In a sort of grapes versus eggs story, a small-time Windsor farmer this week decided to shut down his drive-up business rather than fight a neighboring winery’s insistence that he no longer use a small stretch of their access road.
After almost four years of selling fresh eggs from a stand just off Arata Lane, Wise Acre Farms closed down its direct-to-consumer operation, rather than get into a court battle with Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery, which owns the road to the farm.
“I kind of have no choice,” said Wise Acre owner Bryan Boyd, explaining that the winery denied him the use of their road and he would need to build a new driveway to Arata Lane — estimated to cost $7,000 to $10,000 — if he wants to stay in business there.
His predicament provoked some backlash against the winery on social media as well as some loyal customers who arrived at the farmstand only to find it closed.
“Oh my God, I’m so upset. Where will we be able to buy our eggs?” said Carrie Marvin, as she drove up to the closed farmstand on Monday.
Considering the small number of vehicles that pull up to the stand — Boyd estimates about eight per day— she expressed dismay that the winery couldn’t accommodate the egg-laying operation.
“That’s a pretty un-neighborly, un-Windsor type of thing,” she said. “I’m so sad. This is an agricultural area.”
On Wise Acre’s Facebook page, some of the egg-buying public suggested picketing the winery or boycotting its wines.
But winery officials lay the blame at the feet of Boyd’s landlords, who agreed a decade ago to restrict their use of the winery road to residential access. The winery says that precludes an egg-selling business.
Douglas Lumgair, general manager of Windsor Oaks, said the winery has been put in a difficult situation, but the easement they worked out about 10 years ago with Boyd’s landlords, Bob and Edna Honsa, clearly stated they could only use the winery’s driveway for residential use, to access the two houses on the Honsas’ property.
One of those houses is where Boyd and his girlfriend, Raina Brolan, moved to in 2011 and set up their business, which now includes 1,200 egg-laying hens.
“It’s a simple matter of landlords who represented that a tenant could use the access for one thing and the landlords didn’t have permission for the tenants to do that,” Lumgair said. “We’re not trying to be the bad guys. We’ve been asking nice and gently and reminding them for a very long time now.”
Boyd said his egg-laying operation is now surrounded by more and more vineyards, making it difficult for small farmers like himself to operate.
“The biggest problem is trying to farm in Windsor, because of the amount of vineyards that are occupying Windsor farmland,” he said. Boyd said he may have to move to Petaluma — once dubbed the “Egg Capital of the World” — because there is more land available and it’s “more friendly to the small farmer.”
Eggs highly regarded
Most everyone seems to agree that Boyd’s Wise Acre Farms produces tasty eggs, laid by free-roaming hens, fed with the best grains and hydroponically-grown barley sprouts. The birds are rotated around an approximate 15-acre site using mobile fenced enclosures.