Rural Living, Specialty/Niche January 01, 2022
An Egg from Tiffany's
Young farmer sells 24/7 through her egg vending machine.
Tiffany and Jason Holbrook gave their neighbors a dose of exactly what they needed: fresh, wholesome eggs and the comfort of knowing that healthy food was available close to home, anytime, day or night. A few moments at Wise Acre Farms' unique egg vending machine (and maybe a scratch or two on the heads of the Holbrooks' resident goats) was a lovely alternative to staring at empty supermarket shelves.
Just a few yards away, chances were that Tiffany was rotating mobile coops around the 15-acre pasture, doling out fermented feed, or collecting white, brown, and green eggs from 1,500 laying hens.
In short, living her dream.
Growing up in the house directly across the road from the acreage she and Jason now lease, Tiffany gazed at the pasture and imagined raising livestock of her own. So when Wise Acre Farm—the birds, a faithful guard dog, mobile coops, a tracked Chevy truck to pull them, and the refrigerated Jofemar vending machine—came up for sale, she jumped at it. "I had backyard chickens for 15 years, so I knew the basic care of poultry, and I just thought it was an important thing for our community," Holbrook says.
Community. The word "community" comes up a lot in conversations with Holbrook. It starts with her neighbors and customers in the Windsor, California, area.
"We do as much as we can for the community," she says. "I donate to food banks when I can. We bring eggs to the fire department, the police department. And I try to be a positive community member because I can't stay here if my community doesn't support me."
Tiffany and Jason ended up meeting a lot of members of their community in March 2020, when people started lining up, cash and credit cards in hand, for access to the vending machine. That was the month Wise Acre's social media hits exploded by 971% and the business flipped from 70% restaurant buyers to 70% direct-to-consumer sales through the machine.
"With the graphics and everything, it set the founder back about $10,000, but it's still a very cheap storefront and a very cheap employee," Holbrook notes.
Holbrook is serving her community by expanding Wise Acre's offerings to include duck eggs, broilers, and turkeys. She prints out stories to tuck into each egg carton to keep customers in touch with the lives of Bobo the goose, Cindy, the egg-eating hen, and more. And she's planning interpretive signage that explains rotational grazing to customers and school groups visiting the farm.
Holbrook is also part of a global farm community on Instagram.
"It's farmers like me, small farmers, homesteaders, and they're all willing to help each other out and give advice," she explains. "We want to branch out into pigs, and I've been able to call people and they're willing to share all their stories and secrets."
The sharing goes both ways.
"I'll tell you exactly what I do, how I order my birds, how we rotate them, because I don't see local farmers and food producers as competition," Holbrook says. "We work together. It's huge support."
Support from buyers buoys her.
"Whenever I get those days when I want to throw in the towel, I run into customers that say, 'We just love what you do here. We appreciate all your hard work,' and darn it, I have to keep going," she says, smiling like someone who is living her dream. ‡
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