Sandra Higareda and her husband, Paco, began raising laying hens when they moved with their three children to Browns Valley, California, a small rural community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in 2002. At first, their intention was to raise fresh food for the immediate family, but then Sandra’s mother wanted some of the delicious farm-fresh eggs. Soon after, her brother asked for some eggs, and it wasn’t long until neighbors started asking, too. By 2010, the operation on their small acreage was growing as demand increased and they started taking the whole thing a lot more seriously.
Sandra started doing research and learned that despite their bad reputation as an unhealthy, high-cholesterol food, eggs were actually very good for you when they came from pasture-raised chickens. In fact, she learned there was a huge health benefit to all products that come from animals raised on pasture. In 2011, Sandra and Paco installed irrigation throughout their 9-acre property and they were able to really put what they were learning into practice. “I wanted to create the right environment for my chickens so they would always be on pasture,” says Sandra. “So we planted large areas with green grasses they can roam.”
In addition to green pastures for their animals, the Higaredas also have organically-managed gardens. “The chickens basically have free reign except when crops in our garden beds are young,” says Sandra. “Once crops are well-established, we often let the hens in there too to control bugs. They have a very varied diet with clippings from garden as well.” This varied diet produces happy chickens and healthy, delicious eggs. While it requires regular irrigation and good pasture-management, Sandra believes that the chickens deserve the highest-welfare practices. “All creatures should be treated with respect,” she says. “I try to work to make their environment as natural as possible. In return for the products they give us, we try to give them the best life they can have.” The Higaredgas look forward to continuing to increase their knowledge of animal health and husbandry practices with the help of Animal Welfare Approved.
Now that their children are grown, Sandra runs the operation with Paco and Papá (Paco’s father). But the eggs and produce from the farm no longer feed only the family and appreciative neighbors. Instead, Higareda Family Farm supplies a local food cooperative, which in turn sells food to local communities in the area.