Extra Small Producer


My latest endeavor of regulation (after registering Sassafras Farm, incorporating Chickens in the Road, and my in-process pursuit of a health department-approved kitchen) is to get my Small Egg Producer permit. My cousin has this idea that he’s going to get me to do the farmers market with him, though I’m not so sure about that. But in any case, in order to serve my own eggs in my health department-approved kitchen, I have to be an approved source of eggs.

Becoming an approved source of eggs starts with being legally qualified to market eggs. In order to sell eggs, at least in West Virginia, you have to have a permit. If you’re a small producer, the permit is free. A small producer is anyone selling 150 dozen eggs or less PER WEEK. (150 DOZEN?! PER WEEK! That sounds like a major producer to me! Or at least a middling-size one!) The form is really simple, one page, and asks easy questions like your name and address, whether you’re packing and distributing eggs from your own flock only, and what kind of chickens you have. (Okay, that last question isn’t that easy. I have a variety. It asks for the primary breed. I said Ameraucana and Rhode Island Red, limiting myself to two though I have several breeds. Brown eggs and blue eggs would be a better description.)

Then it wants to know your annual volume in cases. There are 30 dozen eggs per case. This is starting to sound like one of those math word problems. If you have 15 hens and four of them hide their eggs, six of them lay in the tack room, three of them aren’t laying at all, and one crosses the road, how many cases of eggs can you get in a month?

I hate math.

I have about two dozen chickens. They don’t lay all the time and I have an unruly number of roosters. Plus I use my own eggs and wouldn’t sell them all–or use them all in the studio. I tried to do some calculations for a few minutes then I decided to heck with it and wrote down three cases.

They need to come up with an “extra small egg producer” form that asks questions like, How many eggs can you FIND per day?

The permit year is from July 1 through June 30, so I’ll have to reapply before you know it. I’ll call this a practice run.

Once you have a permit, you can sell eggs. (Legally.) The eggs have to be labeled with the name and address of the person producing and selling the eggs, the date the eggs were packed, and the words UNGRADED EGGS. Do not call them FRESH EGGS. ::smack:: That is not allowed. Small producers, however, are allowed to use recycled (aka used) egg cartons as long as they slap their own label over it.

Further, then to use my own legally marketable eggs in my health department-approved kitchen, I must put up a sign in the studio stating that food is being prepared and served using UNGRADED EGGS. (This is also known as FRESH EGGS, but DON’T SAY THAT OR LIGHTNING WILL STRIKE YOU DEAD.)

The word “fresh” is highly regulated and reserved for store-bought eggs that are two months old.

I also have to put up my business registration, my small egg producer permit, and my health department permit on the studio wall. The studio walls, they will be a busy place. (More fun is the poster of all the studio backers names, which is already quite beautiful, and when it’s close to finalized, I’ll show you.)

After all this, I hope the chickens are prepared to work.

But I kinda doubt it.

P.S. If you live in West Virginia, you can access the regulations and forms for small egg producers here. (There’s a lot of other info available at that link for sales of other common farmers market items as well. Scroll down to the Egg section and it has links that will give you the info and forms you need whether selling at a farmers market or otherwise.) If you live in another state, do some Googling or contact your local county extension agent.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on April 25, 2012  

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30 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 4-25

    Never fear, Suzanne. You will be a pro at the Health dept. & State paper work shuffle before you know it. Keep up the good work. :duck: :woof: :dancingmonster:

  2. 4-25

    One wonders why ‘they’ like to make things SO complicated when it could all be so simple! :hissyfit:
    However, happy egg producing for the future. 8)

  3. 4-25

    I love your little farm! My husband and I have chickens and cattle so far (I’m sure they’ll be more to come). We have been hatching out our own chicks and we have 7 hens currently and 9 little ones that were born right around Easter. We have had rhode island reds, americaunas, barred rocks. Someone gave us some fertile eggs that were green and the chicks that hatched came out a cream color. I was wondering what type of breed is the variegated cream colored chicken in the 3rd photo? We were told that it was a cross between a black sex link and an Easter egger.

  4. 4-25

    You deserve a big reward just for jumping through all those hoops without going postal. Geez. It reminds me of the Circumlocution Office in Dickens’ Little Dorrit.

  5. 4-25

    Advertise your eggs as “Daily Gathered” “Just Laid””Brand-New”

  6. 4-25

    I think as a writer you should come up with a better word than “fresh”. Maybe “straight from the source”; “just laid”, etc. I know you can come up with something GREAT! :lol:

  7. 4-25

    Do you want us to send you our egg cartons? Just think, you can collect egg cartons from all over the country!


  8. 4-25

    I have egg cartons too I’ll send, if needed! :D

    Thank you for the smile with my morning coffee. I laughed so loud my husband demanded that I tell him what was SO funny? He said,”Oh, it’s those people, the ones who think corporations are also people, making rules again!”


  9. 4-25

    TOO funny! The state should use your answer as an example as how to do the math.

    I also noticed this on the states page:

    Eggs shall be washed. Eggs shall be transported at forty five degrees F (45ºF), unless the time for transportation is less than three (3) hours. Eggs are to be stored and displayed at the Farmers Market in cold holding equipment capable of holding forty one (41ºF) or less. The eggs must reach the forty one degree (41ºF) temperature within four (4) hours of receipt at the market.

    So… you have 3 hours from chicken to market without cooling. Better find them eggs fast!

  10. 4-25

    LOL “Fresh eggs are TWO MONTHS old!”

  11. 4-25

    You and Joel Salatin. If you haven’t read any of his books on the ridiculousness of small scale farming, you should —


  12. 4-25

    … make that REGULATORY ridiculousness….

  13. 4-25

    You have such pretty “girls”!

  14. 4-25

    Wow. This should give you an appreciation of how onerous, time consuming, and oppressive endless government regulations can be on businesses, especially small businesses like yours. Not to mention expensive. Some bureaucrat in cubeville who’s never been anywhere close to being a “small egg producer” probably made up the form you have to fill out. What chicken breeds do you have? How relevant. I think some of your crossbreds should be Chinese Crested Long Hair Tree Chickens. Or something. No doubt someone will disagree and proclaim all these regulations are necessary “for our own protection, health, and security” blah blah. That aside, all the best for the success of your farm business!

  15. 4-25

    Suzanne, you are the BEST hoop jumper I know of.
    Now I’ll mess up your mind: I figure each hen lays enough eggs in 3 years to make me $300.00 if she lays 1 egg the first year every day, then 5 or 6 weekly the second year, then only 3 or 4 each week in the 3rd year. After the 3rd year they are canned. I can’t afford to feed them and lose money , so NEVER name the hens as you will cry when the heads come off. I cried and now I don’t name them.
    I wonder how they would feel if you wrote hens, pullets and roos for the breeds, no one would probably know the difference in the offices.
    Do you plan to incubate also? The quail farm we just bought out that hasn’t run in 12 or more years still has all the equipment. If anyone is interested, it is for sale.
    I know you have the most beautiful farm in WV bar none!

  16. 4-25

    :lol: yup..that’s the way FRESH should be regulated. Makes perfect sense. :lol: Reminded me of this little ditty called “a few words”
    Pythagorean theorem: 24 words.
    The Lord’s prayer: 66 words.
    Archimedes’ Principle: 67 words.
    The 10 Commandments: 179 words.
    The Gettysburg Address: 286 words.
    The Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words.
    The US Government regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words.
    Not to worry though, I’m sure your “ungraded eggs” will be a huge success and what a joy to have access to those lovely blue and brown gems.

  17. 4-25

    ohoh, makes me wonder what hoops you will face on order to to use BP’s milk for your cheese-making classes at the studio…..or will thinking about this make your brain hurt?
    ps when you get to it, slap a pic of one of your beee-U-tiful hens on the carton.

  18. 4-25

    “The word “fresh” is highly regulated and reserved for store-bought eggs that are two months old.”

    Now THAT is funny. And sadly, true.

  19. 4-25

    bonita, I won’t be using my own milk for cheesemaking classes.

  20. 4-25

    Oh, I was laughing at your math word problem question! I gotta read that out loud to hubby tonight! We only have 3 hens (so far) and they are kept cooped up because of neighbor dogs/cats & raccoons. Hoping to build them a large run soon. My ameraucana has never laid–too bad, as I really wanted tinted eggs. I figure some hens are barren too… You really have to advertise your eggs as “Brand New Just Laid Daily Gathered Ungraded Eggs!” And I love the idea of the photo on top of each dozen! –any chance these photos can be purchased?? I would love a copy! Our local co-op store used to have photos of the farm’s free-range chickens by their display! You gotta do that, and I’ve also seen small producers bring a hen or goat to the farmer’s market for everyone to see in a large cage! Kids and Adults Love it!!

  21. 4-25

    I think those hens in your last photo must have heard you use the word “work.” They’re lookin’ at you with such shocked expressions

  22. 4-25

    DeedainSeattle, I sell my photos…. Click on the “Prints” button on the green sub-menu below the header.

  23. 4-25

    I love your attempt at chicken math… if this many lay, and this many hide their eggs, how many do I have?

  24. 4-25

    “A small producer is anyone selling 150 dozen eggs or less.”

    150 dozen per what? 150 dozen a year is less than 3 dozen a week, but 150 per month is a LOT of eggs!

  25. 4-25

    PER WEEK! Sorry! 150 dozen per week. (I fixed it in the post, too.)

  26. 4-25

    I just read this hilarious post to my husband and we are laughing so hard – I just love your sense of humour. Oh the hoops or is it coops you have to go through to get health approved…. so funny!

  27. 4-25

    Your chickens are so pretty. I love the pictures of them.

  28. 4-27


    Re the photo AND having to put your name/address on the carton, how about a pic on the label with your name, address etc.? It wouldn’t necessarily be hugely expensive or too time-intensive to do. Does Sassafras farm have a logo?


  29. 4-29

    Please, please, PUH-leeeezzze! Do not give New York State any ideas. As far as I know, these regulations are not required. I am kind of amazed at that. And if the powers that be do see this, they will not be so magnanimous as to not charge the small producer. You can bet that they will make it impossible to make any money what so ever.

  30. 4-29

    P.S. Nana Ellen, I copied your “a few words” and saved it to my computer. I hope that is okay. I was afraid I wouldn’t remember it.

    Suzanne, “FRESH…reserved for store bought eggs two months old.” Best observation ever!

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