It’s hard to watch footage of a factory farm operation—the conditions are cruel, and often downright alarming. But anyone in Santa Cruz who wants to eat local, organic, humanely-raised chicken and pork can simply go to Fogline Farms, a small operation owned and operated by Caleb Barron. Based in Soquel, Fogline’s meat can be purchased every Wednesday at the Downtown Farmers Market and every Sunday in Live Oak. Barron gave GT a peek behind the curtain of his operation.
How does Fogline Farms operate?
CALEB BARRON: I raise certified organic, pasture-raised broiler chickens, which are chickens for meat. We have our own commercial kitchen, and my own in-house butcher on payroll. We sell whole animals wholesale to restaurants. And we sell the butchered pork and chicken at the Farmers Market. The chickens are raised in small batches, very stress-free. At three weeks they go outside, and they’re outdoors for the rest of their life. We handle them, and try to raise them as humanely as possible. We try to transport them and take care of them as responsibly as possible. They’re outdoors and moving around on fresh ground every day, and they’re fed certified organic feed with no added hormones or antibiotics. They have fresh air, fresh sunshine. Fresh bugs. In the springtime, they have fresh grass.
How would you compare the taste to conventional grocery store chicken?
It’s more tender. It’s got flavor, as opposed to just being bland. I haven’t had anyone else’s chicken in years. Our feed is a super high quality. We pay a premium on feed. That’s why our product is expensive. There’s herbs and minerals in the feed, as well as your basic ingredients. It’s just a happier, healthier bird. Being stress-free really affects the quality of the meat. It’s fresh because it’s not trucked all over the state from big factory farms.
What got you interested in the meat business?
I moved out here for the UCSC Farm and Garden program. And that’s strictly veggie. I wanted to farm, do something agricultural. I learned all about growing veggies. Then I went and apprenticed at Pie Ranch in 2008. They had some goats and chickens and veggies. And I just got really into taking care of the chickens and goats. When I was thinking about the next step, I was thinking, “I want to focus on livestock and not veggies so much.” I like building fences, and the problem solving around livestock as opposed to tractor work and weeding and harvesting veggies. I just decided to start with some chickens and some pigs, really small, and every year just saw the demand increased and kept going, and here I am.