OZ Family Farm's Kelly and Gary Osman and their family have been producing meat rabbits in Dry Creek Valley for nine years.
The project began as many small farm and ranch endeavors have, as a 4-H project for her children.
Kelly Osman grew up on a ranch on the coast and when it came time for the kids to begin 4-H, she started them off with small animals, chickens and rabbits.
Rabbits being rabbits, they soon had surplus animals. Osman took her children to several Healdsburg restaurants — Cyrus, Dry Creek Kitchen and Bistro Ralph among them — and soon chefs were placing orders for local rabbit.
Nearly a decade later, the family sells about 150 rabbits a month. Most still go to area restaurants, but the rabbits are also available at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.
They also provide True Grass Farms with fresh rabbit meat, which it sells at farmers markets in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and Occidental.
Rabbits are sold whole, with the liver and kidneys, for $7.99 a pound.
At the farmers market, a dressed rabbit weighs between 2 and 2.5 pounds. Restaurants prefer them a bit larger, 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.
At the market, OZ Family Farm also sells rabbit manure, $5 for a cubic foot. It is an excellent fertilizer, nearly as good as bat guano.
It is not “hot,” which means it does not have to be composted. It has no odor, and the pellets release their nutrients slowly.
Osman uses it on her orchids, all of which bloom, she says.
A century ago, rabbit was common on family farms throughout America. It is high in protein, low in fat and has what we now call a small carbon footprint; it provided a reliable income.
Today, small farmers throughout the country are taking a look at rabbit again, though they must overcome an aversion, among much of the public, to eating anything deemed “cute.”
But rabbit is a healthy choice for anyone who eats meat. It has, on average, about 49 calories per ounce, slightly less than chicken, which is 50 calories per ounce; beef weighs in at 90 calories per ounce and pork at 128.