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Backyard chickens and sustainable farming thrives in Lompoc

Dare 2 Dream Farms is leading the way

Backyard Chickens

LOMPOC, Calif. - Tucked into a hillside above Lompoc is a farm ... a couple living a life they dared to dream.

Jeremy and Megan Raff came to Lompoc to help take care of Jeremy's grandfather's property, but that act of kindness turned into a living for their family. 

Megan explains how Dare 2 Dream Farms came to be:   "This whole farm started as a way to keep grandpa outside ...we got him twelve chickens ...and with all the extra eggs Jeremy's brother who works at New Frontier  said just send us your extra eggs, people in this area love the backyard chickens."  

And, they do.  Dare 2 Dream Farms' hens are pastured, free-ranging, and free of antibiotics.  Turns out there is a real market for their eggs up and down the coast.  And, their hens are purchased as far south as Los Angeles.

Dare 2 Dream Farms has now grown into a real movement for Lompoc, supporting backyard chickens and self-sustainable farming ... teaching others they can do it too.

"A lot of the stuff you're going to be giving your chickens is fresh, organic and raw ... like the tops of your carrots, or maybe the salad you didn't finish, or your kids leftover oatmeal.  Instead of just throwing it into the trash it's being composted by the chickens and turned into fertilizer ... and also giving you fresh eggs," explained Raff.

At the store, a dozen eggs like the ones on the Raff's farm will run you anywhere from 7 to 12 dollars.  But, Megan explains with just a 16 dollar bag of feed (and of course veggies and fresh food from your kitchen), and four hens ... you could produce up to two dozens eggs a week every month.  And people in the industry will tell you this is a healthier choice for the chickens and you.

"Even organic used to require the hens have access to the outdoors and that is no longer the case," said Raff.  

Right now Assembly Bill 3021 is moving through the state legislature   It would make it mandatory for any eggs sold in the state (no matter which state they come from) to be produced by cage-free hens.  And, though that sounds good, it still doesn't require hens to be let outdoors ... it mandates just one square foot per bird.

Megan Raff and many others have found hens like theirs with low stress, able to breathe fresh air, forage, and dust themselves simply pack more natural nutrition into their eggs.

It is legal to have hens in backyards outside of Lompoc's city limits.  But, not in the city.  No livestock of any kind since an ordinance passed back in 2010.  The crackdown initiated by noise and odor complaints from residents.  Mayor Bob Lingl agrees with the ordinance but sees both sides of the argument.

"So the compromise I can see ... as you know and I know there are people in Lompoc who have chickens ...we know this ... our code enforcement is a complaint-driven system.  If you are a responsible owner ... we don't get complaints ... we will never go to your house and say you need to remove your chickens," said Lingl.

The Raffs are now a lot further along than offering just free ranging chicken eggs.  These days they're growing a full array of herbicide-free and pesticide-free crops. 

They also offer weekly deliveries of vegetables and recipes to people who live within thirty miles of the farm.  Those people are welcome to visit the farm and are encouraged to start their own backyard gardens.

 "If we can make it easier for people so they continue to do this and they don't get frustrated and give up ... then we've done our job," said Raff.

It's a job ... a legacy perhaps even ... that one day ... their own kids will Dare 2 Dream.

For more information on how to get started visit Dare 2 Dreams website by clicking here.

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