Michael Passmore: Fish farmer
After leaving Bryan Kaminsky’s Natural Trading Co. in the Sierra Foothills, we headed down Instate 80 in search of Passmore Ranch in Sloughhouse, Calif.
Owner Michael Passmore was another guy David Hill at Chef’s Table suggested we meet. We were all tired after a hectic schedule and didn’t know what to expect when we pulled through the automatic gates at a dry, sprawling ranch southeast of Sacramento. The 86-acre ranch was dotted with half a dozen ponds and a very large, but half-built home.
Passmore and his wife Vandy are fish farmers. While they’re growing their business they’ve put construction of their home on hold. “Home’s don’t make money,” says Michael. But apparently his aquaculture operation does.
Using technology from a UC Davis scientist who lives nearby, Passmore farms sturgeon, black bass and catfish. He sells his fish to chefs and to the lucrative live fish market, delivering his fish in specially outfitted tank trucks. The fish take about 18 months to grow for the live market. The restaurant-bound fish grow for 36 months or so. In a few more years he hopes to sell caviar once his female white sturgeon mature. They take about eight years before they bear eggs.
Passmore is a cherubic, jovial guy who was quick to offer me a beer as we toured his property.
“We had no clue we were going to be fish farmers,” he says.
He put in a bass pond and then thought, well, if one is good how about six? It helped that his wife was out of town at the time of his seemingly rash decision but now his fish get top dollar.
Aquaculture has gotten a bad rap because of it’s ecologically unsound practices but Passmore Ranch bills itself as sustainable because they don’t rely on wild fish to stock its ponds, they recycle their water and the feed is made from pork and poultry and fish byproducts. Many fish farms rely on feed that comes from all wild fish sources, a drag on ocean resources.
While Ava and Everett took turns jumping on the trampoline
and riding with Michael on his ATV, Vandy whipped up a great lunch of grilled sturgeon and grilled cheese/sturgeon sandwiches–much better than it sounds.
Again, as a road weary family, I was struck by the ready hospitality we encountered at Passmore Ranch. Thanks for having us.