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“Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm – From
Scratch” by Lucie B. Amundsen. 2016. Avery. $26.00 / $34.00 Canada. 320 pages
There are many ways to feather your nest.
Some people take in work at home. Others tackle extra hours, extra tasks, or have part-time jobs. And then there are entrepreneurs who put everything on the line – which is what Lucie B. Amundsen and her family did not long ago, and in the new book “Locally Laid,” they describe how their entrepreneurialism almost put egg on their faces.
The moment definitely was not as romantic as Lucie Amundsen had anticipated.
When her husband, Jason, took her on a date so they could “talk… about something,” she never figured it would be chickens.
Specifically, commercial egg production.
With neither of them being particularly handy, and Amundsen smarting over an unwanted move from her dream home in Minneapolis to an odd rental in Duluth, it seemed like a disastrous idea. They didn’t really know much about chickens, and even less about raising them on pasture. After a chilly few days of tears, frowns, and silence, the idea was mutually tabled – until a lost job and a family disaster changed every clucking plan. Chickens, to Amundsen’s chagrin, were in her future.
Finding the farm was the easy part: Jason scouted out a rental with ample room for several tube-shelters for slightly fewer than two thousand “young lady hens.” Procuring said hens was a little more difficult, until he found a man in Iowa who agreed to raise the hens to an almost-laying age, and deliver them to northern Minnesota. By the spring of 2012, the Amundsens were in business.
It didn’t take long for things to go fowl.
Improper paperwork, government regulations, dead chickens, bad weather, inadequate equipment, and exhaustion took their toll on the chickens, the farm, and the Amundsens, who both began to suffer health issues from stress. Despite support from family and friends, enthusiasm from customers, and a contest that brought a city together, Amundsen says she was “a prairie train wreck.”
“But there was nothing to do,” she says, “other than to ride through our rocky startup.”
Where does your food come from?
That’s a basic question asked in “Locally Laid,” and the answer may be different than it was even a few decades ago. In addition to sharing a story that’s funny and endearing, author Lucie B. Amundsen explains, while also laying down a few brutal truths about what’s for breakfast.
For a consumer, that could cause scrambled thoughts, especially if you can’t tolerate too much information because Amundsen is honest about the bad, as well as the good – the latter of which she was slow to realize – and yes, there’s a happy ending. The surprise is that this is also a business tale with all the inherent frustrations, beautiful moments, work-arounds, and triumphs of entrepreneurship.
And, of course, this tale is a charmer because… chickens.
So who should read this book? Well, anyone who eats, first of all, and anybody who’s ever loved a feathered friend. Farmers, foodies, and fans of a good story will also want to bring “Locally Laid” home to roost.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to learn more about Amundsen’s experience and see several terrific “portraits” of some of her chickens, see her recent article published in Modern Farmer.