Windsor’s Wise Acre Farms egg stand is back in business

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A small-time Windsor farmer is back in business seven months after being forced to shut down his egg stand due to a dispute with a neighboring winery over driveway access.

Bryan Boyd’s Wise Acre Farms opened back up last week with a bit of fanfare and a ribbon-cutting to mark construction of a new driveway to his stand, made possible by the donation of labor and materials from two asphalt companies touched by his plight.

Boyd closed down his egg stand in August, following threats of a lawsuit by Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery if his relatively small number of customers continued to use a short stretch of the winery’s driveway.

The conflict was viewed as a David vs. Goliath story and seized upon by wine industry critics as an example of the difficulty of survival for small-time food farmers in the face of wine and vineyard operations that gobble up land and resources.

Boyd didn’t have the resources to fight the winery in court and said it can be frustrating to try to farm in Sonoma County given the dominance of vineyards, “especially in Windsor. Over 95 percent of agricultural land is planted with grapes.”

Sympathizers came to the rescue of what they viewed as a valuable, unique, local organic food operation.

“It struck a chord when he was being shut down — the little farmer who is self-sustaining. It would have been a bummer to see him close that way,” said Windsor resident Josh Cleaver, director of sales at BoDean, the Santa Rosa asphalt company that contributed materials to construct a new driveway to Wise Acre Farms and end the dispute with the winery. “We don’t want to see those things go away in our community. It’s very important to have little operations like that staying alive.”

He estimated his company donated $6,000 to $8,000 in gravel, asphalt and other materials. Other companies also helped, including Empire Asphalt, which donated labor and equipment to build the new driveway stretching more than 100 feet from Arata Lane. Engineering services were also pro bono.

Approvals to build the new driveway had to be obtained from both the town of Windsor, which owns Arata Lane, and the Sonoma County, since Wise Acre is on unincorporated land.

“It’s been a blessing having that kind of support,” Boyd said Friday of the assistance he received, as he stood next to his new refrigerated vending machine, where motorists can pull up and use their credit card or cash to have it automatically dispense a carton of a dozen, hand-washed eggs for $9.

Boyd said as far as he can tell, his may be the first automatic egg dispensing machine in the United States, although they are common in Europe and Japan.

It’s direct from the farm to the consumer — no middleman — and more secure than the system he used before when people would drive up to the unattended stand, select a dozen eggs or more, and leave their money in an honor system transaction.

“I had eggs stolen,” he said. “Now I don’t have to worry about theft.”

Although eggs were once a large industry in Sonoma County, especially in Petaluma, the former so-called Egg Capital of the World, Boyd said a lot of egg farmers don’t last these days.

That’s because of the nonstop work involved, he said, especially with free roaming hens. He has 1,000 or so that he rotates around the 15-acre parcel he leases, using movable fencing and mobile coops. He constantly tends to feeding and nesting boxes.

There are other risks that are part of the business: predation, disease and weather.

The chickens are guarded by a huge Great Pyrenees dog, who wards off predators that include bobcats, foxes and red-tail hawks.

The hens forage on their natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects and worms, supplemented by organic grain that Boyd buys — a combination of chickpeas, wheat, milo, kelp meal and alfalfa that he says boosts the Omega 3s in the eggs.

To avoid genetically modified organisms, there’s no corn or soy, and there are no antibiotics.

“It’s the highest-quality grain you can find in the country,” he said. “It opens up my customer base a little more.”

Although things are back on track for the farm, it took longer than expected to build the new access road.

While his egg stand was shuttered, Boyd’s sales were cut in half, even though his eggs continued to be offered at several retail locations.

The dispute over access to his farm stemmed from the sale of the road to the winery more than a decade ago by Boyd’s landlords, Bob and Edna Honsa.

The road off Arata Lane that leads to the winery also has about a 30-foot section that leads into the Honsa property where Boyd lives and where his customers drove.

Only about eight cars per day pulled up to his egg stand, according to Boyd. But the winery threatened him with legal action because after selling the road, the Honsas had signed a contract agreeing the driveway into their property would be restricted to residential use, which apparently excluded a commercial agricultural operation such as Boyd’s.

The Honsas said their land has been used for a century to raise sheep, grow apples and grapes and they never intended it to land-lock a farming operation.

Windsor Oaks improved their driveway as part of plans for constructing a wine tasting room, more than doubling its production to a maximum of 100,000 cases annually and adding a number of industry wide and special events, including weddings.

Boyd said if it hadn’t been for the driveway issue, he would have made his first profit last year after four years in business.

“Hopefully I make a profit this year,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or On Twitter@clarkmas.

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