A gentleman entered up the back dock a few weeks back, but this was no ordinary man. Larry Zweifel along with his wife Pam, have been in the Tillamook Oregon area for years doing exactly what people do in Tillamook.....dairy cattle. Tillamook is about an hour south of the restaurant and is the home of the Tillamook creamery. Everyone in Tillamook is a farmer, grower, rancher, or is employed by the creamery in some sort. The whole town smells like cow poo. Fairly often we trek down with the boys to take the creamery tour and come home packed with cheese curds, jerky, and Cheddar, full of ice cream. It is a fun little trip for us and Tillamook reminds me of the true dying breed of small farm towns throughout middle America. Larry has been a dairy man for over thirty years and since "the dairy farm is finally paid for" he figured that he would get back to a true passion of his... EGGS. He and his wife have decided that they will build an egg farm where eggs are produced the way Larry thinks it should be done, cause "no one else can do it right". Truly brown eggs, that really are free- range, from chickens without fake light, cages, or hormones.
The thing that really struck me with Larry is his splitting resemblance to my own Grandfather. After a life of farming my grandpa "Buzz" was taken earlier then he should of been due to some complications from a stroke. My oldest son was born only a few weeks before his death, and they never got to meet. In remembrance both of the boys bear my grandfathers names as middle names. Buzz was a no bull kind of guy. He knew everything there was to know about the weather, dirt, crop, tractors, and livestock, but made no bones about the fact that was all he knew. He was one of the smartest men I have ever encountered, but at the same time dropped out of school at an early age to run the family farm. His work ethic was uncompared by any standards. The life of the small farmer is almost impossible. Whole crops can be wiped out, bad years happen far more often then good years. Buzz like Larry, assumable, didn't farm because he decided he wanted to be a farmer, he didn't farm like 80% of the small, organic, farmers market people do now as an excuse to smoke pot, and take 6 months a year off. He farmed because he needed to. I imagine there was never an option for him not to go till a field. I don't know if he loved it or hated it..... he did it, and did it really well because that is what guys his age did. Then it was how he fed and provided for his family. I rekon that as men and their wives of this age get older and land is sold for housing developments, and our pricing structure continues until it is absolutely impossible to be profitable for these guys, we lose a huge part of our country. We lose years of experience, we lose a backbone of the rural development of our country. Trading off for bigger machines, and scientist farming. Buzz like Larry didn't need a weather report cause he could tell what the weather was going to do before it knew. He didn't need soil test because he got down on his knees and felt it. He could tell by looking at it. And it doesn't matter if you grew wheat, hay, tomatoes, corn, Christmas trees, or beets. These guys are getting older, I read the other day that the average age of the American farmer was 62. Like people that can and preserve food, this is another bracket of American people headed by the wayside. The subjects of an OPB special 25 years from now.
Larry is a crack up. He doesn't use the computer "cause honestly I don't spell really well". He is left handed and pointed out that I am as well, and so is Obama, "but I am not a huge fan of him". Larry you are a white male that lives in Tillmook, and is a dairy/egg farmer. You don't have to tell me you don't like our president. I knew when you walked in the back door. I bet you drive a ford too. "I have five pickups four are Fords, and one is a Dodge". "After owning nothing but Fords for 40 years I was ready for a change". I bought 10 dozen eggs from Larry and I could see him sweat, maybe five will be fine for now, "I am not in the cold storage business and my chickens don't lay that many". The eggs needless to say are absolutely amazing, and I already serve a brown cage free egg at the restaurant and his are much brighter and taste way better. Problem is my egg consumption at the restaurant is near 120 dozen a week right now, so Larry's eggs won't be the only egg I can use for quite some time if ever. For now we flipped for it and my pastry chef gets all the eggs Larry can bring. It was a meeting and relationship that really struck home with me on a very personal level. Larry explained he may need to up the price of the eggs at some point as if I wasn't going to buy them any more after I saw that. By all means Larry do everything you gotta do to be profitable. More then anything in the world I want guys like Larry to succeed. As for my grandpa, I so wish that my boys would have the opportunity to get up early and have a farmers breakfast, and hit the field with him in the back of his blue Ford tractor. Perched on top of the little built in cooler right behind the drivers seat, drinking an orange Sunkist soda that grandma Mona packed up for them. Some of the best times of my life where in that chair and I miss him dearly. I am a better person for knowing him, and it brings me to tears that they will never have the chance to do that with him. For now I will continue to buy as many eggs from Zweifel farms as they can produce, and crack up at Larry's words of wisdom. If you have a chance check them out at http://www.zfarms.org/, thanks for reading.