When my mom graduated college and set out to become a physical therapist, I’m sure the last thing she ever thought she would do would be to marry a chicken farmer. Which is ironic, since she came from a family who had been around chickens since the early 1900's when my great-grandfather moved to Calistoga to start a hatchery. In fact, my grandparents owned and operated that hatchery themselves, which was the last independent hatchery in Sonoma County, right up until they retired.
My dad’s history with chickens all started when his uncle came over from Germany in the 1920's and started an egg farm in Petaluma when it was still being called the “egg basket of the world.” A little later that same uncle sponsored my grandpa who came to the US in the early 1950's and soon started his own ranch.
When my dad got out of chicken college (yes, there is such a thing), it made perfect sense for him to go straight back to the chickens since there were some old guys in the business looking to pass the torch. In addition, his degree about chickens meant that he knew quite a bit about them. So my dad used the money from his leftover school loans to buy an old, rundown plant to begin cleaning and packing the eggs he gathered at a rental farm. He had to wake up everyday at 4am to start the boiler at the plant and he worked until 8 or 9 at night. After a couple of years, thanks to the kindness of one old chicken farmer who let my dad buy his ranch for very little down, my dad purchased our farm way back in 1986. However, when my dad bought the ranch, it was an all cage ranch, and since he wanted to get back to the old-fashioned way of doing things, he ripped out all the cages and created a cage-free farm. That was unusual at the time, since most egg farmers had only cages.
Some might wonder why he didn’t just join my grandpa, but at that time by grandfather’s ranch was too small for my dad to work full time. Plus, my family has always had a bit of an independent streak. However, despite the independence, my family has always been rooted in the ethos of working together. The one thing that my family always puts first is the chickens. My dad always likes to say that the chickens eat before we do because without the chickens, were would we be?
In fact, I consider my dad to be something of an advocate for the chickens. His priority has always been to take the best care of our chickens that we possibly can. That's why he went cage-free when everyone else was going to cages and why he went organic before anyone else in California. My dad really is an innovator in treating chickens right and providing affordable, organic eggs to everyone.
As you can see, we started out as a small, family farm, with my dad just looking to make his mark on the world. My dad made less than minimum wage those first few years since he poured all of his money back into the business. He was and still is the very definition of hard work and sweat equity. We've been blessed to grow over the years to provide fresh, organic eggs to Northern California, but we wouldn't be where we are without the incredible, hard work of my dad, our amazing employees, our loyal customers, and of course, our chickens. We may be bigger than we were then, but we're still a family farm with the same values and commitment to treating chickens right while providing fresh, affordable, organic eggs to our customers.
Looking back on my family’s history, one might say that there are an awful lot of feathers in my heritage, but I think that’s what makes it so cool. There are not too many people left today who can say that they come from a family of chicken farmers. It may be a bit unusual, but there is nothing that makes me more proud than to tell people I am the son of a chicken farmer.