That’s the mantra around the house this morning.
You’ve probably heard that Locally Laid Egg Company was named as one of only FOUR businesses still competing in Intuit’s
Just to get you up to speed: The commercial winner will be decided by popular DAILY vote through Dec. 1, and honestly, we’ve got some stiff competitors. The good news – there’s no pesky login, just a quick click. Have you clicked your chicken today? >>VoteLoLa.com<< Our only chance is a grassroots movement. Know someone with a big platform like, say, Michael Pollan – drop up an email at lucie (at) locallylaid.com .
Ok, now: HERE’S THE JUICY STUFF:
Here’s how how the Final 4 went down:
Last week, we got a call that a contest “scout” was coming to the farm because Intuit wanted to do a photo shoot of all Top 20. One of the things he needed to see was our home office. They wanted to take some photos there, too.
In lieu of that, we had a desk in the living room with a good 5 ft. radius of paper spill. Mostly, we worked like house cats, wherever and whenever we liked, generally following the sun with our laptops.
I tumble-rolled into Operation Create a Office – and turned an underused room (read: walk-in junk draw) into a great workspace in a number of hours. This included an emergency trip out for pillows (in our company colors of orange and blue), new towels & cute soap for the adjacent bathroom, pencil cups and all things office-y. Like a real file cabinet.
There are some sizeable bruises on my legs from hauling furniture all around our house to fill the space. The walls were bare, though, so our friends at our locally owned Duluth UPS store took one of our farm photos and cranked out a gallery-wrapped canvas in a number of hours…on a Sunday. Just as our UPS friend, Jay, was walking out our back door and I was hanging the canvas, Jason and Stephen from Intuit were walking in. I knew this because our 10-year-old Milo was hollering, “Mother Bird has landed! I repeat, MOTHER BIRD has landed!”
Jason was gawking around the new office like a tourist, while I was willing him with my brain to be cool. “Stop with the bedazzlement, already!” I was thinking. “Remember, this is YOUR office.”
Stephen sat, gave the office a nod of approval and kindly explained that a number of folks from Intuit would be flying in the next day. And the these photos would be used for “marketing purposes.” After a pleasant 20 minutes, he was gone.
Later, he texted us saying the Intuit folks wanted to go see the chickens before coming to the office.
The next day, it was cold, rainy and spitting snow – and I gathered up the children from school to head to the farm to meet the crew. The land that the Locally Laid coops sit on is clay – and when clay gets wet it turns into an especially hellish kind of mud. It’s dangerously slippery and really kicks up those natural farm smells. I hadn’t worn my muck boots because it was just a few pictures, right? I quickly regretted it. It was the kind of mud that could suck off a shoe and never return it.
And then we waited….and kept waiting. Minutes turned into hours, a couple of them, and we jogged to keep warm. Then started putting on all and every piece of clothing we had out there. I didn’t want to get back in the car because of our muddy footwear, but eventually I found some cardboard to cover the floorboards and entertained the children in our Subaru while running the heater.
Finally, we saw what looks like an entourage coming down the dirt road. It was big black Escalade, a Prius, a couple of sedans and… a limo? Yes, Locally Laid saw its first limousine. Apparently, the crew was staging at the Wrenshall Quick Mart store. (I don’t think the people there bought their cover story that they were filming a hunting video.)
When I say crew, I mean camera crew. Four or five men and women with hefty gear came out, along with someone wielding an enormous boom mike. There were also really beautifully dressed Californians wearing brand new high rain boots and a few had rain ponchos. (The camera crew had no boots and I’m pretty sure all of them had to throw out their sneakers after the event.)
And hey, wasn’t that the guy from TV? Yes, Bill Rancic, who won Donald Trump’s first season of The Apprentice was there. Like on our field.
(Our 10-year-old son, Milo, was actually Donald Trump for Halloween a couple years ago. He spent 6 months growing out his hair so it could make an enormous comb over. Milo kept tugging my sleeve wanting me to know Bill if he’s ever pee’d in Trump’s cold toilet. I just couldn’t ask.)
Within seconds, we were being ushered out to pasture, still wearing all our mix-matched clothes from warmth.
Before we could grasp what was going on, a huge congratulatory banner was unfurled and every camera was trained on us for reaction. And we…BLINKED …and then we stared and …one more blink.
We were so stunned and so cold, we made terrible television. Honestly, even though they were TELLING us we were in the Final 4 and I could READ on the banner we were in the Final 4. It just didn’t make sense. I mean, we’re US – a small farm in Wrenshall, MN struggling to just make it work day-to-day. How could this be happening?
Soon Bill was asking us questions, interviewer style, and our reluctant lips remembered what to do. Though I can’t really remember anything I said. I may have confessed to the whole world that I recently signed away my entire retirement fund, and that now every last dime we have is in the farm. I’m pretty sure I talked about sustainable Ag and why it matters in the county. I may have mentioned that running a small business is so stressful that incorporation paperwork should come with its own ankle flask (lordy).
Then I see Jason bring Bill Rancic, and the camera crew, inside a hoop coop and he’s showing Bill how to assess whether or not a hen is laying an egg. Suddenly a reality TV star on our pasture has his fingers UP a chicken’s vent. Dang, he was a good sport.
Meanwhile I’m chatting up the Intuit communication and marketing department. They’re holding hens with gusto and politely not mentioning the smell. One particularly well-dressed gentleman took a huge digger on the way out. I’m thinking, “Californian down! but he pipes up with an affable “I’m okay!” Poor guy, I hope he has a good dry cleaner for that gorgeous wool coat.
(Oh, and as a side note. They never came to the office. Ha!)
All in all, it was a dazzling. And it’s frankly a lot of attention. More than I like, really.
But I’m looking at it as this chance to take Real Food out of some tucked-away section of your grocery, and give it the same stage as a Frito Lay corn chip. Or a Dorrito.
It could be a real conversation with America about pasture-raised foods and how important it is that animals be allowed to forage and exercise. That it’s good for the animal and that benefit passes into the food products they produce. And onto us.
For decades, we’ve seen a trend of fewer and fewer farms producing eggs, and we’re on the scene to offer an alternative to caged or caged-free eggs. And we’re finding it’s a welcomed niche in the marketplace, but as a new business it’s still an uphill battle to spread the word.
Now Bill Rancic is waving around our sassy egg carton on the Bloomberg Report and CNBC (big stuff!). And we’re talking to A LOT of people about food, non-GMO corn and why Local Chicks are Better.
That’s a big stage for one sassy
chicken, leaving plenty of room to talk about what really matters – our food system, sustainable agriculture, our creative partners and the community that supports us.
The thought that a Duluth hen could spark a national conversation about where our food comes from and how it’s produced is nothing short of heady. Pass the ankle flask.
Like we said, it’s DAILY, no-login clicking til Dec. 1. It’s really it’s a grassroots game. But we’re trying to have fun, stay positive (our competition are all cool, small businesses too) and enjoy this chicken’s wild ride.