Monday, February 8, 2016

Get Locally Laid

I like chicken, both meat and eggs. I might as well get that confession out of the way at the outset.

My grandparents on both sides were born to farm families and spent some of their lives working farms as well. My parents were the first exception to this, and I am a city girl, through-and-through. Luckily for me, my maternal grandparents still farmed during my childhood years so that I was privy to the knowledge of from whence my food came. I helped my grandma turn the earth for the chicks to eat the grubs and worms, gather eggs in the hen house, and took part in the autumn slaughter and cleaning of chickens to be put up in the freezer and turned into stews and casseroles over the winter months to follow. (I’m still haunted by images of headless chickens flopping around the butchering yard until their nervous system’s electrical impulses were spent. Just the idea of the smell of burning pin feathers during plucking can turn my stomach to this day.)

Thus I found Lucie Amundsen’s book, Locally Laid, thoroughly engaging with it’s sometimes humorous and always educational story of her family’s adventure into sustainable, middle agriculture egg production.

The fact that Locally Laid is a company from neighboring Minnesota added to the pleasure of this read for me. I lived in the Twin Cities for a few years and have visited Duluth numerous times. Familiarity with the landscape, the weather, and the ethos of the area makes Amundsen’s words ring all the louder and truer.

I have a lot of admiration for Amundsen and her husband. He had a vision and they both sacrificed and worked (you could say struggled!) to bring the dream to fruition. The stories she relays of the making of their farm and brand are harrowing and humorous, full of pain and triumph and plenty of school-of-hard-knocks learning. The insights gained and shared will benefit everyone who has a vision of something better which takes grit and true determination to bring to life. (That is to say, there is something here for ALL of us!)

Locally Laid is a quick, delightful, and thought-provoking read. I feel I learned a great deal not only about the egg and chicken producing business in the United States, but also about food sources, sustainability, and the true cost of the food choices before me every time I open my wallet to pay. For this insight I am truly grateful! If you have even the slightest inkling to stop and think about the food you eat and feed your family with, I highly suggest you read this book! (Besides, who doesn’t love the idea of free-range chickens happily roaming the prairie of northern Minnesota?)

My thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

How a Midwestern family with no agriculture experience went from a few backyard chickens to a full-fledged farm—and discovered why local chicks are better.

When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.

To create this pastured poultry ranch, the couple scrambles to acquire nearly two thousand chickens—all named Lola. These hens, purchased commercially, arrive bereft of basic chicken-y instincts, such as the evening urge to roost. The newbie farmers also deal with their own shortcomings, making for a failed inspection and intense struggles to keep livestock alive (much less laying) during a brutal winter. But with a heavy dose of humor, they learn to negotiate the highly stressed no-man’s-land known as Middle Agriculture. Amundsen sees firsthand how these midsized farms, situated between small-scale operations and mammoth factory farms, are vital to rebuilding America’s local food system.

With an unexpected passion for this dubious enterprise, Amundsen shares a messy, wry, and entirely educational story of the unforeseen payoffs (and frequent pitfalls) of one couple’s ag adventure—and many, many hours spent wrangling chickens.

About the Author . . .

Lucie Amundsen is a writer, marketer, and reluctant farmer. She co-owns Locally Laid Egg Company, a farm that provides pasture-raised eggs in Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana. She sits on the Hartley Nature Center board and is an active volunteer with Duluth Community Gardening Program. Amundsen also holds a master’s of fine arts in writing from Hamline University. A former contributor to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and former editor at Reader’s Digest Association, Amundsen has written for scores of publications during her freelance career. She lives with her husband and two children in Duluth, Minnesota.

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