Mike McNeil, Co-founder. I have resided in Sonoma County since I was 2 years old. I am the son of a Landscaper, whose father was a Landscaper. I developed my love of the outdoors and all it’s plant-life while working with my father during summers off from school. Santa Rosa only had 50,000 residents when I grew up here way back in the groovy 70’s and the valley-girl ‘80s. Far out! And gag me with a spoon! I truly believe that I grew up at one of the best spots on the planet! I live near a beautiful coastline! I live in wine country! San Francisco, one of my top-five favorite cities, is a stone’s throw away!
I developed a love for cooking with healthy natural ingredients when I was younger. My grandmother married into a Sicilian family and learned to cook many Italian dishes for the family. My sister and I used to help her prepare some of these meals along with Thanksgiving dinner every year. I also learned a lot of cooking techniques from my mother while growing up. Boiling water should not be taken lightly! I have had more time to cook recently and continue to experiment with new local ingredients.
My background is mainly in Construction. I have hands-on building experience as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management from Chico State University. I obtained a minor in Business Administration while there too. After graduating college in 1995 I came back to Sonoma County to make my mark on the world. I obtained my General Contractor’s license at the age of 25. At the same time I found work as a Project Manager/Estimator for a locally-owned General Contracting company and stayed with them for over 10 years. While I was working for this company I became the guy who wanted to know everything about “Green” building. Unfortunately, construction is one of the highest waste-generating industries around. So I had to learn what could be done to minimize all this waste going into the landfills. And yes, it is possible to minimize construction waste and be profitable at the same time!
So what else could I do to live “Green” and minimize my footprints of carbon? I purchased a hybrid vehicle in 2006. I reduced my water and utility use. I recycle and compost everything possible. Why wouldn’t I want to protect my community from the perils of world domination? And what better place to do that than the place I call home. Now I remember the other things that make Sonoma County great…..the open-space and agriculture!
Tiffani Beckman, Co-founder. I was born and raised in rural Kansas. Even though I lived “in town”, when town is only 800 people, it’s all considered rural! My grandpa had a farm where he raised cattle, sheep, and chickens. He used his Quarter horses to move the cattle from one pasture to another. He also raised different crops each year. Growing up so close to nature, was it any surprise that I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was old enough to know what one was? One birthday was spent helping a cow through a difficult calving – since my hands and arms were smaller than Grandpa’s I was the logical (and willing!) choice. I went to Kansas State University where I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, with a minor in Biology. I also did graduate work in Animal Nutrition. About the time I graduated, my new puppy named Tabasco showed signs of hip dysplasia. This, combined with everything I was learning in school, was really the diving board I needed to jump deep into the waters of homemade diets for animals. 15 years ago only a few people had heard of “the raw diet” for dogs and cats…and most people thought it was crazy. I had to do a lot of my learning by talking with other people and trying it out on my own. However, I do remember Grandpa’s hunting dogs (Chesapeake Bay retrievers) living to over 18 years old. They lived outside their whole lives (in the tough Kansas winters and summers), hunted and enjoyed life…. all without a single snack of kibble. Grandpa just gave them scraps from the dinner table, meats from butchering, etc. Hmm, maybe he was on to something. I then started making my own animals’ food, as well as food for friends’ and family’s pets.
After deciding against vet school (I was on a more holistic bent by this time) I moved out to Northern California with my sister. I started working at a local holistic vet in Forestville where I met my soon-to-be business partner Cathy Bechler. A year later in 2000 we started Feed This, Inc!, a raw pet food company based in Sonoma County. Today Feed This has over 15 employees and makes deliveries to over 500 clients 5 days a week. Feed This Inc is still the only pet food company who makes individualized meals for dogs and cats, and uses local meats and produce whenever possible. For many years we even grew all our own vegetables. In Sept of 2009 I decided I would like to try my hand at something a little different. I sold my part of the business to Cathy and am now pleased to announce the beginnings of another local company dedicated to improving lives through nutrition.
Today my dog Tabasco is a ripe 15 years old…. you wouldn’t think that a dog who has had severe hip dysplasia in both hips since she was a pup would have made it this long, but no one told her she wasn’t supposed to be here. She still does her “perimeter check” every few minutes. She’s joined by Q, an Australian Shepherd cross; Ringo, a German Shepherd Dog; and Diamond the cat. All have been eating nothing but homemade foods since I adopted them. All four love to taste test Mike’s new kitchen creations. Virtually nothing goes to waste with those guys around!
Mike hit the nail on the head – if you love where you are, make it an even better place. Make it a sustainable place. Make it a healthy place. Make it a place you will still love to call home even years later. I landed in Sonoma County and I can’t believe my good fortune. I want to foster that sense of community that I remember growing up with. No better place to start than the ground – and the things that grow out of it. And why not make it a little easier for people to eat healthy LOCAL produce than to trade it!