An affordable chicken, locally raised. It really exists

In my first post outlining my 100-mile diet, I mentioned a $35 local chicken and a comment war broke out over whether the price was justifiable. Though I think sustainable food is priceless, searching for a more reasonably priced bird, I called up Kendor Farm in Van Nuys and Lily’s Eggs in Fillmore, two farms a poster named rezpeni1 suggested in a comment.

Kendor Farm was founded by Ken Arno and Doreen Radogna. Arno previously worked at a smog check station and gardened as stress relief after dealing with frustrated car owners all day. As his garden grew, he bought some chickens to fertilize the soil. Arno recalls, “Come springtime, we had eggs coming out of our ears” so they took a crate of them to a farmers market, sold out in 10 minutes, and the rest is history.

Tucked into a residential area, this small farm raises certified organic, free-range chickens. For those concerned about eggs with salmonella, they have a few caged birds as well. Kendor Farm sells its organic eggs for $5 to $8 a dozen and organic, free-range chickens for $3.99 a pound at the Encino and Hollywood farmers markets.

Lily’s Eggs, owned by Robert Tropper and Diana Tuomey, was sparked by their passion for sustainable farming. Tropper, a former fashion photographer and model, had been raising chickens for a long time and, when he opened up a health food bakery, used his free-range eggs in the muffins. Customers urged him to sell the eggs at the shop and soon the eggs were outselling the baked goods.

Tropper insists that chickens are intelligent; they are acutely aware of their surroundings and great at communication. Whether they are smart or not, these chickens are well cared for. They share their farm with animals Tropper rescued from a closing petting-zoo: turkeys, ducks, geese, goats, emus, dogs, cats, pigs and Annie the donkey. You can buy a dozen of Lily’s eggs for $2 to $6 or a free-range chicken for around $17 at the Ojai, Hollywood, and the Wednesday and Saturday Santa Monica farmers markets.

With my new knowledge of local chickens and how charming chicken farmers can be, I headed to the Encino and Ojai farmers markets to buy a dozen Kendor eggs and a Lily's chicken. I gave my local, pastured chicken the Russ Pasons’ “spa treatment”, slid some rosemary under her skin, and plopped her in the oven.

She was not the prettiest chicken I have ever cooked, but was much “chicken-ier” than a standard supermarket bird. As for the Kendor eggs, they were extremely fresh with extraordinarily yellow, almost orange, yolks.

To accompany my roasted chicken, I made a quick salad with tomatoes and a lemon dressing and opened a bottle of a Piedrasassi/New Vineland Winery 2011 Syrah. Located in Lompoc, Piedrasassi’s goal when making wine is to find “the Fleetwood Mac in the lineup: a magical combination of distinctly brilliant entities, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Great winemakers with a sense of humor? Yes. Sustainable poultry farmers within a 100 miles of my house? Yes. I have found two new loves. Don’t tell the chicken.


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