Which Came First? The Growth of Egg Production in Marin County
Don Gilardi of RedHill Farms can tell you, starting from scratch in the egg business can be a rough road – but one that has potential for success. Word has gotten out and the number of Egg Handlers Licenses issued in Marin County doubled in 2013.
For David Evans of Marin Sun Farms, it was another motivating factor: Joel Salatin’s whole farm system at Polyface Farm in Virginia. Now with 2,000 hens, Dave continues to see that people love high quality eggs, which are still difficult to find and as a result command a much higher premium than other foods.
According to Dave Evans, raising laying hens on livestock ranchess is a complimentary enterprise to the whole farm plan, adding more income to the operation. It is a great way to add value to the ranch without needing to expand the size of the ranch.
Each one of these egg farmers is increasing their flock or directly growing the number of egg farmers through contract growing, which is a good thing. Marin Sun Farms is growing by adding other producers in the area to bring more pasture raised eggs to market as well as transitioning Dave’s farm and another of his producer’s farm to become certified organic. RedHill Farms is contracting with four other producers who are growing to Don’s specifications on all aspects of their egg production, a combination of what the market wants: certified organic, beautiful, healthy eggs that meet safety guidelines. He is even helping them set up their water – so that they can do it right the first time.
However, Don does not operate RedHill Ranch alone. His star helper is Tyler Tuck, Don’s nephew, who has helped write the story of how RedHill Ranch became what it is today. Tyler is 21 years old and is very enthusiastic about the growth he has seen in the market. He honestly loves the work and hopes that someday he will also be a producer of chicken eggs to sell to RedHill. From the looks of it, Don and his producer partners are super-grateful to have Tyler’s now experienced hand in setting up mobile chicken coops, waterers, electric fencing and the list goes on.
Joy Dolcini’s daughter Emma, who is now 12 years old, hasn’t missed a beat either. She has been watching her mom and saw her opportunity to start raising quail for quail eggs. From the day they hatched she has been the sole provider of all of their needs. She collects, washes and packs the eggs. She also attends the Larkspur Farmers Market. She uses her income to purchase feed, supplies, cartons and fuel to get her eggs to market. She has been saving up for college and hopes to have enough money to purchase a car when she turns 16.
Petaluma was the “Egg Capitol of the World.” Butter and eggs were what Marin and Sonoma Counties were famous for. Today you can see dilapidated chicken houses on ranches or Craigslist postings for apartments converted from these old chicken houses as a testament to that era.
It is heartening to see a new era and the supportive relationship between consumers and producers. It is obvious that without consumer demand, there would be a lot less opportunity for producers. With the community efforts we have seen so far, consumers are helping farmers be able to stay home and raise their children, fertilize their grassland, increase their enterprise mix, and inspire the next generation of farmers. Voting with your fork really does work!
By Paige Phinney, Sustainable Ag Coordinator
Local producers and where you can find their eggs:
Clark Summit Farm - Multiple Retail Locations throughout the Bay Area, including:
- Good Earth Organic and Natural Foods in Fairfax is long-standing customer
- El Cerrito Natural Grocery in El Cerrito near Berkeley is a new customer for our eggs
- Whole Foods in San Rafael, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and Sebastopol*
- Woodland Meats in Kentfield: The butcher shop within the Woodland Market store
- CIBO restaurant in Sausalito: They have a very yummy café that features our eggs (but also uses other eggs for baking, etc.)
- Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco sells a lot of our eggs
- Falletti Foods, a nice high-end market in San Francisco and a long-running supporter of our farm
- Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco’s Mission District*
- Other Avenues in San Francisco’s Sunset District*
*In peak season
Dolcini’s Red Hill Ranch, Chiken City by Kitty - Farmstand at the Farm: 6970 Red Hill Road, Petaluma, CA 94952
Farmer Joy’s Eggs - Larkspur Farmers Market: Saturdays, 9:00am-2:00pm
Hands Full Farm Farm - Marin Civic Center Farmers Market: Thursdays, 8:00am-1:00pm
Just Struttin Farm
Mann Family Farm - Pick up at the farm: 605 Horseshoe Hill Road, Bolinas, CA 94924
- Rockridge Market Hall: 5655 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618
- San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Saturdays, 8:00am-2:00pm
- Marin Civic Center Farmers Market: Sundays, 8:00am-1:00pm
- Bi-Rite Market
- Petaluma Market
- Alameda Natural Grocery
- Berkeley Bowl
- United Markets
- Good Earth Natural Foods
- Whole Foods