You have probably bought a bag of chips or a soda from a vending machine, but have you ever purchased eggs out of a vending machine? If not, you can right here in Sonoma County at Wise Acre Farm. Located in Windsor, the farm is owned and operated by Tiffany Holbrook and her husband Jason. Although they had no previous agricultural experience they bought the business from a hobby farmer in 2018.
“My husband and I had a small backyard chicken flock for years so I understood the basic care of chickens, other than that I had zero farming experience before we purchased Wise Acre,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany, formerly an elementary school secretary and hairstylist, saw that Wise Acre Farm was for sale and jumped on the opportunity to make a dream come true.
I had finally found my passion and nothing was going to stop me,” Tiffany said. “I trained for about three weeks with the owner and then was on my own.”
What started as a small hobby farm in the backyard has become a fulltime farming operation. Today, Wise Acre Farm is home to 1,500 laying hens, which provide farm fresh eggs for customers in Sonoma County, 350 chicks, 4 goats, 2 geese, and 1 huge livestock guardian dog.
Tiffany sailed that since taking over the farm she hasn’t looked back.
“I love being a farmer,” she said. “I work sunup until sundown, seven days a week at the farm, and Jason works full time for Chalk Hill Winery as the warehouse manager and supervisor during the bottling seasons.”
Her daily farm routine includes feeding and watering the chickens, moving the custom-built fleet of chicken coops, and gathering, processing, and handwashing hundreds of eggs.
The 15-acre pasture that Wise Acre Farm hens call home has custom built mobile coops that are moved every 2-4 days and sometimes daily during the wet season. Tiffany said that this gives the chickens access to fresh grass, seeds, insects, snakes, frogs, lizards, and mice.
Pasture rotation doesn’t just improve the health of Wise Acre Farm’s chickens, it also improves the health of the soil.
“By controlling the location of the chickens we successfully stop overgrazing on the grass which also allows the grass to rest and reestablish new growth and allow insects and other living creatures to repopulate,” Tiffany explained. “The waste from the chickens is absorbed in the ground and increases the organic matter in our soil.”
In addition to the land management practices they use, Wise Acre Farm is also set apart by its urban location and unique egg vending machine.
“Customers have the benefit of seeing exactly where their food comes from while purchasing eggs, which is really cool,” Tiffany said. “They can purchase eggs from two honor system refrigerators and in several local businesses. We also sell eggs to restaurants.”
Recently, COVID-19 Pandemic created a change in Wise Acre’s business because of the increase in demand for local eggs.
“When the grocery stores ran out of eggs our business just boomed and it was pretty overwhelming for the first two weeks until I adjusted to the new routine,” Tiffany said.
She received countless calls, messages, and emails from new customers, people looking for eggs, and others who were looking for young chickens to start their own victory flocks. Tiffany said she had to quickly restructure and accommodate the increase in demand for direct to consumer sales.
“Right now we have a 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. schedule between farm and home life because of the Pandemic,” Tiffany said. “Thankfully, the Farm Bureau did so much of the leg work that helped us to understand the rules related to COVID-19 and the Shelter in Place Order and assisted farmers like us about how to stay in compliance. They also provided information about the funding opportunities available.”
Tiffany said that she will always be a Farm Bureau Member because of the support she has received.
“As a first-generation farmer I don’t have a lot of connections or know a lot of folks in this industry,” Tiffany explained. “Farm Bureau has helped me to become better connected and shared important assistance during stressful times. I will forever value their assistance during the Kincade Fire and now the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
In addition to her work at the farm, the Sonoma County native is extremely involved in the community by volunteering her time to local schools and nonprofit organizations.
“The farm has an elementary and middle school within walking distance and we allow classrooms to walk over to the farm for field trips and a few girl scout troops have received private tours,” Tiffany said. “I have donated eggs to the schools and talked inside numerous classrooms. I also have worked with high school and college students to see if farming is the right career path for their future.”
Tiffany said that because Wise Acre Farms has all of its eggs in one basket, literally and figuratively, she hopes the future of the business will include more variety. Over the past year, she has been working to add ducks and quail to the farm.
Although the days are long and the work is hard, Tiffany shared that there is not much she doesn’t enjoy about being involved in the farming industry.
“I love working outside with animals most of the day and I love the support from fellow farmers and ranchers,” Tiffany said. “It’s an amazing community of people willing to help each other and I’m thankful to be in the agricultural industry.”
To learn more about Wise Acre Farm visit https://www.wiseacrewindsor.com/