Gary and Mary Tomlinson have always had a passion for caring for animals and raising livestock. They milked dairy cows, raised draft horses and many other animals through the years. They also enjoyed caring for chickens, pigeons and guinea fowl. They never dreamed that this hobby would turn into a small business after their retirement.
Living on a farm west of Manly, Gary and Mary have about 80 ISA Brown chickens, 40 banty (smaller breed) chickens, 10 goats, numerous cats and a Saint Bernard. The farm fresh eggs they sell at the market come from the ISA Browns, beautiful golden brown layer hens. These cage free chickens spend the evenings in the comfort of the barn and in the daytime in a pen outside where they can hunt and peck for insects. In addition to what the chickens find outside, Gary mixes a balanced ration that he feeds the layers to ensure a healthy diet for high quality egg production. The eggs are gathered each day and washed before selling. Once the eggs have been washed however, they require refrigeration because washing the egg removes the natural layer of protection that an egg has when it is laid.
Gary and Mary have been selling their eggs at the North Iowa Farmers Market for two years. When their egg production began to exceed what they could eat and what they could sell from directly off the farm, they realized it was time to find another outlet.
“I really enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the market,” Mary said. “I love seeing what the other vendors are selling and being able to buy fresh fruit and produce from them. There always seems to be something new to try”.
The Tomlinsons have developed a wide base of loyal customers at the market who boast of their tasty eggs. Customers love the way the golden yellow yoke stays fluffed up when they first crack it in the pan, compared to the pale, flat yokes yielded by eggs in the grocery stores. In addition to their customer base at the North Iowa Farmers Market, Gary and Mary still have many people that regularly stop out to their farm, just to buy their eggs.
“The eggs sold at the grocery store take an average of 45 days to reach the shelf from the time they are collected,” Mary explains. “The eggs we sell at the farmers market were collected on average about 2-3 days ago, sometimes even sooner than that. While you may be able to buy eggs for a little cheaper at the grocery store, you can definitely see and taste the difference in the freshness and quality of our eggs”.
In addition to their farm fresh eggs, the Tomlinsons have become well known for their caramel puff corn that Mary prepares for each market. This delicious treat is a favorite among customers…sometimes selling out before the eggs do! Gary and Mary also plan to bring some gourds to sell toward the end of the market season, perfect for fall decorating.
Stop by the market today from 4:00 – 6:30 P.M. to try some of Mary’s Farm Fresh Brown Eggs and other fresh market finds!