Central Valley farmers see huge demand for farm fresh eggs

The Fresno BeeMarch 17, 2014 

Mercedes Gonzales, center, and Crystal Munoz, right, browse Kaiser Farmers Market, walking past eggs sold by farmer Becky Terry. Eggs in the foreground are laid by araucana chickens.

JOHN WALKER — THE FRESNO BEE

The sight of a hefty quarter-pound goose egg turned more than a few heads recently at the Kaiser Permanente farmers market in Fresno.

The extra large eggs — roughly the size of your palm — aren't just a novelty. They are part of a growing demand for farm fresh eggs.

These days, chicken, duck, turkey, goose and even quail eggs can be found at local farmers markets, farm stands and specialty food stores.

Egg producers say the demand is so strong, especially for chicken eggs, that several farmers are expanding their flocks and growing specialty eggs.

Hoping to develop a market for quail eggs is Amanda Harvey of Kingsburg. She sells her tiny eggs at the KMK Organic Farm Store in Kingsburg, 12859 S. Mendocino Ave.

Farm-store manager Molly Lawson says there has been a fair amount of interest in the small spotted eggs. The store also has duck and chicken eggs.

"We are hoping they sell well," Lawson says.

Food blogger Louise Hendon (www.AncestralChef.com) says the influences of other countries and cultures has helped make specialty eggs more popular. As an example, quail and duck eggs are common in many Asian cuisines.

"I also think that TV cooking shows, farmers markets, and the growth of health stores have made us more curious about new foods," says Hendon, who lives in Morgan Hill. "It's fantastic that our palate is expanding."

Hannah and Holly Johnson, sisters who operate River Roots Farm in Laton, say their 100 hens can't pump out eggs fast enough. They supply Peeves Local Market on the Fulton Mall in Fresno, regular customers and restaurants.

"We try to produce at least 40 dozen a week and they are usually sold within a day or two," Hannah Johnson says.

"What we are seeing is that consumers are looking at their food more closely and are more aware of what they are putting in their bodies. They want food that is fresh, straight from the farm and they want to know who grew it."

The Johnsons, who market their eggs under the Just Got Laid label, plan to double their flock over the next several months.

River Roots customer Barbara Harmony is typical of many who are buying the eggs at farmers markets or specialty stores.

"I like the fact that these eggs are different, they are fresher, the yolk has a deep, richer color and I know where they came from," Harmony says.

The color of farm-raised eggs can vary depending on the variety of the animal. As for the taste, farmers and consumers say there are subtle differences.

One distinct quality of quail eggs, other than their small size, is their higher yolk to white ratio. Turkey and goose yolks can have a lighter shade of yellow and more white than yolk. Some say goose eggs also have a slightly thicker texture.

Duck eggs have a richer flavor, a darker yolk and can add more fluffiness to baking recipes, says Becky Terry, a fourth generation farmer from Dinuba.

"A friend says that duck eggs taste like a chicken egg that has been fried in butter," says Terry, who sells duck, goose and chicken eggs at the Kaiser Permanente Farmers Market every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 7300 N. Fresno St.

Terry's eggs are sold at the market through Charlie Cornett of Cornett Farms, a honey producer.

In Madera, the Trevino family raises turkey, goose and chicken eggs, along with vegetables and raisins on 42 acres. The animals are free to roam the property, munching on grass, insects, vegetable scraps and regular feed.

Kim Trevino says the family did not intend to become egg producers. They bought the animals for meat. But as people found out they had chickens and ducks, the requests for eggs began.

"So we decided, why not make the best of what we have," says Trevino's daughter Kayla, who manages the livestock.

Now, the family regularly sells out of their chicken eggs at the Old Town Clovis Farmers Market on Saturdays, 8-11:30 a.m.

Kayla Trevino also is expanding her flock to keep up with demand. Her hens include Araucana and Ameraucana breeds that produce lightly colored brown, blue and green eggs.

Also regularly selling out of chicken eggs is C. Jay Page of Page River Bottom Farms in Reedley. Page sells at the Vineyard Farmers Market on the northwest corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues on Wednesday from 3-6 p.m and Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.

"When we go to market, we sell everything," Page says. "People want these eggs."

Paleo quail egg salad

15 quail eggs, boiled and peeled

15-20 grape tomatoes

1 head of butter lettuce, chopped into large pieces

1 carrot, grated

Seven slices of crispy bacon, crumbled

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste

Salt to taste

Place the quail eggs into boiling water for 3 minutes (use a spoon to put them in to prevent breakage) for soft-boiled eggs. Boil for 4-5 minutes for hard-boiled quail eggs. Place the eggs into running cold water to cool. Peel the eggs and rinse the eggs of any remaining shell.

Place the tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and bacon into a large salad bowl and toss with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Add the quail eggs to the salad bowl and toss gently.

— Louise Hendon, www.AncestralChef.com

Eggs ova kale

Two cups of kale

1/2 heirloom tomato or 1 cup of tomato

2 to 3 eggs

Dash of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Rough chop kale and simmer in 2 cups of water until soft. Drain the kale and put back in the pan with a dash of olive oil and roughly chopped tomatoes. Sauté for eight to 10 minutes on medium.

Add eggs and stir until they are cooked through. Salt and pepper to taste.

— Hannah Johnson, River Roots Farm

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, brodriguez@fresnobee.com or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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