Our Journey to Sell Pasture Raised Eggs in California

It’s much more complicated than a sign and a cash tin.

Our Journey to Sell Pasture Raised Eggs in California
One of our Barred Rock chickens

Planning for 2022 we've decided to build custom "chicken tractors" for our flock of laying hens and move them out onto the pasture. (Follow up post to come on how and why of chicken tractors).

With the amount of chickens and ducks we have, the flock is producing a consistent supply of fresh eggs that we can't possibly consume. There's a pretty obvious idea that springs to mind as soon as I describe the situation:

Just sell eggs!
"A wise man can hear profit in the wind."

After doing some research, we've discovered its not as simple as it sounds. If you're interested in raising chickens to sell eggs in California (regulations change by state) here is how we got from the pastures to the first sale.

This is not a post about building a business, marketting, and growing a customer base. (Those posts may come later).

Step 1: Register for Egg Standards Quality and Management (ESQM)

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) requires you to register as an egg handler in order to do almost anything involving eggs.

Anyone involved in producing, candling, grading, packing, or otherwise preparing eggs, or anyone selling or marketing eggs must register as an egg handler. This includes eggs from all species of fowl, whether in the shell or in liquid, frozen, dried, or any other form, when intended as food for human consumption. Each location where eggs are handled must be registered. This includes all egg handlers within California, and all egg handlers outside of California that do business within California. There are no exemptions to the registration requirement.

The process to register is fairly simple, but there is a great deal of reference material and some required reading to understand how grading, sizing, labelling, packaging and handling works.

CDFA - AHFSS - Egg Safety and Quality Management Program
The application forms for ESQM can be here at the CDFA Website

We printed, filled in, and mailed the form (with the registration fee of $75 at time of writing), and in 36 days we had our ESQM registration number. When we registered, we designated "Pasture Raised" on the form as that's the method we'll be using to raise our egg laying flock.

Step 2: Register Fictitious Business Name

Whilst it's possible to use your own name to conduct business, we decided that it would be better to keep our branding consitent and hopefully more memorable. In some counties (including ours) we needed to file for a DBA (Doing Business As) or "Fictitious Business Name" in order to use our farmstead name on forms, invoices, reciepts etc.

In our county the fee for this was $38. We sent in the paperwork and registration fee and had our DBA confirmed within a week.

When our confirmation from the county was mailed back, it was the first mail addressed to "Sterling Farmstead" we'd received. It was pretty exciting and really made things start to feel more official.

Step 3: Certified Producer's Certificate

Selling eggs at a farmers market requires a registration with the state in the "Certified Farmer's Market Program" as a "Certified Producer". given that we live in a remote area, these markets are an excellent opportunity to regularly reach new and exiting customers.

Farmers Markets could have huge sales potential for a small farmsteads.

The registration involves listing the addresses of any sites that you operate, along with all of the commodoties you are growing or producing and their amounts. This sounds complicated, but, for us this was just our home farmstead address, a line for 30 chickens at 150 eggs per week, and a line for 12 ducks at 60 eggs per week (all numbers being approximate).

CDFA - Certified Farmer’s Market Program - Application for Certified Producer’s Certificate
Register for a Certified Producer's Certificate for Certified Farmer's Markets.

After submitting the online application, the confirmation email recommends reaching out to your local county agriculture department to complete the process.

I emailed our local office, and recieved a phone call the next day. Within 24 hours of starting the online process we had our Certified Producer's Certificate sealed by our county and in-hand! (Other counties in California may have wildly different turnaround times).

Step 4: Business License

Some counties, cities, towns require business licenses for certain kinds of business operations. Check with the county for rules around this.

For our property in an unincorporated area of Amador County there was no requirement for a business license, in fact we found our County offers an official letter stating there is no business license requirement.

Step 5: CDFA Organic Registration

As well as growing an Organic Market Garden, we may wish to grow raise some chickens on full organic only feed. To prepare, we registered with the state's Organic Program.

California Organic Programs | CDFA Organic Registration

This process involves listing all the organic crops and amounts that are produced. Till the business makes $5,000 there are no certification requirements. Our registration was approved within 30 days.

Step 6: Packaging and Labelling

Now that al of our packing requirements were in place, we had to be sure to label our boxes with specific information as outlined in the ESQM guidelines.

There are also ways to sell eggs loose providing there is a sign stating the required information. (This is also covered in the ESQM reference material.)

Step 7: Sell Eggs

After completing a half marathon of paperwork, licensing, and bureaucracy, and spending around $120 in fees, we were ready to sell eggs!

Now we just need some customers, but more on that in an upcoming post. :)

We're planning to write more posts on pasture raised poultry, homesteading, and growing food. Thanks for reading this forst post, please subscribe to notified of new posts!