Local Vendor Focus: Grazing Fields Egg Co-op
by Lisa Bashert, Marketing Coordinator
Grazing Fields cooperative started in 1997. Sixteen years later, there are seven farmers producing eggs for the co-op and about 35 wholesale customers. Eaton, Ingham, Montcalm, and Oceana counties are all represented.
Grazing Fields farmers don't feed antibiotics, many grow some of their own chicken feed, and all let the chickens out into the run each afternoon. Eggs are hand-collected from the nest boxes in the chicken coop. Grazing Fields Co-op is working on becoming "Certified Humane." For this certification, each hen must have 3 ft2 of space inside the coop—room to stretch & scratch. The co-op follows the work of animal advocate Temple Grandin, who encourages farmers to create an environment for animals to express their essential nature.
It's challenging to keep a balance between production and demand. Chickens like to lay in the summer. Yet sales can be down 15% in summer due to customers shopping at farmers markets, eating out, and traveling. Customers want more eggs in the winter!
Recently, the co-op secured a loan for a refrigerated truck thru Co-Bank. Farmers bring in their eggs on Tuesdays and they go immediately onto the delivery truck. Grazing Fields employs a part-time driver, bookkeeper & a customer service staffer. In addition to eggs, Grazing Fields now delivers for Moo-ville Family Creamery and Otto's Chicken Processing. This diversification helps support the local food system and defray the expense of the truck loan.
Recent egg laws (2011) also present some challenges—farmers must be licensed to process eggs on the farm, requiring major infrastructure investment in the form of new septic systems and drain fields for better egg sanitation.
The Ypsi Food Co-op is proud to carry Grazing Fields eggs! Click the following link for a full list of our Local Vendors!