Jack and Elizabeth's interview on MN350

Posted on Jul 31, 2021 by Jack McCann

When Eli ask if I would consider being interviewed for MN350s podcast, I wasn't sure what to expect. Eli joined our team in 2020 with an amazing positive attitude and passion for building a better local food system.

I am pretty darn idealistic about food, but in my previous life as an business consultant, I am known for the phrase "Reality is your friend". After a decade learning the hard realities of idealistic farming, I wasn't sure what types of questions to expect from an equally idealistic group of younger podcasters.

TC Farm has collaborated with Elizabeth at Auntie Annie's fields for nearly a decade. We met when she reached out to Betsy and I asking what we thought of being certified as Animal Welfare Approved on our farm. I think you'll hear in the interview why we hit if off and have been partnering ever since to build a better local food system.

Backstory on TC Farm Eggs

Shortly after meeting Elizabeth, Betsy and I decided we simply couldn't continue raising the number of eggs we had been. Everyday we spent a couple hours collecting eggs, washing and inspecting each egg. This was in addition to her off-farm job teaching and all of the other farm duties and deliveries... oh and we had a new baby Lauren to figure out how to raise.

Unlike those grocery eggs raised in barns of 20,000 birds which use colorants to make the yolks darker and pretend to be on "pasture", any eggs raised with organic feed and truly on pasture are time consuming and expensive to raise. At the time, we were selling our eggs for $5 per dozen, but quickly realized it costs us way more than that to do it right. We felt guilty at the idea of stopping selling eggs, but we just couldn't continue to work several hours a day for what amounted to zero income.

We decided that a middle ground would be to offer our eggs for $7 with the idea that only the members who truly understood what made our eggs different would decide to spend that extra amount. We figured most would stop ordering eggs and then we could have fewer eggs to manage every day.

The only problem was that almost none of our members stopped ordering eggs. We had a problem, we just couldn't physically keep up with the hen chores and egg cleaning/packaging, but now we had effectively made a commitment to our nearly all of our members to keep raising eggs to our high standards.

Enter Elizabeth

As you will hear in the podcast, Elizabeth's passion for her land and her hens is beyond anything Betsy and I could have hoped for. You'll hear how their farm was struggling to make their farm viable due to key shortcomings in the local food system. By partnering together, we were able to provide TC Farm members with eggs raised to our standards and move their farm towards.a more viable lifestyle. As a huge bonus, our hens were cared for by a family who were solely focused on their welfare in a way that I wasn't in a position to do as well myself due to the other TC Farm duties.

Even with all of her passion, it was really hard for me to entrust someone else to raise eggs for my family. You'll hear Elizabeth mention how difficult it was for me to let go of directly collecting eggs to feed my family. How could I possibly eat eggs from another farm? It was a hard transition even though the eggs were physically laid by the same hens that used to be in my fields!

Over time

It became clear we made the right choice. Elizabeth and Ian have collaborated closely with Betsy and I to continue to improve our hens and their eggs. You'll notice the seasonality and true nature in our eggs - sometimes they are pale yellow and sometimes deep orange. Sometimes they are green or white or brown and sometimes they are large or small or even doubles!

All of that variability is the connection to the soil, to a nature that isn't perfectly the same every time. Hens aren't supposed to live in a factory with perfectly formulated feed to color the yolks exactly the same every way single day of the year.

Eggs are supposed to come from nature. From a nature that is beautiful in its imperfections and differences.

Listen to the Podcast

An Irreplaceable Treasure
Nourish by MN350

Jack McCann
Elizabeth O'Sullivan
Eli Crane

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