Every day for Jamie Mickelson, the one-woman show who owns and operates Sonoma Mountain Beef Company starts early in the morning with feeding and then checking her cattle to ensure their welfare. Following that, she said that there are always deliveries to be made and bookkeeping to attend to.
“I think people are surprised when they meet me in-person, as the meat business is generally dominated by men,” Mickelson said. “They also don’t realize that I really do the work of taking care of my cattle – from feeding, doctoring, calving, breeding, moving, weaning, and eventually taking them to be processed. My family certainly steps in when a helping hand is needed, but the day to day work is done by me.”
Mickelson said that her favorite part about working in the beef industry is that she has many opportunities to continue to learn about new things. However, some of the more simple pleasures of owning beef cattle are close to her heart.
“I really love to take care of my cattle– nothing is better than that. When you holler out to your cows when you arrive in a pasture and they all come running – especially on a bright spring day– it’s just the best,” Mickelson said. “Every day I get to do what I love by raising cattle.”
Sonoma Mountain Beef cattle are sourced from high-quality Hereford genetics; born and raised in the local pastures of Petaluma and the rolling hills outside of Bodega. All cattle are raised on natural grasslands and finished with a 90-day ration of grain, producing beef that offers a superior, full-flavored taste and juicy tenderness.
“I am a firm believer in buying, selling, and supporting local, and my cattle are all raised in Sonoma County. It is extremely important for customers to know where their food comes from,” Mickelson said. “My family and I eat our own beef and we love the taste, the high quality, and the juicy tenderness, and our friends truly enjoy it too. I always want to feel good about what I eat and I want my customers to feel the same way.”
The cattle operation was born out of Mickelson’s passion to offer high quality, humanely raised, locally processed, delicious beef products.
“I have been raising and caring for beef stock since I was 9 years old, including both market and breeding projects in 4-H and FFA,” Mickelson said.
Following high school in Santa Rosa, Mickelson attended 2 years at the Santa Rosa Junior College and then went on to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 2012 and a Master’s degree in 2014 in Agriculture Business. During her time there, she helped manage the Cal Poly cattle herd operation and taught beef husbandry classes to undergraduates. She said that it wasn’t until her last week at Cal Poly, right before graduating, that a heart-to-heart conversation with her Mom set her on a path that ultimately led to the creation of the Sonoma Mountain Beef Company.
“I knew the timing was right for me to expand the family’s beef business and develop my own branded beef enterprise, now known as Sonoma Mountain Beef Company,” Mickelson said.
She said she loves the challenge of marketing and continually thinking of new and creative ways to market and expand the reach of her product. Most recently, Mickelson developed the Sonoma Mountain Beef Co Beef Club.
“I patterned it off of numerous wine clubs, where you get your product to your biggest fans on a regular basis,” Mickelson said. “My members receive a discount with their membership and they have the opportunity to try cuts of beef that they never would have tried before. It’s been a great way to connect with customers during COVID-19.”
She said that 2020 was a whirlwind year that brought about many challenges but also opportunities for growth.
“It has been hard on me personally because I love to socialize and communicate with people but now I can’t really do that as easily because I have a difficult time talking to people due to the mask ordinance,” Mickelson said. “I am hearing impaired and am very good at reading people’s lips. However, with masks on, it’s just not as easy to communicate.”
When the COVID-19 Pandemic first hit, restaurants were shut down and Mickelson said, unfortunately, she lost several accounts. Surprisingly though, she said the Pandemic has positively impacted her business.
“It has given me an opportunity to grow more by gaining a stronger direct to consumer base,” Mickelson said. “People really want to buy a local, wholesome product to feed themselves and their families. And, I have to admit, it’s just not that much fun to go grocery shopping at the store anymore. People are really appreciating the door to door delivery service and we can also ship directly to consumers.”
She said she is grateful to have customers that care about and support local businesses like Sonoma Mountain Beef Co. and despite the many challenges that came about during 2020, Mickelson said that the future is big and bright for her company.
“I am looking forward to continuing to expand my reach within the County, especially when restaurants get to open back up,” Mickelson said. “I want to continue to sign up new Beef Club members, which has become an important part of my marketing plan and financial goals. Hopefully, I will be able to have a storefront where folks can come and purchase directly from me.”
Mickelson said that she is a Farm Bureau member because it is helpful to receive up to date information on a daily basis, whether it’s a political issue or from the agricultural industry.
“Sonoma County certainly has not been in short supply of events happening around us that we need to be kept informed of!” Mickelson said. “My membership also gives me a great opportunity to network and market my product.”
Sonoma Mountain Beef Company products are currently sold to local restaurants, retail outlets, private chefs and catering companies in Sonoma County and the Napa Farmers Market on Saturdays.
To view the full selection of products visit sonomamountainbeef.com