Food Forward TV

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Michael Passmore: Fish farmer

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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.

Fish rancher Michael Passmore.

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.

A live catfish plucked from one of the mobile holding tanks at Passmore Ranch.

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

Everett, aloft.

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.

Our gracious hosts: Michael and Vandy Passmore.


Written by stettholbrook

June 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm

One Response

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  1. Mr. Passmore,

    Read your article with much interest about your fish farming posted by Stettholbrook on Food Forward TV.

    I’ve sent off a request to connect with you on LinkedIn today. I hope you accept my request. I believe I have much to learn from you and your operation.

    I’m in partnership with two other men in a non-profit called, “Living Justly Industries” ( We’re located here in Southern California but when it comes to water and fish (aquaculture ), we have a statewide focus. I also do consulting work for Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

    My interest really perked up when I read you recycle your water. We believe the farming method known as aquaponics, raised to commercial scalability for farmers using traditional farm methods could gain an advantage if they were to convert all or a portion of their business to this innovative way of growing crops. It would become a survival tool to get through the drought and still stay in business, during these times.

    Be glad to talk more with you if you have an interest in the above.

    With much respect,

    Mark Weyant, V/P
    Living Justly Industries
    1 (714) 343-3712 cell

    Mark Weyant

    August 24, 2015 at 9:18 pm

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