Ramsi Vega, family chicken farmer
It’s tough to imagine brunch without eggs. They dot menus in the form of omelets and scrambles, but they’re also in the hollandaise and French toast and waffles. Without eggs, brunch would be all oatmeal and fruit salad, and none of us would want it at all. At lots of area restaurants, you’ll see chefs proudly touting eggs from Vega Farms. Ramsi Vega started working full-time at the Davis-based farm 12 or 15 years ago—he can’t remember, it’s been so long—under his father, Ed Vega. Now, it’s a full family affair, with Ramsi’s brother and wife in tow, and the kids helping out in the summertime. Ramsi took some time to chat with SN&R about the farm’s history, raising chickens and exactly how he likes his eggs.
How’d your dad come to start a farm?
He came from Peru. He was sent by his company to UC Davis to finish up his postgrad work in avian genetics, then he decided to stay here and raise his family. We are four in the family. … Anyways, he decided to stay here, worked for a company for a little bit, then he opened up his own farm in 1989. What’s funny is actually, well, how did you hear about us?
I’ve gotten your eggs at the farmers market.
Yeah, so, a lot of people know us for the eggs. … But actually, that’s only about 20 percent of our business. Our business, which is what my dad originally started and what really motivates him, [is breeding]. We do baby chicks. We have about five different lines and we have clients who take anywhere from two dozen baby chicks per hatch to 10,000 to 20,000 baby chicks. It depends on what the customer wants. We do layers, we do meat birds, we do something in between. We do heat-resistant strains—my dad developed those lines.
How’d you get into restaurants?
We started at the Davis Farmers Market and the Davis [Food] Co-op and, this was back in the ’90s, I remember chefs like Patrick Mulvaney and Kurt Spataro wanted fresh eggs. They liked this fresh-egg-from-a-local-farm idea. … Right now, it’s real popular, because everyone wants to know where their food came from. Full Belly Farms, Riverdog Farm, etc., they all buy our baby chicks. … Our bigger clients that take 20,000 to 30,000 a week, they’re down in the Valley and raise them for specialty meat markets.
Is it weird to see chickens you sold to someone else and—
And then they’re next to us in the aisle?
Yeah, and for $8 per dozen.
Yeah, it’s weird, but also, the alternative to that would be to buy something out of state that’s not local. There aren’t a lot of hatcheries around here. … Everyone has their niche, whether it be soy-free or however they raise them. It’s kinda weird, but at the same time, Northern California in general is kinda on the same team. We all wanna buy local and produce local.
One time, I bought a dozen of your eggs and they were all double yolks. How does that happen?
First off, they’re totally normal, totally safe to eat. There’s nothing weird about them. What happens is when hens are young, they lay smaller eggs—you get the small-, peewee-, medium-sized eggs. And then you’re gonna see an egg every once in a while that comes down as a huge egg. It looks like a regular large-sized egg. But if you look at it next to a bunch of small ones, it’s very obvious what it is—100 percent double yolk. What’s going on is the hen, when they’re learning to lay an egg, they accidentally drop two yolks into one egg.
Why do you only sell brown eggs?
There’s nothing wrong with white eggs. Brown eggs and white eggs are virtually the same nutritionally. The main difference is the freshness of the egg. A white egg takes a little bit less, you have to input less into the bird in terms of feed—that’s why they’re cheaper. Also, the breed of hen that gets you that white egg is more proficient. You’ll get more eggs per year from a white-egg breed than a brown-egg breed. That’s mainly the price difference. We’ve always worked with brown-laying hens, so that’s where we’re at.
How often do you eat eggs?
I go into these phases where I’ll eat five or six eggs one day and then I’ll skip a couple days, then I’ll have five or six the next day. On average, I’ll probably eat two or three a day, but not with all the yolks. I’ll usually take some yolks out.
How do you like your eggs?
Mainly sunny side up.
What do you say to people who hate runny eggs?
(Sighs.) You know, no one has really told me their opinion on yolks. But what would I say? I don’t know how people couldn’t like it. (Laughs.) It’s so good. It gets all over the place. You get toast and—I don’t know—how do you not like that?