Basket of eggs

Eggceptional

May 09, 2019

High-end restaurants and grocers make Valley Oak Farm their preferred supplier.

From its Alpha IPA to its Fruit Wheat Ale, Block 15 Brewing Company in Corvallis, Ore., seeks out local and regional ingredients to craft its brews. So does the brewery’s executive chef, Sarah Farey, as she plans menus for the restaurant and tap room. She didn’t have to go far to find a supplier of high-quality eggs. Just 20 miles away in Halsey, three generations of Kropfs have been producing top-end eggs at their Valley Oak Farm.

“In 2013, we were looking for local egg producers who would help us fulfill our commitment to promoting sustainable practices and a vibrant local economy,” says Farey. “We connected with the Kropfs, and their eggs were just wonderful. They’re extremely fresh and the yolks are bright and lovely.” Since then, Valley Oak Farm has been one of Block 15’s go-to local partners.

Valley Oak Farm owners with CHS Nutrition experts Samuel and Ruth Kropf count on nutrition advice from Mary Swearingen, left, and Troy Odvody, back, with CHS Nutrition.

At the brewery’s eateries, you’ll find the Valley Oak eggs in scores of dishes from those featured at special-event brunches to the Farmhouse Burger, topped with one perfectly fried, sunnyside-up egg.

“It’s really important for us to use local, sustainable high-quality eggs,” says Farey. “Samuel and his family have been great partners.”

Attention to Detail

Samuel Kropf credits their chef-preferred eggs to genetics and the way the hens are raised and fed. Working with his parents in the family's egg operation, Kropf first helped with marketing, then took on the laying side of the business. He built a new cage-free henhouse, borrowing ideas from others, but taking them one step further to make it more comfortable for the hens and to simplify cleaning and feeding tasks.

The 72-foot building is divided into four 18-by-40-foot pens and houses up to 1,000 hens. To encourage laying, Kropf installed skylights and low-output lightbulbs to ensure the
birds receive 16 hours of light every day.

Chickens in coop

The Kropfs start with Novagen chicks. “They are good layers and are well-mannered and calm. You can walk among them and they don’t fly to the other end of the pens,” he says.

For years, they made feed on the farm, but became unhappy with the amount of feed wasted by the chickens. To find a solution, the Kropfs turned to their feed ingredients supplier, CHS Nutrition in Harrisburg, Ore. The feed plant manager, Troy Odvody, and nutrition consultant, Mary Swearingen, recommended switching to a pelleted complete feed to reduce fine particles. Today the hens eat complete Payback® Egg Layer Ration with 17 percent protein, which Kropf supplements with alfalfa meal for darker yolks and free-choice oyster shells to provide extra calcium for hens that need it.

The brown-shelled eggs are hand-washed, hand-graded and packed in cases holding 15 dozen each. The Kropfs market them through a buyer in Eugene. “The buyer takes everything we can produce,” Kropf says. The eggs are destined for Block 15 and local markets in Corvallis and high-end restaurants in Portland, all under the Valley Oak Farm label.

Waitress holding a burger with a Valley Oak Farm egg Block 15 Brewing Company in Corvallis, Ore., proudly serves Valley Oak Farm eggs.

Not all eggs make the grade; some are too large or too small. Those are turned into long ribbons of homemade egg noodles by Samuel’s wife, Ruth. She sells them, along with other products from her garden and kitchen, and cartons of eggs to shoppers at a nearby farmers’ market.

And at Block 15, happy customers continue to enjoy hand-crafted dishes made even better by the work of busy brown hens living and working just a few miles down the road.

Check out he full C magazine with this article and more.

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