpose for my work that I hadn’t experienced since service in the Marine Corps. I am excited to wake up in the morning and see what the day is going to hold. Instead of spending 13 hours per day away from my family, they can now accompany me out to the fields for daily chores or give me a hand with projects. It is certainly not easy, and my workload has increased if anything, but the satisfaction, amazement, and beauty are nearly incomprehensible. The greatest satisfaction has been developing relationships with our customers through local drop sites. We always offer product pickup on the farm in Temecula, but also provide monthly drop sites in Pasadena, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, North San Diego, and Downtown San Diego.
So what’s next for Primal Pastures? We want cattle of our own! We also want to add pastured turkeys and pastured ducks (meat and duck eggs) to the farm. There are incredible synergies that take place when running all of these animals together. The trick is – we don’t have grandpa’s cattle herd to fall back on. We don’t have investors with deep pockets, and cattle are expensive! We have budgeted out the cash requirements for animals, fencing, and infrastructure and $40,000 is the golden number. We hope to add cattle both for grassfed beef as well as raw grassfed dairy products like milk and cheese.
So what’s a millennial to do? You probably guessed: On August 9, 2013 we launched our Kickstarter campaign. The community has come out in full force and as of August 22 we have already raised over $26,000! We are beside ourselves with the support that we have received from the Primal community so far. Now we are asking for your help to push us the rest of the way to our goal. If you aren’t in Southern California I would encourage you to still consider supporting this project – interested farmers from across the world are watching, reading, and planning, and our success will undoubtedly inspire new pastured farms to spring up everywhere. And if the time isn’t right financially, simply sharing this project with your network will be the difference in building this farm or not. Here’s that link again: http://bit.ly/primalpastures
Drawing on inspiration from guys like Mark, my goal is to start a food revolution. After learning about the horrors of CAFO production methods, I want to flip the US factory farming industry upside down and reclaim health in animal based foods. I want to change the direction of meat in America. I want Primal Pastures to be a place that you can bring your friends and your children and show them what real food farming looks like in practice. And most importantly I want to feed families with nourishing food that they can feel good about eating.
Mark, like I said, this probably would have never happened without being inspired by you, the staff, and the readers of MDA. Thank you and GROK ON!