By Annie Petersen
There’s a gravel road in Lacona that traverses rolling hills, cuts through open fields, crosses over the White Breast Creek on a rickety narrow wooden bridge and eventually leads to Coyote Run Farm.
Matt Russell and Patrick Standley purchased the 1930s relic in 2005, filling out all 110 acres with organic crops, grazing livestock and Gold Star free-range chickens.
“The eggs are probably the most popular thing that we sell,” Russell says. “People get hooked on them.”
Russell and Standley started out with 50 laying hens, but it quickly grew to 300. Now they’ve cut down to a flock of 150, which supplies about 11 dozen eggs a day and peaked at about 13 dozen this summer.
Russell was working in consumer advocacy for the Iowa Citizen Action Network when he met Standley, a zookeeper at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. The pair started looking for a farm in 2004 with the goal to learn more about the way agriculture influences what people eat.
“I thought I should do it myself, rather than just telling other people to do it,” Russell admits.
Standley quit his job at the zoo in 2006 and works full-time on the farm, while Russell balances his farm life with his current position as coordinator for Drake University’s “Buy Fresh Buy Local” campaign in Des Moines.
The farm also supplies local restaurants with many organic ingredients, excluding eggs. They don’t have an egg-handling license (which means that they can sell to individual customers, but not to restaurants or stores), and they don’t plan on getting one any time soon.
“We’re at the size we want to be,” Russell says. “Seventy dozen eggs a week is the perfect number for us.” RELISH