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Danna Lorch


Courtesy of Five Marys Farms


Northern California

Mary and Brian Heffernan have deep agricultural roots but they met, married, and started raising their family while they were living in the Bay Area. The couple share an entrepreneurial spirit: Brian was a real estate attorney and Mary owned a tutoring company; together they started multiple businesses including family-friendly farm-to-table restaurants.

1,800 acre California ranch in Siskiyou County

After buying an 1,800-acre Californian ranch in Siskiyou County to raise ethically farmed meat for their restaurants, the couple initially hired a ranch manager and planned to commute back-and-forth on weekends—a 12-hour round trip. After a couple of months, though, Brian and Mary realized they were burnt out by the pace of their lives. Moreover, they noticed how much happier their four daughters, who are all named Mary in reverence to a long-standing family tradition, were in the pastoral environment. They contemplated making a drastic change and, several weeks later, the family was relocating from their very large new home in Los Altos to live off the land and in a much smaller house in the tiny town of Fort Jones. They took a leap of faith, completely upending their lives to open Five Marys Farms—and they haven’t looked back.

Brian is a farmer’s child and Mary is a sixth-generation native Californian. But loving the state and its soil is very different from keeping up with the unpredictable demands of raising livestock. As first-generation ranchers, their initial learning curve was steep. Mary had to pick up everything on the spot—from corralling bulls that jumped a neighbor’s fence to operating heavy ranch machinery.

But Mary says the biggest lesson she and Brian learned was to raise their expectations of their girls, who were all under the age of six when they first migrated from suburbia to the ranch. “We went from filling their sippy cups and helping them with their baths to needing them to take care of each other or cook dinner if Brian and I were out helping to deliver a calf late at night,” she says.

“In our family we have a rule that the animals eat before we do, so sometimes we’re still working after dark before we go inside to make dinner and sit down as a family.”

The young Marys—who go by their middle names to avoid confusion—not only rose to the challenge but have thrived in the free-range environment and are now deeply involved in the ranch’s operations. The girls help to feed all the livestock—the sheep, the cattle, and the pigs—every morning and every night. Mary says, “In our family we have a rule that the animals eat before we do, so sometimes we’re still working after dark before we go inside to make dinner and sit down as a family.”

Mary Hefferenan with her daughters - The Young Marys in rural Northern California

A commitment to humanely raising livestock that roam free is what makes Five Marys stand out—along with the way they ship their ranch-raised, dry-aged meats directly to families all over the country who have signed up for memberships.

“Cooking is such a big part of what we do,” says Mary, noting that much of the farm’s effort revolves around encouraging other families to get back to the family dinner table and prepare meals together. The Heffernans favor simple recipes with good-quality ingredients, from grilled flank steak tacos to Sloppy Joe’s and skillet cornbread to the classic spaghetti and meatballs the girls like to eat at night. Their signature M5 Burgers with bacon jam are served up at Five Marys Burgerhouse, the restaurant the Heffernans opened five minutes down the road from the ranch a few years ago.

Get the M5 Sidecar recipe using Five Marys signature whiskey blend.

M5 Sidecar, The Classic

Five Marys also has its own signature whiskey blend.

There’s always a lot going on at Five Marys regardless of the season, from testing recipes for a new cookbook to mending fences and hosting guests at the outdoor camp area, which is kitted out with wall tents and an outdoor pavilion kitchen. Mary says, “We have a Wolf range, fridge, and grill and an outdoor cooking space up there. It’s a great place for hosting guests and inviting them to come in and be a part of Five Marys life for a weekend.” These Camp Five Marys participants have signed up to experience a taste of ranch life and are up at dawn doing chores; later in the day they’re able to enjoy the farm’s bounty and sip whiskey around the firepit like true ranchers.

Outdoor table setting at Five Marys Farms in Nothern California

For those who can’t travel to the ranch in person, there is M5 Ranch School, a virtual community where you can learn how to raise chickens, plant a garden, can your produce, or bake a pie from scratch. For more details,

Home on the Range
“My parents put one of the first commercial Wolf ranges in our house when I was eight years old, and it was the highlight and center of our family kitchen,” says Mary. “Since then, we’ve always had Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances. At the ranch, the appliances help us to showcase our meats in so many ways. In the test kitchen, we have the vacuum-sealed drawer, which is amazing and allows us to package and save some of the wild game we harvest right on our own ranch.”

In the Heffernans’ own kitchen, there is a Wolf warming drawer that comes in handy when, says Mary, “I’m cooking hot dinner and learn that Brian is going to be working for who knows how much longer. I can keep that dinner warm until he comes in from the pastures or in from the corrals.” Their kitchen is complete with a six-burner Wolf range, a grill, and a griddle, which the family cooks on multiple times a day.

“My husband rises at 4:40 a.m. every morning and he absolutely loves his Wolf coffeemaker,” says Mary. “I don’t know where he’d be without it. That cup of coffee is his lifeline in the morning to getting out there and taking care of our animals.”

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