Two years ago, Anjelica Locke and her husband, Sean, started out with 50 chickens and a dream to provide the community with an organic, farm fresh option. Today, that dream is a reality through their business, Green Acres Farmstead. The small farm in Hilmar now boasts 500 chickens, growing from a simple idea into a venture that produces healthy, pasture-raised eggs for the 209 area.
“I come from a heavy agricultural background and knew that I liked farming, and I also knew that I liked marketing,” said Anjelica, who was having a hard time finding a job after graduating from Stanislaus State. “I tried to find a way that I could combine it all.”
Spanning across a green paddock next to her grandmother’s house, Green Acres Farmstead consists of a couple of chicken coops built by Sean and a large number of very happy hens, who are free to forage to their hearts’ content.
“Chickens eat meat, like bugs, and also grass,” said Anjelica. “When they can forage in their natural state, their eggs have a darker yolk and a richer flavor. I’m not a nutritionist, but there are a lot of studies that suggest and prove that pasture-raised eggs are healthier for you than conventional eggs.”
It’s not only the eggs’ healthy benefits that inspired Anjelica to begin raising free-range chickens, but also her own morals. While she has no qualms with farms that produce their eggs through conventional means – usually, large amounts of chickens are housed together in confined areas – it is something that she never considered.
“I definitely eat meat, but I try my hardest to be like, ‘Okay, let’s do this the best possible way that we can,’” said Anjelica. “The main reason we do it is to let the chickens be in their most natural state possible.”
Though things are going well for the farm now, it was difficult to get started in an area where large farms are in charge. Anjelica explained the delicate balance of staying sustainable while still remaining profitable – something that can be hard when the chickens’ well-being is the number one priority.
“I never want to compromise what I started with,” said Anjelica. “I majored in economics, and from that standpoint my farm is such a dumb idea because it’s just not as efficient (as larger farms). Oftentimes it’s such a hard struggle between what my heart wants and what my brain says.”
Another struggle Anjelica faced when starting Green Acres Farmstead had nothing to do with the farm itself, but rather her gender.
“I had a hard time,” said Anjelica. “In agriculture, being a woman can be very challenging since it is a male-dominated field.”
Though Anjelica’s husband Sean makes it out to the farm when he can, his full-time job prevents him from helping as often as he would like to. That leaves the day-to-day running up to Anjelica, whose hard work has resulted in Green Acres Farmstead’s eggs being sold at Village Fresh Market in Turlock and Village Health Foods in Modesto.
“Thankfully we’ve been able to find this niche market that appreciates a farm ran by a gal,” said Anjelica.
Anjelica also attends the Merced Certified Farmers Market weekly where she sells her eggs, and often holds demos at the grocery stores where her eggs are sold, providing information about both pasture-raised eggs and Green Acres Farmstead.
Next, Anjelica and Sean hope to turn the farm into something larger, steering away from the tiny chicken coops that they now have and transforming their barn into a massive chicken “shelter.”
“It won’t be a chicken ‘house’ because there’s no confinement,” said Anjelica.
The couple hopes to double their chicken population, going from their small group of 500 hens to a much more substantial group of 1,000, and would also like to expand their product into more local farmers markets and grocery stores.
As the daughter of immigrants, Anjelica knows the meaning of hard work. But, as is the case for any entrepreneur, business doesn’t always come easy. On days when the farming gets tough, Anjelica remembers something a family member once told her.
“My grandpa always told me that the beauty of America is that you have the opportunity to do anything,” said Anjelica. “I always try to remember that on the harder days.”