Community Agriculture Alliance: Two farmers, one mission, a whole lot of eggs |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Two farmers, one mission, a whole lot of eggs

Jessie Sykes
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Hayden Fresh Farm is working to provide locally sourced food by utilizing sustainable farming practices.
Community Agriculture Alliance/Courtesy photo

Just a few miles south of Hayden on 40 acres of rolling hills lies Hayden Fresh Farm. With 360-degree views of the Yampa Valley, this space holds a quiet peacefulness.

But just behind a large barn door are hundreds of chickens living their best life and laying a lot of eggs. The owners of Hayden Fresh Farm, Colby and Michelle Townsend, have one mission: provide local food to local people. Under that mission, their goal is to collect a million eggs per year.

Colby and Michelle committed to farming exclusively three years ago. Previously, they were the owners of Elk River Pet and Ranch for 23 years. Though long-time business owners, they are not new to farming.

Colby has been raising chickens since middle school. Michelle grew up on a farm, where her parents raised meat birds, layers and pigs. Her job was to collect the eggs, clean the coop and help care for the chickens.

She remembers thinking, “I will never have chickens.” Now she loves and cares for close to 3,000 chickens every day.

One driving force that led Michelle and Colby to sell Elk River Pet and Ranch was a conversation Colby had with a local restaurant owner and friend in 2017.

The restaurant owner wanted locally sourced eggs on his menu, and Colby was willing to take on the challenge. That summer, Colby and Michelle went from 20 to 500 chickens. Every egg was sold to the restaurant. Colby said it was his “gateway drug to ag business.”

Today, Hayden Fresh sells to 21 local restaurant and wholesale accounts, collecting 1,300 eggs per day. They also sell eggs at the farmers market in the summer and have eggs available year-round at the CAA Market downtown.

Besides their brown egg layers, Hayden Fresh raises meat birds, turkeys and pigs. All of their animals are pasture raised and well loved.

When asked what their favorite product is, Colby replied, “That is like asking me who my favorite child is.” After some thought, he decides their whole chickens are his favorite. “We get the broilers as baby chickens and see them from start to finish.”

Michelle, on the other hand, says without hesitation, “our pork shoulders. There is just so much you can do with them.”

Colby and Michelle are working toward a goal where all of their business needs come from their property. If they can’t control something in the system, they choose to do it themselves.

They grow the grass and alfalfa that feed their animals. Limited water on the property requires them to be conscious of water use. They’re interested in experimenting with snow fences, swells and increased permaculture as ways to keep water on their land. They strive to do better for the food, for the land and for the community.

“Our mission is to connect local food to local people,” Colby said.

With this mission in mind, Colby has seen an increasing desire from the community to have more locally sourced food available.

“There is a supply problem,” he said.

He would love to see more producers in the Yampa Valley in the future. The pandemic has created shortages across the country.

“People will need to realize that we need local food,” Colby said.

Hayden Fresh wants to do just that, help put food into the mouths of the community.

Jessie Sykes works at the Routt County Community Agriculture Alliance.

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