Meet Organic Pastured Egg Producer Jessica McIsaac
Here at Clover, we’ve got something besides our beloved dairy cows to crow about! Introducing Clover Organic Pastured Eggs, brought to you straight from happy hens strutting the fields at Neil McIsaac & Son Dairy Farm near Tomales, California.
Clover’s long time relationship with the McIsaac’s began in 1999 when the family joined our partnership of Clover dairy producers. Today, the certified organic dairy is operated by fifth generation dairyman, Neil McIsaac, and his wife Jessica.
In addition to helping her husband run the dairy, Jessica had a business idea of her own. She realized there was an untapped market for pastured eggs in Marin and Sonoma counties, so despite never having owned a chicken she decided to follow her instincts and expand the family farm to include organic pastured poultry. Six years later, Clover is proud to have hen-trepreneur Jessica on board!
Jessica holds her poultry operation to the highest levels of compliance for quality and humane husbandry. Her flock meets California’s stringent CA SEFS program, as well as the standards set by Marin Organic Certified Agriculture (MOCA) and the American Humane Society (AHC Humane Certified). In addition, the McIsaac’s poultry operation is registered with the FDA and has been audited by that entity.
Jessica’s certified organic Hy-Line Brown hens are housed in spacious stationary barns with open sides that allow round-the-clock access to several acres of field where they forage, scratch, dust and express natural behaviors at will.
Shade structures encourage the birds to venture away from the main barn, and provide shelter on warm days as well as protection from flying predators. “My birds are never locked in the house,” explains Jessica. “They are free to run, jump and fly outside at all hours. Dusk is their favorite time of day!”
The barns have an old fashioned nesting system where the birds lay in individual nests bedded with fresh shavings. “We want our girls to have that cozy feel,” says Jessica adding, “All our eggs are collected by hand every day.”
Managing her chickens efficiently has been one of her greatest business challenges. “I’ve had to learn how chickens think to be able to manage the flock for health, nutrition, and movement,” she says. “They are different from our dairy stock which are managed on an individual basis.”
In addition to running her business, Jessica is a very busy mom. The couple’s twin boys, Hayden & Hunter (7), and daughter Hettie (4) are all part of the equation. “The farm is all they know,” says Jessica. They live and breathe this life every day. My boys love their calves, and Hettie even helps me collect eggs. Some days they don’t want to help,” she admits, “but they understand we have to work together as a family to run the farm. The milk and eggs we produce pay our bills.”
Expanding their dairy partnership with Clover to include pastured eggs was a natural fit. “Our long relationship with the Clover family means a lot to us,” says Jessica. “We are proud to be part of a local brand with the highest quality standards in humane and organic agriculture. The dairy and the chickens compliment each other,” she notes. “As the hens move over the fields, they provide rich natural fertilizer that helps grow our pasture forage for the cows.”
The financial realities of running a dairy business are hard. As the number of family owned dairies in Marin & Sonoma counties continues to decline, the need to diversify becomes a crucial element in making the business viable for the future. “One day I hope my children will want to take over the business,” Jessica reflects. “Adding the poultry business to our farm allows us to operate at a sustainable level for the next generation. Without the chickens, I don’t think there would be enough to pass on to our family.”
*All words & photos by: Karen Pavone