Happy Hens the source of local egg-citment
BY: Laura Gates
POSTED: 8:52 PM, Jun 15, 2015
When it comes to flavor, farm fresh eggs can’t be beat, says Executive Chef John O’Leary of the Naples Yacht Club. Thanks to Circle C Farm Happy Hens, his longtime quest for locally sourced, organic eggs is over.
“It’s one of those things where I was searching for a while,” he explained. “With these organic eggs, there’s just a richer flavor. As a chef, I want to bring holistic and healthy foods to the members of the club.”
Like many top chefs, O’Leary employs a farm to table philosophy, cutting out the middleman to bring fresh ingredients straight from the farm into his kitchen. He sources gourmet produce from Colusa Farms in Naples and was delighted to learn of Circle C Farm about six months ago. It’s the only poultry farm supplying farm fresh eggs in Lee and Collier counties.
The chef credits Circle C eggs for delivering a “profound burst of flavor” to many of his dishes, including egg croquettes and warm poached egg with pancetta and shaved black truffle.
The same farm fresh eggs are available to anyone in the community, sold straight from the Bonita Springs farm at 9294 Strike Lane, just off Old 41 Road.
“People come all day long — before work, after work and during the day,” said Circle C Owner Nicole Kozak. “We have some kids that will ride their bikes up here and get eggs.”
Customers simply drive up to the gate and ring the “egg bell.” Kozak’s inlaws, Arturo and Lila Cruz, are usually onsite tending to the chickens and collecting eggs. The couple formerly raised chickens, cattle and crops in the Dominican Republic.
Kozak, who also is a local Realtor, goes between the Happy Hen farm and the Circle C grassfed lamb and beef farm in Hendry County, where her husband, Manny, spends his time raising cattle, sheep and horses.
“Knowing where your food comes from is very important,” Kozak said.
O’Leary said he appreciates seeing how the “happy hens” are cared for on the farm. They roam free on a five acre property with plenty of shade, fresh grass, natural perches and even some cypress wetlands.
Along with the natural grasses and insects, these hens feed on organic grains, thanks to a partnership with Fort Myers Brewery. After going through the brewing process, the spent grains add to a nutritious diet for chickens and other livestock, Kozak said.
Circle C’s hens also benefit from fresh moringa, supplied from trees growing on the property.
Moringa is known for its antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties. These hens are never given growth hormones or antibiotics. Instead, they receive diatomaceous earth, a natural dewormer and immune system builder.
“They are truly happy hens,” Kozak said. “They go out at sunrise, and they come in at dark.”
The owners also maintain a high level of biosecurity on the farm, keeping customers a safe distance from the chickens to reduce the risk of infections. Circle C participates in a voluntary program through the USDA which annually test for diseases.
As a former teacher, Kozak enjoys educating children about farm life and is scheduled to bring a sustainable farming program to Grace Classical Academy next fall.
She wants local families to know farm fresh eggs are not only higher in vitamins and healthy Omega 3 fatty acids but also affordable for most families. Circle C usually sells by the flat — 30 eggs for $12 — or half flat of 15 eggs for $6. As a price comparison to those accustomed to buying from a retailer, a dozen eggs would be about $3.
“It’s not unattainable for working people who want to have good foods for their family,” Kozak said. “A lot of foods are pumped full of junk. Our hens are not hot housed, so the eggs are good for you.”
The “happy hens” come running when they see Arturo bring out the container of organic grain.
There are more than 600 chickens on the farm, mostly Production Red hens, laying about 200 eggs each day. Along with selling direct to customers and local chefs, Circle C supplies to Worthington Country Club and sells eggs at two farmers markets (The Promenade and Sanibel Island) in season.
Circle C also donates to Cafe of Life and the Bonita Springs Assistance Office twice a week. Clients eagerly grab up the farm fresh eggs, said Leticia Santos, program director for the assistance office.
“They know the difference between one egg and the other,” she said. “I have tried these eggs, and they are just great.”
People are often surprised by the deep yellow-orange of the yolk, in contrast to the pale yellow of store bought eggs, Kozak said.
Lila explains it this way: “If you have happy and healthy hens, you’ll have healthy eggs.”
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