Markegard Family Grass-Fed
Summary: Markegard Family Grass-Fed is family owned and operated by Erik and Doniga Markegard. Located in California’s San Mateo and Sonoma Counties, Markegard Family Grass-Fed provides pastured, locally born, raised, and processed meat and eggs. They primarily raise grass-fed beef with small grass-fed lamb and pastured pork operations in addition to a small herd share dairy operation. They run a 100 member year-round CSA, have buying clubs, sell shares of animals, sell at farmers’ markets, and sell to local restaurants. The ranch hosts community workshops and invites student groups and local tours to learn from the ranch operations.
The Markegard family leases six ranches and has invested a great deal of time and money into their ranches. This year marks the largest investment they are making into growing their herd of Belted Galloway Heritage cattle, a herd of cattle more perfectly suited for their climate and grass finishing methods. They are taking the biggest hit on it this year, selling off the old herd and bringing in a lot of young heifers and open cows not ready to breed. It’s a five-year investment, putting the money in on this breed they are attempting to develop. This only works because they are 100% dedicated and know that this is the life they want. They have invested a great deal into land that is not theirs. They are happy, with positive projections, yet both need off-farm jobs to continue the investments they have been making into their farming operation. They have not gone into great debt to finance their farm enterprise, but they do take on small loans throughout the year as their income fluctuates. Each year, they spend more than they make. The ranch is thriving and growing with healthy gross revenues, but the operating costs are currently exceeding profits. The Markegards are therefore left to invest their off-farm incomes to cover costs and invest into the ranch. The Markegards project 2016-2017 to mark the ranch’s shift towards making a profit, enabling them to work full time on the ranch.
History: Erik Markegard is a sixth generation cattle rancher. He was raised on a 2000-acre cattle ranch in San Mateo County. Doniga Markegard came to the business having worked on CSA farms and holds undergraduate degrees in Holistic Management and Land Stewardship. Upon meeting Erik, Doniga began her ranching career eight years ago. Doniga and Erik’s partnership marked a transition from a cow/calf operation to a 100% grass-fed beef operation to meet the growing demands for healthy, local, sustainably raised beef. Erik has had cattle on the 1000-acre ranch for 25 years. In those 25 years, the landowners have changed three times from private ownership, to a non-profit land trust, to currently under the Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District. The Markegards are pleased to secure a 5-year lease with a 5-year rollover with the Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District. The agreement is 100% work for rent allowing their money to be invested directly into the land. In addition to this lease, the Markegards have five other land use or lease agreements with private owners, an absentee landowner, and a non-profit land trust. They have had to be very cautious with their investments of time and money on those more informal land use agreements in the event they end up losing out in changes to their land use agreements. Above all, the Markegards are committed for the long term to stewarding the land they use through their intentional grazing plans.