Larry Schultz Organic Farm

28 08 2009

By Sarah Milnar

The Truck - by Meredith HartFrom the gigantic white chicken cartooned on the side of Larry Schultz’s delivery truck, you’d expect to be greeted by the clatter of clucks and squawks upon pulling into his farm. But we were greeted by something else: silence.

Where are all your chickens, Larry?

“They’re soup right now,” said Larry. But then he added that he shouldn’t joke about that. People were going to think he was insensitive.

Larry Schultz Organic Farm of Owatonna, Minnesota, specializes in free-range, cage-free, certified organic eggs, chickens and turkeys. Larry is a new, but very eager, supplier to Open Arms, a Minneapolis nonprofit delivering meals to individuals living with serious and life-threatening diseases. Larry, his wife Cindy, and their six children have operated the farm since 1992.

“Do you guys want something to eat?” offered Larry’s 7-year-old daughter, who’d apparently gone into company mode as we entered the kitchen. “No, thanks,” we assured her. Marveling at open cartons of perfect brown eggs on the counter was enough.

“The baby chicks were moved in before we were,” said Larry, grinning at his wife. “Right honey?”

Owatonna farming has been in Larry’s blood for some time. His father was born on the farm just a mile down the road – in the living room, actually. It wasn’t until last winter that Larry’s 81-year-old father made his first visit to the hospital. There’s just something about farming organically, living off the land and keeping it simple that the family believes keeps the body and soul healthy. Larry’s mother always claimed that she didn’t necessarily think she’d live longer by farming sustainable, but that she’d have a better quality of life. His mother’s words have always been an axiom for Larry. “And if I’m 81 before I have to go to the doctor for anything I’ll be perfectly fine with that,” he added.

Larry grew up milking cows on his family farm, but they always had a ready supply of fresh eggs. Now Larry has taken advantage of the niche poultry market on his own farm. But despite the success of his poultry business, Larry has an enduring fondness for cows.

“I didn’t like chickens,” said Larry. “They’re so stupid.”

Well, he clarified, chickens aren’t as personable as cows. Chickens scare easily and get dirt in your face as they flutter away in Larry Schultz - by Brett Olsonpanic. Larry demonstrated with his arms. Then he apologized once again that people were going to think he was insensitive to chickens.

Although he mocks their intelligence with a smirk, Larry takes good care of his chickens. He keeps them in a barn, not in a cage, in four sections of 600. He even sends some of them to nearby Amish farms to ensure they have adequate pasture space. A commercial chicken farm would cage up to 56,000 chickens in the same space, he noted. And commercial chickens don’t get playful visits from the Schultz children.

Larry has always maintained a pleasant environment for his chickens, but in 1997 he decided it was time to bite the paperwork and become certified organic “to better represent” what they had.

“It gives us the ability to grow with the demand and still keep things with the integrity we had,” said Larry. “But as far as farming practices, I didn’t change anything,” said Larry.

Larry disappeared into his living room and emerged with a square iron contraption the size of a shoebox. The Schultz family used to hand-collect and hand-candle eggs with the iron egg candler Larry said was from the 1960s. Larry plugged the candler into the wall and a small light glowed from a hole in the side. Before upgrading to a candling machine in an outside barn, Larry and his wife used to candle the eggs right in the kitchen.

A candling room needs to be dim so that the yoke and fissures in the shell can be seen when light from the small hole in the candler hits the egg. Larry grabbed a brown egg off the kitchen counter and shaded the candler with a cardboard box to illuminate the egg’s inner features. He spun the egg around quickly in his fingers, pointing out the unfertilized yoke. The family used to stack the kitchen table high with egg cartons and hang thick curtains over the kitchen windows to block out light during candling. Four people could candle 900 eggs an hour, 400 of which Larry could do by himself. He got so used to handling eggs that he could distinguish between a large and an extra large egg – a difference of just a quarter of an ounce.

Schultz Home - by Meredith HartLarry said he found it amusing that some customers thought that brown eggs were organic and white ones were not – really the variety or breed of the chicken determine the color of the egg – and packed up the candling machine. Meanwhile his four-year-old son climbed up the porch railing and made faces at us through the kitchen window. Larry added that most people want white eggs at Easter, but then he interrupted himself.

“Right. Open Arms. Food,” he said, realizing he’d gotten off track. Although he’s clearly knowledgeable about eggs, Larry said he encourages friends and family to kindly say, “Thanks for sharing, Larry,” when he goes off on tangents.

“Their goal is a good one that fits exactly with what I’m trying to do,” Larry expressed of Open Arms. Although Larry’s only been with Open Arms a short time, the organization has already asked him to provide Thanksgiving turkeys. He’s enthusiastic to jump on board and offer his organic, fresh, healthy product to help someone in need. Thanks for sharing, Larry. Really.

To view more photos of the Larry Schultz Organic Farm, please see the Flickr slideshow.




5 responses

25 09 2009
green energy

very interesting read, many thanks. nice one.

31 12 2009
mary ottoson

Are your free range organic turkeys dark feathered turkeys or white feathered turkeys. If you have both how do we tell the difference in the store which we are buying

Thank You

1 03 2010

I’m very concerned about how we treat animals and have been considering switching from being a vegetarian to a vegan. However, I feel that everything I’ve read about your farm makes it acceptable to buy your product especially considering how it appears that you treat your animals in comparison with how factory farms treat their animals. It appears that you care for the animals and let them live a “normal” life. Praises to you for doing the right thing and treating animals ethically and morally.

I have 2 questions.
1) Since your farm is organic no antibiotics can be given, how are sick chickens treated?
2) What do you do with chickens that aren’t producing eggs (or are at least not producing very many)? Are they kept alive or slaughtered for meat or ??

I appreciate any and all feedback you can provide me on your farm as I make this choice.

16 05 2010
Jason Stoen

Larry, do you sell direct in bulk from your farm?

16 05 2010
Jason Stoen

Direct to consumers that is. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: