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Who We Are

Passmore Ranch is a premium freshwater, sustainable fish ranch in California.

We started by selling live fish at Northern California farmers' markets, and our quality and service quickly made us a premier purveyor for top restaurants and Michelin-starred chefs throughout the state and the country.

Michael and Vandy Passmore moved to the ranch just outside Sacramento in 2005 because they fell in love with the rolling hills and lush grasslands on the edge of the Sierra foothills. They got big help launching the fish ranch from a neighbor – an aquaculture pioneer who would become Michael's great friend and mentor.

Today, our ranch is 86 acres with our fish being raised in 80 million gallons of fresh water pumped up from the pristine Cosumnes aquifer. We have a variety of open lakes and massive tanks used to increase the variety of sustainable fish we grow. Our ranch also houses a hatchery for sustainable spawning, and will soon have a state-of-the art processing facility so we can deliver fish precisely to order from live to filleted.

We offer the freshest fish, aged, sized and delivered to order, almost as if chefs were pointing and saying, "I'll take that one." We continue to build new partnerships with some of the country's best chefs, including renowned restaurateur Rick Moonen, three-starred Michelin chef Christopher Kostow, Napa pioneer Cindy Pawlcyn, and Dallas chef John Tesar.

How We Do It

Passmore Ranch's philosophy is clear: Cut no corners. We grow, source, and produce the finest fish and caviar for our chefs, and deliver directly to them. Both in the fish we rear, and those we source through partner farms, the standards are the same – adherence to sustainable methods coupled with outstanding waters, food, and handling from the water, right to your kitchen!

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Circle 41

Passmore Ranch is a family business in every way, including its connection to generations of farmers and ranchers all the way back to a homestead in Oklahoma. The ranch brand, the Circle 41, links to the family mark.

"It's a registered cattle brand," Michael says. "When we thought about a brand for the ranch, we wanted to attach a real identity to it. We wanted it to mean something to us."

That Oklahoma ranch was started by his great, great grandparents, but the brand was first put on the ranch by Michael's grandfather – probably in 1941, hence the "41." He seemed to like simplicity, Michael says.

"We looked back and saw how much we benefitted from our grandparents and their parents, from their toughness, their intelligence and their stick-to-it-ness," Michael says. "When our great, great grandmother first homesteaded in Oklahoma, she had to fire a shotgun through the roof of their shack to scare off claim jumpers."

Michael believes he inherited his love of open spaces from his family, but he never fell for the brutal cold and fierce winds that would sometimes sweep down on the Oklahoma ranch. "We've got it great here," he says. "In Northern California, mild wind is a weather event. In places like Oklahoma or north Texas, that's barely a breeze."

Most of all, Passmore Ranch and the Circle 41 brand keeps a bond to the land and a sense of place that has been part of the family for generations.

"It doesn't have to be the same piece of dirt," Michael says, "it has the same spirit and the same connections. A huge part of what we do here now is maintain what we have, protect the ranch and the land and everything around us, not just for our family, but for all the generations coming."

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The Badge

Considering that Michael was born in Texas, you can see where the badge concept started. The ranch is on 86 acres in a miles-wide expanse of rolling grasslands on the edge of the Sierra foothills. Sometimes Michael and his crew have to scoot away people who don't belong. (Fish dislike empty beer cans tossed from cars just as much as humans do.) The ranch team starting joking that they needed badges some days.

At a dinner on the ranch, one chef heard the joke. "Sounds pretty cool," he said. "What do I have to do to get one of those?" The light bulbs went off for Michael. Make it a badge of honor, something bestowed as a mark of distinction. The Passmore Ranch badge was born. It goes to extraordinary people – chefs, clients, foodies, friends – who've earned the right to wear the badge because they're involved with great food, sustainable sourcing, working for community, or simply enough, as Michael says, they walk the walk.

"We don't have exact criteria," Michael says. "I'm not sure we have any criteria at all really. It's all about people we respect a great deal, and people we would have a beer with at the ranch. We know them when we see them."

The list includes a bunch of great chefs, including Napa's Cindy Pawlcyn, Christopher Kostow and Kelly McCown and Sacramento's Pajo Bruich and Billy Ngo. "They're all spectacular chefs, but even more, they're great people with the highest standards for doing everything the right way," Michael says.

Badges also go to non-chefs, folks like Dan Best, the coordinator of the largest certified farmers markets in California. "Dan stalks around those things like the sheriff anyway, so we decided he needed a badge," Michael said. "He's put an awful lot of work into the markets and keeps the focus on food and who's producing it. He gave us a spot when we were starting up and let us take our shot. And we just really like him."

Badge holders are recognized as ranch family, and there's an almost Knights of the Roundtable collegiality among them. Occasionally, they gather at the ranch to talk about the world and break bread. Often there are a few drinks involved. And legend has it that one chef heated up his badge and chased his cooks through the kitchen trying to brand them. Of course, that may only be legend.

The Passmore Ranch badge, with a five-pointed star inside a circle, has its roots, naturally, in the badge of the legendary Texas Rangers. Each one is personalized with the badge holder's name. Plus, they just look cool. "I have a very good friend who's an FBI agent," Michael says. "He told me, 'That's a nicer badge than I have!'"

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