July 31, 2014

Elyria
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Growing Inspiration

A new approach – and a blue egg – revitalize Columbia Station farm

A chicken’s blue eggs are providing a small community with a unique organic opportunity and revitalizing a local farm when it most needed it.
The Breychak farm in Columbia Station has been in operation since the early 1960s, but its fences began to erode with the dwindling purchases of its grass-fed beef and cattle. The herd was dispersed in the early 1990s, farm signs were taken down and owners Dan and Kathy Breychak were forced to re-evaluate their
50 acres.
Then, two years ago, a particular chicken laid a particular blue egg, and a new farm was born.
“We’ve got brown eggs, but that didn’t sound good, and green eggs already had too many references,” Kathy Breychak said. “Blue Egg Farm sounded nice.”
Although the farm can’t afford the expensive label of being a certified “organic” grower, the Breychaks always have farmed naturally without antibiotics or pesticides, and they harvest everything from summer squash to uniquely colored eggs.
After repeated requests from friends and neighbors, the farm began investigating community supported agriculture — a form of subscription farming where customers pre-pay a set amount to become members — and began mapping out annual membership plans ranging from $35 to $550.
“Essentially, it’s a glorified backyard garden,” she said. “But I’m not just planting patches for myself, but for 30 other people.”
The farm has grown to include 37 members who pay to have the “first pick” of items grown on a weekly to bi-weekly basis.
The colored eggs remain the farm’s most popular commodity, and they are hatched from some of the most carefree chickens around. A breed of Araucana chickens produces the colored eggs.
“We allow our chickens to free-range,” Breychak said. “They eat when they want to eat and drink when they want to drink. The eggs have a more concentrated flavor and taste better than commercial eggs.”
A local restaurant has caught on and even named a dish in honor of the blue hue inspiration of the Breychaks’ eggs.
Dominic Cerino, owner of Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante in North Royalton, buys as many blue eggs as the farm can pass his way, and he said without the more than 30 dozen a week, Cerino’s famous “Blue Egg Ravioli” would be plain old pasta.
“Those eggs make a difference,” he said. “They’re denser, richer and really show up in the products you produce with them, not only in color but volume.”
Breychak said customers generally understand when a poor growing season results in fewer crops, and she said weekly online postings notify customers when an abundance of crops are available.
A typical 14-hour workday on the farm already provides plenty for Breychak to do, and although she’s sometimes overwhelmed by the demand of her customers, she wouldn’t mind having a couple more.
“People think it’s set up like a store and they can come out of here with mountains of vegetables and blue eggs,” she said. “But having enough for everybody is like playing a chess game. There’s no way I could ever hatch-out enough of those blue eggs.”
Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.

073007pig.jpgChuck Humel / Chronicle photos
Pig (that’s his name, Pig), a half-Hampshire and half-blue butt, has bad arthritis in his hind legs and likes to rest. He is just one of many animals at the Blue Egg Farm in Columbia Station.