Kim Arburua

Ewes and lambs graze at Frank’s Basque Family Farm.

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  • Ewes and lambs

    Kim and Frank Arburua co-own Frank’s Basque Family Farm near Tracy and sell premium, locally-grown lamb meat.

    “It’s so important that people have the opportunity to get farm-to-fork products,” said Kim Arburua.

Feast Q&A: Family farm specializes in lamb-to-table

Published: Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 - 12:00 am

Kim Arburua and her husband, Frank, know something about farm to fork.

For 30 years, they’ve operated Frank’s Basque Family Farm in the San Joaquin Valley in the hills above Tracy. “I do the marketing, he does the production,” Kim Arburua said.

They and their three sons maintain a herd of about 1,000 female sheep – ewes – which give birth to about 1,500 lambs a year (some are twins). The lambs are marketed when they’re 6 to 8 months old and weigh between 100 and 115 pounds. They’re raised primarily on ewe’s milk and native grasses that grow on thousands of acres of grazing land, some owned by the farm, some leased.

The farm direct-markets cut-up and packaged whole ($325) and half lambs ($165) to the public, and sells it to select stores. In our area, it’s available at Corti Bros. Market in Sacramento and the Davis Food Co-op. It’s not sold to restaurants. Visit the farm and order at www.franksbasquefamilyfarm.com.

What’s your take on Sacramento as the nation’s farm-to-fork capital?

It’s so important that people have the opportunity to get farm-to-fork products, and I appreciate anybody who tries to market that. We’ve had so many people contact us, wanting to buy lamb directly from a local farm that doesn’t use hormones or antibiotics. Supply is our problem, not demand.

One way you sell the product is via your website, another is your home-delivery program.

(Custormers) can get it custom-cut however they want it – leg of lamb with the bone in or out, leg steaks, rib chops, rack of lamb. Our customers love that (option).

Do you sell individual cuts, such as a package of lamb chops?

We don’t have the ability to sell just certain pieces, just the wholes and halves. Otherwise, we’d end up with a bunch of extra shoulder chops and all the legs would be gone.

Do you sell ground lamb?

Yes, it’s ground from the whole lamb, not just the off-cuts. And we should have lamb jerky by October.

What do you do with the wool?

The wool is from the sheep, not the lambs. We shear them in the spring and sell the wool to large commercial buyers and marketers, which auction it to bidders who come from throughout the world.

It seems that people either love lamb or they don’t.

People who try it for the first time may get a piece of old New Zealand and say, “I don’t like lamb.” If you try lamb one time and don’t like it, don’t count it out. Next time, get it from (a source) where you know its age and how it’s raised. If you get the right recipe and cook it right, you should have a winner.

What’s your favorite cut?

The riblets. It’s the breast that’s been cut into little short rib-type pieces. I bake them and they’re delicious.

Medium-rare or medium?

We like it well-done, but each to their own. Lamb doesn’t dry out; it keeps its consistency and flavor.

Any advice for someone thinking of getting in to livestock farming?

It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of hours. We haven’t taken a vacation in years.


Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni



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