One egg farmer's quest to have delicious eggs from happy chickens turned into a full-blown egg CSA.
When you arrive at Olive Egg Farm in Honeoye Falls, New York, you're greeted by a magnificent flock of chickens. Red-feathered Rhode Island Reds strut by the namesake slate-gray Olive Eggers. Dramatic Black Copper Marans with red combs mingle with silver-feathered Cream Legbars. These birds produce a virtual rainbow of eggs—from plain white, beige and brown to robin's-egg blue and the farm's signature olive-green eggs. Crack open one of these eggs for frying, scrambling or baking and you'll discover a yolk that is sunset-orange with an earthy, vibrant flavor.
How the Egg CSA Started
Shannon Hyde, the farm's owner, was once a social worker living in nearby Rochester. In 2013, she and her wife found their dream house in this tiny hamlet. As Hyde likes to tell the story, there was no single "aha!" moment that made her want to give up social work and become a full-time egg farmer, but rather "a million moments and a lifetime of feeling drawn to country living. I loved the idea of growing my own food and opening the front door to the sound of roosters crowing."
It all began with a few chickens. Hyde was surprised by just how easy it was to care for the birds. "They eat all your kitchen scraps and pay you back with fresh eggs," she says laughing. It didn't take long before she was hooked. They currently have between 50 and 100 chickens (depending on the time of year), along with goats, pigs, Cornish hens and a horse. "We wanted to provide real, sustainable food for the local community," Hyde adds.
"When my CSA members come to pick up their eggs, they see the time and love I put into it all."
Hyde decided to use the community-supported agriculture (CSA) business model to sell her eggs. Customers pay up front at the start of the season and, in exchange, they pick up food each week. "The egg farmer needs to stock up on feed, so it definitely makes it easier to have folks pay in the beginning of the season," Hyde says. "For us it is more of a membership guarantee."
Farms that have CSA shares are typically vegetable-focused, although some include fresh eggs. But Olive Egg Farm is one of the few egg-only CSAs in the country. "We're not so good at gardening," jokes Hyde. "We can keep animals alive, but vegetables? Ha, not so much!"
Why Farm-Fresh Eggs Matter
Let's be honest: it can be easy to take eggs for granted. They are just... there, in your refrigerator like milk and butter. Most cooks don't really think about the actual taste of an egg. "But all eggs are not created equal!" Hyde says emphatically, "My pasture-raised chickens consume nutrients you can't find in a bag of soy-based feed. They dine on food scraps, bugs, grass, clover, herbs and more bugs! These elements all contribute to an egg with a whole lot of flavor." Plus they're hyper-fresh—Olive Egg Farm's eggs go from coop to customer in a day or two, five days at most. "Grocery-store eggs can be months old by the time you get them," says Hyde.
Katie Manchester has been a member of Olive Egg Farm's CSA for over two years. She was looking for pasture-raised eggs from a farm she could trust. And she doesn't mind spending the $7 a dozen. "I am willing to pay top price for my eggs because I know what I am getting. I know the chickens have a great life and are on pasture most of the day," says Manchester.
Today there is a waiting list to become part of the Olive Egg Farm CSA. It's a testament to just how much people have come to care about eating locally and sustainably. Or perhaps it's just that they know how much better their omelets, cakes, custards, even salads will taste when they start with a really good egg.
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning food journalist. Her newest book, Soup Swap, will be published by Chronicle in fall 2016.
Location photography by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur