Almost 30 years ago Phillip was working at the Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco and commuting from Sonoma. He enjoyed his surroundings in Sonoma so much that he decided to figure out a way to live there full time and not have to commute to a job in the city. He started out not knowing much about raising squab other than thinking that it looked like something he could do. He began by experimenting with just 20-30 birds from many sources and gradually learned by trial and error and copious note taking. He brought some of his squab around to local restaurants and gradually got some accounts; Kenwood, The Fairmont Hotel, China Moon, Post Trio, and Le Coco among the first of them. There were times when he couldn’t make a restaurant’s weekly quota of just 24 birds, but many chefs were understanding and allowed him to bring as many as he had.
Gradually, through diligence, close attention, and thorough record keeping Phillip learned how to selectively breed. In the past twenty years he hasn’t gone outside of his breeding flock.
Breeding happens in spring and early summer and then tapers through autumn with a drop in production by 50% in the winter. Squab need to moult, something they do naturally in late fall/early winter. Some ranchers will use lights to make their birds continue producing. But Phillip believes it is important to allow the birds to have their down time. January is historically a slow time for restaurants, so Phillip doesn’t sell any birds during that month giving the birds time to rest, moult, and regain their strength.
None. In the beginning there were lots.
The reward is providing customers with exactly what they want, not money. Phillip’s personal goal is to keep the customer happy. His satisfaction is customer satisfaction. This is truly a way of life for him. Phillip says, “Farming is who I am.” He finds raising squab an endeavor that is always changing and incredibly captivating. Being around the birds is something that calms him and keeps him connected.
The squab are fed on an all-natural diet. Phillip struck on a feed formula over twenty years ago that he still uses today. It is a high-protein mixture of soy, balanced with whole corn. The ratios change depending on the season.
Sonoma’s climate is unique and very good for birds. Over the 30 years he’s lived in the area he’s seen a huge amount of development and change. His farm is one of very few remaining in the area.
To continue raising squab and to eat out at restaurants more often.
Length of relationship with Oliveto
Six acres south of Sonoma in the Carneros area
Directly to restaurants.
Café Rouge meat market in Berkeley.