2022 - Volume #46, Issue #6, Page #09[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
They Started An Egg Business From Scratch
“We went from five hens to 2,000 overnight,” says Jason. “We got a quick education. Everything that we thought would happen didn’t happen, like our plan for keeping waterers from freezing.”
Amundsen recalls a sudden temperature drop that turned muddy machinery into frozen machinery. “We laid on frozen ground for hours with hammers and screwdrivers, chiseling frozen clay away from our Kubota to get it moving,” he says.
Even their chickens were lost at first. Turned out into a field, the first shipment of 900 birds from a commercial egg-laying operation ignored nearby hoop shelters when dusk fell.
Ten years later, the chickens are still laying eggs, and the Amundsens are still in business. Jason credits the customer response to the eggs for keeping them going.
Jason had created initial demand through simple hustle. “I brought eggs to restaurants and grocery stores, asking them to just try them,” he says. “They raved about the bright yellow yolks and how the white stood up in the pan.”
The response was great. The next challenge was upscaling to meet the demand. A contact with a nearby Amish community solved a major share of the upscaling need. Members of the community agreed to follow the Amundsens practices of non-GMO feed and pastured production for the bulk of the year. They also invested in an egg processing and USDA-inspected grading facility. Locally Laid quickly transitioned from sole egg producer to minor egg producer, while expanding marketing and financial management.
“Without the processing station, it wouldn’t have worked,” says Jason. “Finding a producer isn’t that hard. Finding someone to bring eggs to a store is hard, but not too hard. Getting an egg processing facility is the hardest step of all.”
“We were lucky to develop a relationship with people who understood what was needed,” he says. “They know how to farm, but they don’t understand Twitter.”
The Amundsens do, thanks in no small part to Lucie’s writing and promotion skills. The couple chose Locally Laid as their brand name and established a social media presence. They emphasized locally produced eggs and an alternative to corporate agriculture. That and the pastured hens gained attention from customers and media alike.
“Our Amish producers get the security of knowing they’ll be paid for the eggs they produce to our standards, which makes life easier for them,” says Amundsen. “The money stays in the area, paying the workers at the processing plant and for feed at the local feed mill. It builds the community instead of a large corporation.”
Instead of getting bigger as egg producers themselves, the Amundsens have diversified. They have 20 acres of pick-your-own honeyberries in production and are expanding into pick-your-own strawberries. They also host guests in their AirB-N-Bawk (Vol. 46, No. 5) guest houses. All of it is tied back to the hens.
“The beauty of the chickens is it gives the kids something to do while the parents pick berries,” says Jason. “It did mean we had to quit electrifying the fence. The kids catch hens outside the fence and put them back.”
Meanwhile, Jason deals with marketing, invoices, purchase orders, payments, and the biggest challenge of the egg business, matching supply and demand.
“This fall we need more eggs,” he says. “We could double production and still not meet the demand. Last winter we had too many.”
Would he advise others to get into the business? “It depends on your skill set,” he says. “You need to consider who you are, what you’re good at, and how big a risk you will take. Are you willing to trade security for opportunity?”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Locally Laid Egg Company, P.O. Box 208, Wrenshall, Minn. 55797 (ph 612-245-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; www.locallylaid.com).
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