Feeding the Butter and Eggs Community
The History of Barlas Feeds
Leon was born in Minnesota to Russian immigrant parents who moved to the Bay Area when he was only 3. The family settled in Petaluma.
Max Barlas founded a feed company, which Leon and his two younger brothers, Izzy and Himmie, took over when they were all barely out of their teens and living in a home with no running water, gas, electricity or indoor plumbing.
In a chicken-flavored variety of the American dream, Leon Barlas built Barlas Feeds into an international corporation, filling the hulls of container ships with bags of feed bound for locales as remote as Japan.
While his business began to touch all corners of the globe, Barlas’ feet were always firmly planted in Petaluma. By the late 1960s, Barlas estimated he was raising 95 percent of the chickens in Sonoma County, earning him the apt but none-too-creative sobriquet “Mr. Chicken.”
From Barlas to Cunningham
In 1996, John Cunningham, better known as "Cowboy", purchased Barlas Feeds from the Leon Barlas Family. Cowboy grew-up in Santa Rosa on his family's dairy.
His brother, Charlie, and Cowboy began a hay brokering business hauling and selling hay from the Dixon Valley to dairyman in Sonoma County. Cowboy's father, Ralph, encouraged the boys to try hauling hay for 30 days to see if they liked it. "I started selling hay and never looked back". After purchasing R.O. Shelling as a grain business to further support agriculture in the Sonoma County area, Cowboy saw the potential and opportunity in Barlas Feeds.
Barlas was an opportunity to reach families with agricultural interests or pet needs, along with continuing the agricultural legacy of Petaluma.
Pictured to the Right:
Saralee McClelland Kunde and Cowboy Cunningham. Cowboy got his nickname for his love of cows and Saralee was a long time friend of Cunningham family.
The Next Generation
Cowboy's goal has always been to create a business for the next generation. Cowboy and Lynn's two children, Rocco and Christian appreciate the agricultural culture of Sonoma County.
Rocco attended Cornell University receiving a degree in Animal Science and Business. After college, he worked as a Business Management Associate with Cargill in Texas. He learned a great deal about merchandising and management working with one of the largest privately-owned companies, Cargill.
He then moved to Florida and began working with Suwannee Valley Feeds, and Alliance Dairies. The vertical integration of a feed company and dairy farm created an opportunity for Rocco to learn first hand the interdependence of a feed company with its customers. In order for the company to be successful, the customers must be successful.
Rocco has brought these values of exceptional customer service, consistency, and quality back home to Barlas Feeds in continuing the family legacy with a team of exceptional employees.
Christian is currently is in an apprenticeship role as an electrician and is learning a great deal in the trade. His future is bright!
Pictured to the Left:
Cowboy, Lynn, Rocco, and Christian Cunningham at the World Dairy Expo with their winning Junior Champion. Showing cows has been a family tradition for generations.
Pass the Truth to the Next Generation,
Teach Them Early What You Learned Late
Three generations of Cunningham family and great employees representing Barlas Feeds at the 2019 Butter and Eggs Day Parade.
This truck was the first truck that Charlie and Cowboy bought to begin their hay hauling business. In 2019 Charlie restored the truck to their recognizable color!