Motley Crew Marketplace will be opening in a new location at 225 McMurray Road in Buellton.
Get their delicious authentic Greek Gyro recipe here.
Four baby lambs bleat and rush behind Cassidy Alexandrou, stumbling over each other and anything in their way, following their leader. She holds four bottles of milk in her hands and calls to them as she walks. It’s breakfast time at Motley Crew Ranch, and they know it. Cassidy plays the Pied Piper, leading a path through the grass as the smallest lamb lags behind, not sure he wants to walk so far. But he does, and the bottles are tipped up and delivered to hungry mouths.
The biggest lamb takes a break from feeding and jumps up to lick Cassidy’s face. Then, it’s back to pushing the siblings aside to get the best bottle. The lambs are getting big; soon they won’t need bottle-feeding. The smallest one gets extra care from Cassidy; she picks him up to feed him, ensuring his belly gets full enough.
When the milk is done, the lambs run off, back to the rest of the sheep. These are four orphans on the farm, so Cassidy takes the role of mothering them. It’s a role she cherishes.
Next, it’s time to feed the pigs. Cassidy puts feed in the troughs and throws a few pumpkins (gourds?) into the pen. The piglets are more hesitant, not having been bottle fed by Cassidy. She breaks a gourd open to offer it to the babies. After watching the adults chew on the treat, they arrive on little legs and take some bites.
A few cows watch this calmly from their paddock, and chickens wander noisily and aimlessly in the grass and dirt around their large mobile coop. There are many eggs to gather. The more adventurous chickens have migrated near the driveway’s cars and trucks, so Cassidy rounds them up by pouring a bucket of grain further away. They all rush to get some.
Cassidy runs this farm in the Sta. Rita Hills with her husband, Markos, to raise animals in the best possible way: organically, sustainably, and humanely. Most of the animals are for meat consumption, while some are for milk and eggs, and Cassidy nurtures them all as a mother would. “I love taking care of animals, I love nurturing them, making sure they have a good life,” says Cassidy. “I want the animals we eat to have the best possible time they can on the earth.”
This care for animals permeates the farm and everything Cassidy and Marko do. They raise chickens for eggs, raise other poultry and meat animals, harvest poultry, partner with local fishermen and women, and bring in other local artisan products, mostly in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes. Folks can sign up for any of their various meat, chicken and egg boxes, to get all this hyper local food, right from the farm.
But the couple didn’t start out this way. Cassidy earned a degree in Environmental Studies from UCSB and was working in the local hospitality industry. Marko was an academic from Greece, receiving a PhD in Genetics and Evolutionary Biology. The two met in Santa Ynez Valley after attending USCB, and both had a strong commitment to sustainable and responsible eating. Marko was ardent about using every piece of an animal for cooking. Through her studies, Cassidy knew about regenerative agriculture alternatives, and she wanted to eat that food, and support those farmers.
“When we first moved to the farm, we only wanted space to do our own gardening. We had no intention of raising animals for meat or running a business,” Cassidy says, “but we had a lot of trouble finding organic, local meat for direct sale that was raised humanely.” The couple decided to start raising their own meat, with chickens, to do it themselves. Pretty soon, there were goats, and then more. The story Marko tells is that Cassidy promised him goat cheese, and soon they were farming on a larger scale.
“There was such a consumer demand for this, that we fell right into it,” he says. And there’s no looking back. They now raise Black Angus/Wagyu cows, Duroc and Gloucestershire old spot pigs, California and New Zealand rabbits, Dorper and Texel sheep, Nubian, Oberhasli, and Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, Spanish and Boer brush goats, jumbo Coturnix quail, pigeons and lots of kinds of chickens. “Everything under the sun,” says Cassidy.
Meraki (Greek): the act of investing yourself in an activity or project; injecting love, creativity and passion into somethingMarko Alexandrou
They sell to various local restaurants (including the one where they met on a blind date!) as well as to CSA and Ranch Share customers. They even opened a retail shop to sell their artisan, handcrafted sausage, meats from their farm and other local ranches, local seafood from fisher women and men–Marko likes to go out fishing with them–plus local cheese and artisan foods and veggies from local farms.
Marko is the creative mind behind the Marketplace—which is now moving to a new location in SYV. His love and respect for the animal speaks to his passion for making sausage, bacon, charcuterie. Being a scientist and a cook, he has an analytical and creative brain behind all that he does. “I love to create a good product I can be proud of, with Meraki,” says Marko. “We’re also passionate to support other farmers and producers doing the same.”
Watch for the Marketplace’s Hot Food Saturdays, when they offer prepped, to-go meals. They also hold Greek Gyro pop-ups you don’t want to miss (get their Greek Gyro recipe here).
Motley Crew Ranch is growing, thanks to mindful eaters in Santa Barbara County. They are ramping up poultry at the farm (this includes chicken, turkey, quail, squab, and rabbits) as well as the CSA and Ranch shares. These are animals that can legally be processed at the farm. For pork, beef, lamb, and goat, they must bring this livestock to a USDA-approved facility, and the closest is in Creston–a 2-hour drive that adds stress for the animals. So, Cassidy volunteers her time to work with the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network (SBCFAN) group to find alternatives that are closer to home.
“We have to improve the way we do things,” Cassidy says, “There is a better way to raise and harvest the animals we eat. Nothing about this process is simple or easy, but giving animals the best life possible…” she pauses. “A good life and happy animal produces a better product, and that is worth paying for.”