A Bay Area resource for real farmed eggs comes out of its shell.
By Karen Solomon
KYLE PUSATERI WAS just a spring chicken when it all began. The former University of California San Francisco research study manager found his day job “less than satisfying,” and he longed to work outdoors and do something with a “more immediate, tangible benefit” for people’s diets and for the environment. The city slicker had to start from scratch – doing farm research for months, drawing up a financial plan, taking classes on animal husbandry and on how to run a business.
And finally, just last month, his great idea began to hatch.
Pusateri is now the seasoned head rooster behind Three Wise Hens, an organic, sustainable egg farm in Dixon (near Davis) that sells its healthy eggs to members of the Bay Area’s Eatwell Farms (www.eatwell.com, email@example.com, 1-800-648-9894), a community-supported-agriculture farm that delivers mixed-produce boxes to consumers. (Members of Eatwell Farms provided seed money for Three Wise Hens by prepaying for the service.) Pusateri also sells eggs at the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturdays. Soon, some local grocery stores will sell the fruits of his labor.
As you might expect, Pusateri’s eggs are not the first highfalutin chicken eggs to cross the road. Three Wise Hens joins the ranks of Kaki Farms, which has been selling its uncertified organic eggs at the Berkeley Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays for years, and Marin Sun Farms, a three-year-old flock of just 1,200 birds that lay hormone- and antibiotic-free eggs while enjoying “as much pasture as they want,” according to owner David Evans.
Conscientious egg consumers need not worry: Three Wise Hens doesn’t run afoul. Cage-free, outdoor-loving heritage breeds like Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns, and Araucanas live healthy lives on all-organic feed supplemented with leftover organic produce from Eatwell Farms (at press time, end-of-season tomatoes and nectarines). The birds also dine on delicious, naturally occurring worms and bugs, and the clover and alfalfa planted to refurbish nutrients in the soil of fallow fields. Of course, no antibiotics or hormones are used. And the chickens not only produce but are also part of a cycle, contributing their own, ahem, “natural fertilizer” to the fields, which will greatly benefit next year’s crops.
About 1,600 chickens round out the production team, which lays about 200 dozen eggs a week. As 60 percent of Pusateri’s workforce comes of laying age between now and November – six months is average for all three breeds – the amount of eggs he’s able to produce is expected to at least double.
“This has really been an enormous challenge, more so than I would have ever imagined,” the local farmer recalls, noting that chicks, like any baby animal, need a ton of care to ensure their warmth, feeding, and health. Also, it’s a constant scramble to keep hawks and other natural predators from helping themselves to a chicken dinner. “It’s much easier to lock them all up in a building. But that’s not very humane, and it doesn’t help the farm,” Pusateri says.
But the results of all this extra effort, he says, are worth it – and they should be for $6 a dozen. The eggs are smaller than usual – a natural result from young chickens not pumped full of growth hormones – and their shells are a beautiful palate of neutral shades of off-white and tan and, on occasion, pale blue. Consistency is strived for but not always perfect, and a rare fertilized egg slipping through the cracks is par for the course with small, slow production. Pusateri claims these eggs are more nutritious than most, thanks to the birds’ good diet. And the flavor is palatably fresh and distinctive – one you can’t find at Safeway, even with other better-than-average eggs.
Customers seem to agree. Pusateri says, “It’s exciting to hear people talk about the eggs, especially when they say that they had no idea fresh eggs tasted so different.” Clearly, Pusateri and his growing flock and business are on their way to ruling the roost.