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"We want to get all those people back up because so many small businesses are being hurt by this," he said.

But he wants to win organic certification for the plant by the summer of 2015 and eventually to be able to slaughter sheep and goats along with cattle and hogs.

Along with slaughter and processing, he plans to offer ranchers cut-and-wrap services, labeling and distribution of their products.

"We're going to have a suite of services to offer those North Bay producers to get their products to market in a way that has never been offered before," he said.

He hopes Marin Sun will become a $50 million business in six years. Evans maintained he would assume none of Rancho's debts related to the recall.

To operate the plant, Evans will need to obtain a "grant of inspection" from the USDA. The process normally takes weeks to obtain and involves both on-the-ground inspections and the filing of detailed documents, including a food safety plan known as a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan, or HACCP plan.

For ranchers, slaughtering animals has been the weak link in the North Bay's production system. To harvest their meat, farmers tell of taking chickens to Stockton, hogs to Modesto or Orland, sheep to Dixon and rabbits to Turlock.

Organic meat production also has been hindered by the lack of a certified processing plant. Farmers have the animals and the pastures certified, and Evans' proposed organic facility would amount to the last piece in the puzzle, said Stephanie Larson, director of the UC Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County.

"And that would be huge," she said.

David Rabbitt, the Sonoma County supervisor who represents the Petaluma area, said Marin Sun's purchase would be an ideal way to reopen the plant.

"Without that," Rabbitt said, "it would certainly put a hole in our agriculture infrastructure."