Our baby chicks arrived! We raise two separate flocks of about 350 hens at a time. All our hens are heritage breeds: Rhode Island Reds, Americaunas, Black Australorps, Welsummers, and California White Leghorns. Our hens are more than free-range, they are pasture raised, meaning they graze on a nutritious pasture of clover, alfalfa, chickory, plantain and grass. Each week they are moved to new forage. We supplement our pasture with locally milled organic feed from Modesto Milling, crushed oyster shells (for calcium), and all our organic veggie scraps that come back from market or from our produce that never makes it to market. Each year we bring in a new flock and harvest the two year olds for stew hens. We will be doing our chicken slaughter in the next month or so and will be offering stew hens for sale to all you CSA members so keep you eyes open for when I let you know you can purchase meat from our webstand.
Our eggs are completely different than grocery store eggs which is why there is a line already forming 30 minutes before we open our farmers market stalls so our regular customers can make sure they get to buy a dozen or two. Not only do our eggs taste better with their incredibly bright orange yolks, they’re better for your health. Eggs produced by chickens who live more normal chicken lives (foraging on bugs, worms, and greens) are more nutritious. A recent study of 4 free-range flocks done by Mother Earth News, revealed that compared to supermarket eggs from hens raised in cages, pasture raised eggs contained half as much cholesterol, were up to twice as rich in vitamin E, were two to six times richer in beta carotene (a form of vitamin A) and had an average of 4-6 times more essential omega-3 fatty acids (vital for optimal heart and brain function).
Labeling like “Free-Range”, “vegetarian fed”, “humane” can be misleading and confusing. Although there are differences between these categories, they generally all refer to operations of 1,000 hens or more in large warehouses under artificial light or in some cases no light at all. These hens eat a grain based diet of primarily corn and soy. “Cage Free” simply means that within these warehouses they aren’t in cages. “Free-Range” means they have access to an outdoor run, though birds who’ve grown up inside will rarely go out and there isn’t enough room for them all to be outside anyways. “Vegetarian fed” means they’re not being supplemented with meat scraps or other animal bi-product, a common industry practice. Our hens are outside almost all the time, eating as much green grass and bugs as they want, and have a completely different life than a hen raised in a conventional setting.
In addition, our chickens are an integral part of our farm management plan. By allowing them to forage not only do they help us with insect control, but they add fertilizer to the soil that we rotationally grow produce on.
Our eggs require more labor, which means higher prices, but there are great benefits. The animals are treated humanely and our farming system is made more sustainable. The resulting product is more nutritious and tastes better as most of you all know!
Our dry beans are making their way in from the fields! Quite a few varieties are now in large bins waiting to be cycled through our neighbors’ huge walk-in freezer so as to kill any weevil eggs that may possibly be present (this is just a standard precaution). After the week of freezing we will be hand cleaning the beans and bagging them up for markets! Right now you will be able to find our dry beans consistently at our Grand Lake, Oakland market on Saturdays and at our Palo Alto, & Campbell Farmers’ Markets on Sundays. Our other markets will begin to see beans arrive in another month or so.