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Chickens free to roam the range
Farmer sells eggs from her yard at area farmers' market
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Sonya Farrell raises free-range chickens on her farm, Random Bantam Farms, and sells the eggs at the Clarkesville Farmers Market on Grant Street near the old mill. - photo by SAVANNAH KING

FARM FRESH: This is the ninth in a series of stories about local growers who provide Hall County with fresh produce and their own recipes.

For a deviled egg recipe, see http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/125/article/87564/.

Sonya Farrell reaches into her fridge and pulls out an egg carton full of colored eggs. The blue and yellow pastel hues of the eggs are natural and vary based on the hen that laid them.

Farrell raises a variety of chickens on her farm, Random Bantam Farms, in Clarkesville. More than 200 birds are in her flock and many are poultry show champions.

With so many chickens roaming freely around her home, there is never a shortage of eggs. Though, Farrell said spring is the season for eggs.

Unlike many commercial farms, Farrell lets her chickens roam freely on her property.

“(They are) free range eggs compared to caged eggs,” she said. “Not only do they taste better, but they’re healthier for you, of course. They’re lower in all that bad cholesterol. They’re way lower in all the bad stuff and way higher in all the good vitamins and minerals.”

Bariatric Program Dietitian Leslie C. Davis explained some health experts say it is easier for the fecal-borne bacteria of E. coli to get into eggs when hens are caged.

“And 90 percent of the eggs we get at the grocery store are from hens in tightly packed cages,” she said in a phone interview. “But it doesn’t affect the nutrition of the eggs.”

However, the chickens’ diet does determine eggs’ nutritional value. Davis explained organic eggs and omega-3 enriched eggs come from hens that are fed organic food or feed enriched with omega-3.

“Basically it depends on the hens, how they are fed and what kind of environment they are kept in,” she said.

Farrell feeds her flock chicken feed and a mixture of green beans, peas and garden leftovers.

Overall, the whole egg is a good source of protein, Davis noted. Egg whites have 3.6 grams of protein while the whole egg is 6 grams of protein.

“You can eat up to three egg yolks a week and egg whites every day, according to the American Heart Association,” Davis said, adding the food contains vitamins A, D and B-12.

Farrell said she and her youngest daughter who still lives at home have been known to make deviled eggs with homemade mayonnaise for dinner.

Every day Farrell goes through the coop and collects any fresh eggs. Though the chickens generally lay their eggs inside the coop, they don’t always.

“We try to get them to lay them in the coops, but we can’t always get them to,” Farrell said holding up a large blue egg she found in the yard.

After collecting the fresh eggs, Farrell washes them in water and stores them in the refrigerator until she can sell them at the Clarkesville Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday mornings.

Farrell said customers should know where their food is coming from and how it’s grown. She said people don’t always understand what labels on egg cartons mean.

“The labels on your egg cartons at the store, when they say ‘cage free’ or ‘free range’ on those cartons, they’re still in a hen house,” Farrell said. “If it’s in a grocery store it has to say ‘pastured.’ I’ve had people ask me what our definition of free range is and our definition is what it’s supposed to mean.”

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