Member Spotlight: Kelly Osman of Oz Family Farm

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Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

This week we are featuring Kelly Osman of Oz Family Farm located in the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, California. Kelly is a fourth generation California rancher who, with the help of her husband and kids, started the farm in 2003 after being inspired by their kid’s 4-H program.

While rabbits may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a ranching operation, Kelly knows the value behind a good product and finding unexpected ways to find profit in everything (think manure!).

Read on to learn about how Kelly started the operation, her family’s ranching roots on the California coast, and the lucrative benefits of having “bunny gold”.

FarmsReach: How many years have you been raising rabbits?

Kelly Osman: Nearly 10 years. We began rabbits when our kids started 4-H in kindergarten. It has always been a family business. The kids started us out, I fell in love with the rabbits and we all grew together: our family, the kids themselves, and our business.

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Kelly Osman

FR: How many generations of farmers are in your family?

KO: I am fourth generation rancher and my kids are fifth. My family came over from Ireland and has raised sheep up and down the coast for generations. My maiden name is Furlong and my family has animals and dirt in their blood. Sheep, cattle, and dirt work is still being done by the Furlong Family today all up and down the Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin coastline, and now is into the 6th generation. We took that love of ranching and have expanded it into new protein sources.

FR: Which question(s) are you most asked by other farmers – either new or experienced? What is your response?

KO: The most frequently asked question we get is what does rabbit taste like. This is really an American-based question. Rabbit is a staple in so many countries and to think in America so many people have never even tasted it. We usually do more of a taste test at the farmers market and the answer is a close race between chicken and pork.

Ranchers are more inquisitive of the infrastructure and meat production possibilities. I tell them how hard it is to get the infrastructure in place to have any number of rabbits above what you would need to feed your family. The expense is very prohibitive and rabbits are a very labor-intensive animal which can add to the difficulty.

FR: How did you get into farming? Why rabbits?

KO: My kids got me started and then I tell groups I am speaking to, such as Chamber or Rotary Clubs, it was the Italians that kept us in business.

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FR: What type of rabbit do you produce?

KO: We base our business around Heritage Breeds. This being said, we cross our American Chinchillas, and Giant Chinchillas with commercial breeds for productivity.

The Livestock Conservancy list the American Chinchilla on the critically endangered list and the Giant Chinchilla on the Watch List.

FR: Where do you sell your rabbit (wholesale, restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets)?

KO: We sell the bulk of our rabbit meat to restaurants. The balance is sold at farmers markets to allow the public to have access to rabbit meat. We sell on the second Saturday at the Wells Fargo Santa Rosa Farmers Market, the third Saturday at the Healdsburg Market and also at the Oakland, Berkeley, and Temescal Markets.

FR: What was the most important piece of advice you received when you were getting started? And/or, what single piece of advice would you give a new beginning farmer?

KO: The most important piece of advice we were given is that there is little money in rabbit production. If there was, Foster Farms would be doing it. This is true of any kind of agriculture.

Today, it saddens me that when you drive down the coast or through rural areas that you rarely see a new barn or farmers going to market in a shiny new truck. The reality is that farming is hard work and typically doesn’t make anyone a lot of money.

FR: What is the strangest or funniest thing you’ve learned since starting your operation?

KO: The strangest thing I didn’t know about rabbits before I started was around the value of their manure. I didn’t know it was rated as “bunny gold” by master gardeners. I learned it’s rated right below bat guano as the most beneficial amendment you can add to soil. I also learned that rabbit manure doesn’t smell if it has good drainage and that it is a vermicomposter’s dream come true as the worms come to it like bees to honey. I had no idea it would someday become a major piece of our business plan!

FR: What do you feel is the next big thing (or most exciting thing) in agriculture?

KO: I think GMO labeling and organics are gaining more and more publicity and awareness. It still shocks me that California is not on the cutting edge of this kind of labeling.

FR: What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies? 

KO: Which hobbies do I enjoy? Hah! I think most farmers and ranchers have a bit of creativity inside them that lends itself to figuring things out/fixing them. The problem is there just isn’t enough time in the day. I love to sew, garden and can. Finding the time is another story. Reading is luxury as well, that I would love to begin my day with.


Thank you Kelly for sharing about your farm with the community! If you have questions for Kelly about Oz Family Farm’s marketing outlets or other information about their farm, get in touch: kelly@ozfamilyfarm.com or visit their Facebook page.

If you have questions or words of wisdom about your farm or ranch, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!

Do you know another farmer that would be interesting to profile? Get in touch. We love to hear from you! 

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