Slight disclaimer: I've met the author of this book (and she's delightful), and I'm a long-time, very happy consumer of Locally Laid Eggs. But even if those two things were not true, I'd still have loved this book.
For those of you not in the Midwest, Locally Laid is the (cheekily named) egg purveyor that is committed to giving chickens a good life--no cages, lots of pasture time and fresh air and sunshine. These are not factory-farmed eggs, with hens cooped up and stacked and never allowed outdoors.
The book is the story of how Locally Laid came to be and survived the rather enormous odds stacked against it. Lucie herself is charming and funny, and so is the book. It's the story of a young corporate America couple who moved from the larger Twin Cities, MN metro area to Duluth in pursuit of a seemingly good job for the husband (Jason), leaving behind a house in the Cities that they were trying to sell during the housing collapse. It's the story of how they finally get on their feet in Duluth and Jason suddenly tells Lucie how what he really wants to do is walk away from his good job and start raising chickens, humanely. She, risk-averse, doesn't think this is such a hot idea. But shortly afterward, he's laid off from his job, and off they go into chicken land.
There are parts of the book that are funny--at one point, Lucie wryly notes that because of the immense amount of physically demanding, exhausting work, nobody at Locally Laid was getting laid--and other parts are equally heartbreaking and horrifying. The book opens with the arrival of their first batch of chickens, purchased from another farmer with somewhat dicey farm methods. The first day on Lucie and Jason's farm, the chickens are stunned and don't behave as expected. When sunset comes, chickens who are used to living outdoors know that it's time to go back to their roosts, but these chickens have never seen the sun and don't know how to respond to its setting. So Lucie and Jason have to round them up by hand--all 900 of them--and teach them how to roost.
Anyone interested in where our food comes from, or modern farming, or with romantic notions of starting their own venture, should read this book. I learned a lot; I was certainly aware of big ag, and proudly aware of local, organic, sustainable operations, but I'd never heard of middle ag or contract production. I didn't know that Amish farmers often work with non-Amish farmers (or how hard it is for a non-Amish woman to communicate with an Amish woman). I didn't know that those in middle ag are sometimes looked down on by not just those in big ag, but by the smaller local providers too--they view middle ag as selling out, even when middle ag is providing the same humane, ethical treatment of farm animals as the smaller guys, and working to contain their carbon footprint as well, which can lead to some very tough choices.
So. It's funny, it's nerve-wracking, and it's education cloaked in entertainment. Read it. And if you're in the Midwest, go find some Locally Laid eggs. They're yummy. And they're from happy chickens.