Producing “The Best Eggs In The World”
That’s how Ralph Collar, one of Grazing Fields’ farmers, describes what he and his family does every day.
“We do our best to provide the absolute best-tasting eggs to our customers by using a pasture grass method of farming. Our poultry barns have no floors in them so we can move them to various parts of the pasture. Despite the size of the chicken house, we move it every week with a tractor, weather permitting. That means we don’t overwork any one area. In fact, our hens can feed anywhere they want on 30 acres of green pasture at all times, dawn to dusk.”
Ralph is the fourth generation farming his family farm, Stone Hedge. One-hundred forty-five years of experience is a great tradition, but Ralph didn’t always farm. “I worked construction for most of my career, but then I discovered that if we started approaching farming differently, I could get back on the farm full time. My wife, Deborah and I, found we could make a living for our family just from the farm again.”
Using a rotational system and freely letting his beef cattle mingle with the hens in a symbiotic relationship has made all of the difference. “We learned a lot from Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia (http://www.polyfacefarms.com/). This approach really benefits the all-around needs of the animals and farmer. And ultimately, that means it’s best for the families we deliver to.”
Everything is local at Stone Hedge—local pasture and locally grown supplemental feed. And something else happened locally. Ralph and Debra’s son and daughter-in-law, Cameron and Chelsea, decided to make farming their livelihood too.
“I was working in an automotive recycling shop…doing fine there, but I just enjoyed being out on the land and being able to apply my practical skills on the farm,” says Cameron.
“Cameron and I love it out here. I grew up around farming and there’s nothing like waking early in the morning and walking out to a beautiful sunrise. Then gathering the eggs and knowing that, within a day or two, these eggs will be in the stores. That helps you fall into bed at night with that good feeling of tired, knowing you’ve done something of value for others,” says Chelsea.
One of those valuable things is delivering the best eggs in the world to Grazing Fields customers. The other might be being together with extended family, including brother Angus, Ralph, Debra and 3,000 hens.
If you’re ever in Mason, Michigan, consider stopping by. Kids are welcome.