Rich in B12 and Vitamin D, eggs are a protein packed superfood. ESH gets sunny side up with some lucky layers, and their committed local farmers.
Will and Connie Mussett never intended to become farmers of pastured-raised eggs; what started as a backyard brood unintentionally became a busy commercial venture.
“We initially wanted to get some chickens for ourselves, so we started with five and a backyard coop,” says Will Mussett, a former furniture maker and one time part-owner of local timber business, The Woodage.
“But then a friend who had 50 chickens living in a converted caravan mentioned he didn’t want the work anymore so we bought them with the view that they would be a great source of fertiliser for our paddocks. Six months later, we built our first mobile chicken van and had 500 chickens and the rest is history.”
That was two years ago. Today, the Mussetts run 1600 chickens on their 38 hectares at Colo Vale, and operate an organic market garden where they keep bees for honey and grow mushrooms. The family collects around 1350 eggs a day, says Connie.
“The kids are great at putting labels on cartons and catching chickens that get out but the novelty of collecting eggs quickly disappears when there are just so many eggs to collect,” Connie says.
Will is the face, and hands of the farm day to night, says Connie, who pre-Covid worked in the city in finance. She keeps the paperwork in order.
Says will: “It’s a team effort and it has definitely been a lot of hard work.
“We started out doing everything ourselves, and I don’t think we realised how much work is involved in pasture-raised chickens. A typical day starts with letting the chickens out of the vans around 6am so they can forage in the dewy mornings. After the kids are off to school, we move the mobile vans to fresh pasture, fill the feeders and water if required, collect the eggs, then clean, stamp, sort and pack them.”
The Mussetts home deliver their eggs across the Highlands from Moss Vale to Bargo and supply a number of local cafes and restaurants including Coffee Culture, Hill Top Takeaway, The Boston and The Glass Cafe. They also supply retailers in Sydney and sell at the weekly Bondi Farmers and Paddington markets.
Taluca Park Free Range
Frank Vigliante had dreamt of owning his Exeter property since he was a kid.
“My Dad has had a farm near Goulburn since I was a boy and we’d drive through the Southern Highlands every weekend on our way there and every time I’d say ‘I love it here. I want to buy a farm here one day’,” he says.
Frank, a former builder, and his wife, Annemarie, a former personal trainer whose parents had a weekend property at Bungonia when she was growing up, made their treechange from Sydney five years ago.
The couple run 4000 Isa Brown and Lohmann Brown pasture-raised hens on grass on their 56 biodynamic hectares, Taluca Park. The chickens are faithfully guarded by Maremma dogs and are raised alongside free-range Berkshire pigs and Angus cattle. Raising free-range chooks was a no-brainer for the couple, who have three (partly free-range) young children.
“We have always been into what we were eating and where our food was coming from,’ says Annemarie.
“So, when we bought here and made the move from Sydney, we decided we would put a few chickens on the farm and see how it went.
“We started off with 30 chickens that turned to 400. Then we started supplying lots of the local restaurants here. And then we had a few friends in Sydney who were running restaurants and said, ‘we you’re your eggs too” so that’s when we decided to get a bit bigger.”
Frank and Annemarie now supply their cracking eggs to restaurants and cafes throughout Sydney and Wollongong such as Bondi Icebergs, Three Blue Ducks and Fire Door. Here, they supply eateries and are for sale locally at Exeter General Store, Exeter, The Press Shop, Bowral, Berrima General Store, Berrima Highlands Merchant and the Birch Store, Moss Vale which also sells Taluca Park’s salami and bacon.
Dunollie Rare & Heritage Poultry
Chat chickens and eggs with Angela Dunollie, and find yourself vapidly asking ‘but which came first…?’
Well, says Angela, who raises rare and heritage poultry breeds, and sells their eggs, initially it was the eggs, which came from the chickens, which led to more eggs.
“I have kept rare breeds for more than 10 years now to preserve them from extinction, and to have the pleasure of watching new chicks emerge into the world to become someone’s new layer or pet companion,” says Angela.
“Run of the mill layers and commercial breeds don’t cut it for me, so why not go for the unusual and funky-looking chicken?”
Angela’s favourite breeds are Campine, white Siciliana, Buff Cochin, Friesian, Crevecoeur, Araucana, Barnevelder and Citroen, some of which she shows. She breeds on her family’s 40 hectares at Sutton Forest. The family also grows heirloom fruits and vegetables, and raises ducks, selling duck eggs when available.
“Out there where Mum lives, they get to roam amongst our Speckle Park and Cross Dexter herd of cows.”
In their cartons, Dunollie Rare and Heritage eggs look a treasure box of cloud blues, and warm speckled greys.
“The reason most birds, wild or domestic have different eggshell colours is to hide the nest when they know predators are around,” says Angela.
“Araucanas are the only breed to maintain full eggshell colour inside the shell, making them great for egg artwork.”
Birch Store in Moss Vale stocks Dunollie’s Rare and Heritage eggs and Angela sells at the Colo Vale village market, the first Saturday of every month.
“I grew up on a dairy farm in the Hunter Valley until mining took over and dairying became too hard to make ends meet. I also work a part-time job as well as looking after the chickens. Educating people on where their food comes from is a big part of what drives me today.”