The Story of Nellie – the Free Range Hen
by Jesse Laflamme, Chief Executive Farmer
Yes, there really was a Nellie.
When I was growing up on our family’s egg farm in Monroe, New Hampshire, my favorite pet was my brown hen, Nellie. Whenever I played in the yard, she made sure to be nearby. She’d hitchhike a ride on my shoulder whenever she could. She was competitive and usually beat me at races and tag (chickens can run up to 9 mph)!
Nellie enjoyed flapping her wings, but she wasn’t much of a flyer. So she loved doing the next best thing—riding in my bicycle basket and pretending.
Today, the beautiful brown hens living in our free range barns look a lot like Nellie, and live like her, too.
They run, roam and scratch as they please, stretch their wings and socialize, and enjoy a daily buffet of the best corn, grain and flaxseed. And wouldn’t you know, they too follow us around and perch on our shoulders, and crack us up with their goofy antics. (We’re still working on playing catch.)
It would break our hearts (and theirs probably) if they were jammed into tiny cages with no way to move about and be themselves.
How it All Started
The story of Nellie’s Free Range Eggs began in the late 1800’s at the Ward Family Farm in Monroe, New Hampshire, where Robert Ward grew up farming dairy cattle and hens.
After World War II, Robert’s son Les returned home from distinguished service as a Navy pilot, and decided to expand the egg farming business. He started with just a few hundred hens and kept growing; soon his brother-in-law Rodney Stanton joined him.
Les and Rodney kept our farm going through good times and bad—but others weren’t so lucky. Beginning in the 1980s, industrial-scale egg producers cornered the market and forced most small egg farms out of business with super cheap eggs produced on the backs of badly mis-treated animals.
Did you know that some 90% of the eggs sold today still come from those giant, inhumane egg factories?
Avoiding the factory-farm trap
When Les passed the farm on to his daughter Carol, son-in-law Gerry Laflamme and Rodney’s son Peter Stanton, they led our farm down a different path – one that led away from factory-style farming.
Instead of “going industrial,” we changed to supplying free range and organic eggs, produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, GMOs or animal byproducts. Later, we became the first Certified Humane egg farm in the country. Today our brands offer consumers a choice:
- Certified Humane, Free Range eggs (Nellie’s Free Range Eggs)
- Certified Humane, Certified Organic eggs (Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs).
You can select eggs based on your personal preferences and budget, but know that you’ll always get a deliciously healthy, humanely raised egg that began on a small family farm whether from our own home farm here in Monroe, NH or from one of our independent, small farm partners that help to produce eggs for us under our strict guidelines.
A better way to grow
Today our business is healthy and growing, but we will never become a factory farm. We help other small, independent family farms thrive instead of swallowing them up.
We continue to raise the bar even higher with our commitment to small-scale farming, organics, humane treatment of animals and conservation. In fact, we were the very first agricultural business to become a B-Corp in 2013. My wife Sandra and I love having our children help out on the home farm and we want to create a place they will be proud of.
We hope you enjoy the fresh, wholesome eggs we produce!