Know your farmer

Meet the families behind a few of our local egg farms.

Ever wonder who’s growing or raising that incredible food at BriarPatch? If you could meet our wonderful local farmers in person, you’d realize they’re not the super humans they sometimes appear to be, since they work sunup to sundown, skip vacations, and often spend more time with soil or livestock than with people. They’re actually a lot like us—people with families and busy lives who value fresh, healthy food, which is why we thought we’d help put a ‘face to the farm’ by featuring a few of them here in The Vine. Enjoy!

Meet Patty Bielen of Back to Basics Farm

Interviewed at the 2017 Food and Farm Conference, during the record-setting winter rainfall.

BP: Do you have a barn?
Patty: We have three barns.
BP: If we were to come out and open the doors, what would we see?
Patty: You would see a lot of chickens. They do get to come out occasionally, but yeah, they’re in the barns right now being kinda like big egg machines… in and out of their nesting boxes. That’s pretty much their life—they eat, they drink, and then they get to go eat bugs… you know, it’s the life of a chicken.
BP: What do you drive?
Patty: I actually drive a Ford F150 truck. It’s my delivery vehicle also.
BP: Who’s your best animal ranch hand?
Patty: We have a goat right now that we were milking for our grandson and it follows us everywhere, goes everywhere with us and sleeps on the back deck. Her name is Bell.
BP: If we were to go to your house and open the refrigerator door, what would we find?
Patty: A lot of eggs. I have commercial refrigeration and my house is basically our office, and so you open the refrigerator, you’ll see eggs that are either going to be delivered that day or the next day.
BP: At 5 o’clock, is it Sierra Nevada time or tea time?
Patty: At 5 o’clock we’re still working pretty hard so it won’t be tea time or Sierra Nevada time for quite a while…
BP: Do you have any fun facts you want to share?
Patty: You know, we get a lot of questions about the eggs and stuff like that. We just got a question about the color of the egg yolks. The egg yolk color changes with the feed that they are eating so it changes with the seasons, depending on whether they’re eating grass, bugs, commercial feed, all that stuff.

Meet Sandra Higareda of Higareda Farm

Interviewed from her farm this spring.

BP: Do you have a barn?
Sandra: We have several small barns… We have a barn for our goats. We have a barn for each pig, and then we have three barns for our chickens.
BP: If we were to come out and open the doors, what would we see?
Sandra: Chickens that are gonna run outside!
BP: What do you drive?
Sandra: A lot of different vehicles. We drive a Dodge Dakota; it’s a little truck but it’s a mighty farm truck. And a Dodge Ram—it’s a big old quarter-ton truck. We use that too for hauling food. I’m actually switching off between the Dodge Durango and the Dakota right now to deliver our produce because of the weather.
BP: Who’s your best animal ranch hand?
Sandra: My dogs—one’s Bella and one’s Sprocket. They’re Australian shepherds but one’s an Australian/Queensland, and they’re my good workers. They help do a lot of things. They help me with the sheep, the goats and pigs… and stay alarmed for predators at night, especially my full Australian named Bella. You can tell by the way she’s behaving if there’s a skunk trying to get into the pen or a raccoon. She’s really good that way. Sprocket is a little more aggressive but he’s good for that reason because he listens, and if I need him to be aggressive he’s good that way. Bella is a little more like an alarm system. She does her part by bringing in the sheep and the goats…
BP: If we were to go to your house and open the refrigerator door, what would we find?
Sandra: Good pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, raw milk, meat we’re going to use for the evening, fresh vegetables from our garden, different sauces we’ll use for cooking. But there are no eggs in the refrigerator. I keep them all outside because I like to eat them as fresh as they come.
BP: At 5 o’clock, is it Sierra Nevada time or tea time?
Sandra: It’s feeding time… It’s getting-dinner-together time… It’s giving my grand baby a bath time. There is no Sierra Nevada time. There’s a good bottle of water… but I take care of my mom and dad who are in the Bay Area too. A lot of the time I’m on the phone with them, making sure they’re cooking something for dinner or just checking to see how they’re doing.
BP: Do you have any fun facts you want to share?
Sandra: I love my eggs! When I’m not in my home area, I carry three-dozen eggs with me. The yolks in them are the strong yellow-orange color. If I go somewhere else, you don’t get that. We love that the chickens are free, wandering around the farm. I love that whole aspect of our farm.

Photography by Higareda Farm

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