Name: Colton Nauta
Farm: Rocky Canyon Farms
Location: Atascadero, CA
What they grow: A large selection of humanely raised beef, poultry, and pork options (including six varieties of linked sausages). Items include everything from ground beef, rump roast, short ribs, and shank to more unique items like their popular bacon-n-beef burgers to smocked hocks and soup bones. During the summer, they also sell melons, cherry and big beef tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, zucchini, and several other row crops.
Where to buy: Farmers markets including Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara, as well as their local Atascadero market and LA County markets.
In season now: Besides a year-round selection of naturally-raised meat, current produce offerings include sweet potatoes and several varieties of squash including delicata, butternut, green and red kabocha, and spaghetti squash. Eggs are also sold weekly at the market, as well as a rotation of fresh juices (currently pomegranate).
Their story: Rocky Canyon Farms began as a senior project idea for farmer and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo alumni Greg Nauta in the 90s.
“The idea was born in Ag Business 101 - my dad started by selling sweet corn on street corners!” said Nauta. “Needless to say, the senior project spun out of control in a good way. My Dad still drives the tractor, while my mom does most of the picking…it’s an old-school family affair.”
The dream to own farmland became a reality for Nauta, who raised his three children on the farm alongside the business on 45 acres of land in Atascadero.
All their animals are raised in the open air, free of antibiotics and hormones, with the animals’ diet consisting of organic feed and leftover produce scraps. “Many vegetarian customers have even switched over due to how we raise our meat,” said Nauta.
Utilizing a local butcher in Paso Robles, the family gets to test out different cuts and flavors, ensuring every product sold is of the highest quality before entering markets. “The garlic and basil sausage is definitely a top seller,” Nauta said.
Instead of using nitrates to cure their meat, Rocky Canyon Farms uses a sea salt and sugar cure, a customer request that has created quite the following. For over 10 years, the family has worked to ensure their livestock is healthy and happy.
“We raise our animals with quality and respect, the way we know our customers (and our family) want,” said Nauta. “We love hearing feedback from customers, as we take their requests into account.”
Growing up on the family farm—and working farmers markets from the time he was twelve years old—Colton Nauta knows about hard work and long days, with a typical day ranging between 14-16 hours on the farm. And, as a current Cal Poly SLO Agricultural Business major, Nauta is learning both inside and outside the classroom.
“Farming is not all a fairytale, but overall it is a great life,” said Nauta. “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the product of your hard work.”