Last January I [Tori] moved from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay to live the life of a farmer raising laying hens on a steer and horse ranch. The 48 acre ranch is located roughly 3 miles inland from the ocean and is nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains. I dwell in a cozy home in a barn. I am grateful to wake up and fall asleep to the ever changing song and dance between mountain, sky and water. The landscape is alive with hawk and raven, owl and hummingbird, quail and coyote, bobcat and butterfly, frog and cricket. Redwoods, oaks, eucalyptus, alder, willow, coyote brush and elderberry are who I rub elbows with mostly.
Each morning I get up to do my chores. I start with checking on the 50 chicks in brooders, then the 50 teenagers in a large run and then 50 laying hens located down the hill. I make sure that all the hens are warm, dry, fed, safe and happy. Isn’t that what we all need and want? : ) The laying hens live down the hill from the main ranch in coops that were built from 100 year old reclaimed barn wood. The coops were designed by the ranch owner Carl Hoffman who is also the owner of the town’s feed store called Half Moon Bay Feed and Fuel. Carl has a passion for the old days. He designed and built a turn of the century looking homestead farm that looks like the real thing. There is a barn with a small living quarter, 2 coops, a bunk house and two corrals.
When my morning chores are finished and all the hens have been looked after, I sit outside and have breakfast with my three hens Frida Khalo (Plymouth Bard Rock, lays a mocha colored egg), Nina Simone (Silver laced Wyandotte, lays a mocha brown egg with dark speckles) and Joni Mitchell (Red Bearded Americana, lays a blue green egg). I make a cup of tea and 2 pieces of toast with lots’ ohhh butter. One piece of toast is for me and the other piece is for the girls. They devour it from my hand with the passion of a cannibal. The girls love butter, milk, cheese and yogurt…can you blame them? My routine also includes a trip into town to visit my friends in the produce department of New Leaf Community Market, an all organic grocer. I pick up their culled fruits and vegetables for my hens. Daily all the hens feast on kale, spinach, collards, dandelion, basil, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, sweet potato, cabbage, apples, plums, peaches, grapes, berries, bananas, cauliflower, broccoli, figs, dates, pumpkins, squash, beets and carrots. Honestly speaking, no lie, the hens eat better than I do! ….and I eat their beautiful gift back to me, their healthy, nutritious eggs. The yolks stand high and are deep shiny orange with whites that are firm, the taste is rich and creamy. I call that ---love in an egg basket.
Daily I go down to the coops to gather eggs. I am greeted by 50 happy clucking hens and two large, handsome Rhode Island Red Roosters named Jessie James and Action Jackson. They all come running and are excited to inspect what I have brought them. Pouring out a large trash bag full of rainbow colored fruits and vegetables, I bend down to help spread the bounty so the girls can better see what they have to choose from. I love watching them go for a juicy plump tomato, as soon as one hen pierces the flesh the others run for a taste, and in less than a half a minute the tomato is gone and on it’s way to becoming my scrambled egg for tomorrows breakfast. Grapes, blueberries and cranberries are sought after sweets for the hens. If one hen finds a sweet treat she will grab for it with her beak and head for the hills so the other hens can’t take it away. It is such a hoot watching them chase each other for the food. I like to take my time with the hens, I try never to be in a rush, I move slowly while I am with them and I take time to sit with them. I truly love just sitting and watching how they interact with each other, how they eat, how they sleep and rest, how they fight, how they resolve conflict, how they vocalize, how they observe their neighbors field mouse, cow and deer, how the roosters behave when they sense danger, how they take sun baths and dust baths, how they have fun. A few hens always follow me or jump on by back while I search for eggs crawling on hands and knees through woodchip bedding. Every day I find hidden treasures of spring green and pale celadon blue eggs, light mocha and cinnamon brown eggs, moon lit pink and dark brown with chocolate speckles eggs that rival a Jackson Pollock painting! It is also a hoot to see the many precarious places that the hens will lay their eggs. Each day is a fun egg hunt.
I deliver my eggs to families in San Francisco twice a week. To order eggs I ask people to become a member of an “Egg Clutch”. An egg clutch is a group of people that commit to 5 dozen or more eggs a week. Members are asked to self organize and figure out how to best distribute the eggs. Members are also asked to provide me with a surplus of recycled egg cartons on their first order and to continue to return their used cartons each week. The purpose of the egg clutch is to strengthen community ties through encouraging people to cooperatively support local food cultivation by eating healthy organic food that comes directly from the source to the table. Members are also encouraged to support a family that needs eggs. The eggs are another way to support the new system of growing and distributing food called CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. It is local, it is real, it is simple, it is nutritious and delicious, it is sustainable, it is fun, it is meaningful. Be a part of the transition to living a more simple lifestyle that is gentle to the earth, animals and people.
Here are 6 important questions to ask about your food.
How Fresh is it?
How many miles did it travel?
Has it been genetically altered?
Was it sprayed with poison?
What were the living conditions of the animal?
What were the living conditions of the farm workers?
Raising hens is a commitment but the benefits are great and profound, especially if you have children. I would encourage anyone to consider raising hens and you don‘t have to live on a ranch to do it. Are you ready to become an urban farmer? Getty-up now!
For fresh eggs, chicks, adult laying hens or to schedule a tour of the ranch contact Tori Jacobs at
. Plus, ECO-SF is now offering locally milled organic feed for sale, so if you or anyone you know in the area needs high quality animal feed contact