Meet the Dynamic Duo Behind Shelly’s Farm Fresh
In keeping with our #GreetTheGrowers series of spotlights on our Sunday Farmers Market Bay Meadows friends, we’re pleased to introduce you to Shelly and Kelly! Shelly’s Farm Fresh is a small family farm on 10 acres in Brentwood, Contra Costa County where Shelly and her husband planted roots nearly 30 years ago to raise their family, now the family farm raises hens! Kelly, the eldest of Shelly’s 4 sons has become Shelly’s farm-partner and helps her “herd the girls”. What three items would you find if you peeked inside this duo’s Farmers Market bag? Artichokes, Brussel Sprouts and Cilantro, of course! Did you know? To get an eggs best nutrition, you should enjoy the egg in its first 2 weeks! Discover this handy tip and more, read on…
JUST IN: Shelly’s Farm Fresh is now taking whole chicken orders!
“Our focus has been to treat the hens with respect and raise them so they can roam and do what comes naturally to them.”
We asked the duo how they like their eggs… “Over-medium or poached”, says Shelly. Kelly adds, “We enjoy a dish from Crawfish in San Francisco that has used our eggs. Glazed pork or steak with garlic rice with an over-medium egg on top.” Yummy!
And So Shelly’s Farm Fresh Was Born:
“My husband is our “tractor guy” since he works a lot of hours during the week but loves to ride the tractor mowing whenever he can. Our sons have had farm chores all their lives. Taking care of chickens, shoveling manure….lots of manure, helping with irrigation and repairing whatever needs repairing. In 1999, we started growing culinary herbs, tomatoes and peppers for market. We had some chickens for ourselves and started adding more chickens. Eventually, we decided to raise hens for eggs exclusive, and here we are. We have learned as we go, working the land ….as I was a critical care nurse for 18 years and Kelly worked different jobs – going to art school before venturing out and then coming back to the farm.
On Farm Life:
“What’s fulfilling about working a small farm is the satisfaction and pride we feel doing our best to raise our hens. Having livestock is a 7 day a week, 365 day a year job. We try to keep a routine with our chores as much as possible but it only takes one hen catching our eye, a small leak with irrigation or the tractor not working properly to side track us for hours. It’s never boring. We do have one rooster who has it out for us and likes to stalk us while we are collecting eggs. You would think that with approximately 2500 hens, he would have more interesting things to keep his attention.”
Poached, Scrambled or Boiled?
“I still haven’t found a consistent method to hard boiling eggs when they are very fresh, since you must peel the egg to enjoy it. Use vinegar, poke a hole in the shell, ice bath after cooking or ? If the egg is at least 2 weeks old almost any method works well. The egg gets a bigger air bubble and makes it easier to peel. We usually boil for 9 minutes, cool down eggs and place in the refrigerator. This works for us. My favorite is an over-medium egg, so I can really taste the yolk. We do make breakfast burritos a lot with all the great fresh produce from the farmers’ market available.”
On Year-round Egg Production:
“We raise our hens from day old chicks we get from hatcheries in groups of 250 to 1000 at a time. We brood them in an insulated room with heat lamps to keep them warm and safe. It takes about 6 months of care and feeding before the hens start to lay eggs. When they start laying the eggs are smaller for the first month or so and are called “pullet eggs”. There is more yolk to white ratio and every time the young hen lays an egg it gets a little bigger. So basically the young hens get to practice laying eggs before they get to the larger size they will lay the rest of their lives. We have 5-6 breeds of hens, since that is how we tell how old they are. We don’t like to band their legs or wings. We also NEVER clip their beaks or wings. Most large egg production businesses do this because the hens don’t have any room, about a square foot per hen, to move around and they get stressed and start pecking at each other.”
“Every day we feed, clean waters, irrigate pasture, collect eggs and observe the flock. A normal schedule includes washing eggs, bookkeeping, ordering and picking up supplies, plus 3 days a week we go to 5 different farmers’ markets.”
“We bring eggs to market within 3 days of being laid, a lot of times the next day. We wash the eggs since the girls don’t always keep the nests clean. After washing we place the eggs in a walk-in cooler until market. We are asked quite often if we refrigerate the eggs. Once washed, treated and coated with a protective layer to seal, the bacteria is kept out and moisture in. We label our eggs to use in 4 weeks from the day they were laid. When you raise hens naturally there are 2 times a year that their production drops. Once a year every hen “molts” which mean she changes out her feathers and does not produce eggs since all her energy and nutrition goes to making new feather. This can last a couple of weeks to 6 weeks depending on the hens and her age. The second time is winter. Hens show down during the winter with the decrease of day light. This is natures behavior since they don’t want to hatch out babies when it is cold outside. This also allows them to rest and build up nutrition reserve for all the eggs they lay the rest of the year.”
Greet Shelly and Kelly in-person, Sundays at Farmers Market Bay Meadows!
There’s a new Farmers Market in town and it’s in the heart of the Bay Meadows community. Visit our seasonal market on Sundays, 9:30 to 1:30 on the corner of Delaware and Franklin Streets. The Farmers Market in our Midurban village offers nutritious California fruits and veggies, handcrafted baked goods, farm-fresh flowers, prepared artisan foods and specialty items. Guests can also enjoy live music, fitness events, entertainment for kids, craft workshops and more, all presented in the welcoming outdoors of this new neighborhood. Located adjacent to the Hillsdale Caltrain station stop and also offering ample parking. Learn more here >