Lauerman Farms

Veteran owned business
Owen Lauerman poses with his chickens
Lauerman Farms also sells quail eggs
Douglas County wounded warrior still on the front lines

WATERVILLE -- Owen Lauerman spent 13 years in the Army, was "blown up" in Afghanistan by an IED (improvised explosive device) and was subsequently medically discharged, but then wondered where his life was headed next.
"I'm a chicken farmer," he said proudly at a recent tour of his farm out in the wilds of Douglas County. His small spread, not too far from Waterville, is surrounded by wheat farms. He leases enough land to have about 100 quail and 1,500 chickens.
More importantly for Lauerman was the direction, purpose and future of his life.
Now years after Army life, he has those answers and ironically finds himself on the front lines again - this time as a producer of top quality free range  eggs laid by a variety of chickens in a place previously known for one main product - wheat.
He is no longer "just" a wounded warrior, but a pioneer of culinary tastes taking hold in the Pacific Northwest.
His breeds include Black Australopes, Barred Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandotte and Ameraucana.
Currently Lauerman Farms sells more than 150 dozen eggs a week to restaurants and retailers in the Lake Chelan area, but plans are in the works for a major expansion into Seattle.
He spends about .13 cents per egg or about $2 per dozen and sells them wholesale for twice that amount locally and three times that amount in Seattle leaving enough "meat on the bone" for retailers to add a couple bucks and make a profit themselves.
Lauerman, in another ironic twist, used to live in downtown Seattle and now will be exporting blue, brown and white eggs back into the "foody" capital of the state, if not the nation.
Lauerman's birds roam around the lush vegetation in a predetermined and semi-confined area where they can eat all the naturally existing bugs they can handle as well as a normal diet of chicken feed. They have a moveable roosting and laying area where the multi-colored eggs are laid and gathered by Lauerman, who is now a one-man army in the egg production business.
After four days of these birds "living large" and cage free, they get to move on to another predetermined parcel where the cycle begins again.
When someone buys his beautifully packaged eggs, they can see the mixture of colors and they know they are getting the real deal, not some mass produced factory induced product born of caged birds in huge warehouses.
"I was driving around the county just looking around and I met this guy who agreed to let me lease some of the land he was leasing for wheat farming," Lauerman said.
"There was an old abandoned house and it was a mess. I cleaned it out, but it still needs a lot of work." In the meantime Lauerman, his wife and three young children live in a fifth wheel.
He purchased an egg washing machine and gets pallets of empty cartons delivered to the farm at $3,000 each, but they will last him for the rest of the year. He'd like to eventually buy massive amounts of cartons which would significantly lower his costs per dozen, but first things first.
A veteran's group that helps vets get started in business, donated two large refrigerators where Lauerman can place the eggs after they are washed.
He is always prepared to shoot varmints like coyotes, fox and badgers, but hasn't been bothered by any chicken predators since the operation began. He also has an electric fence plugged-in at night to ward off unwanted critters with a yen for yardbird.
Lauerman has a refrigerated delivery van that he uses to cross the Columbia on the Beebe Bridge each week and get his product to market.
His biggest customer right now is the Riverwalk Café across the street from the park of the same name on Lake Chelan. He also does a brisk business with Chelan Red Apple Market, Bear Foods Health and Grocery and several others.
Because of the quick turnover, Lauerman rarely has product go bad due to expiration dates, but when they get too close he gladly donates them to the food bank in Chelan and the one in Waterville as well.
Lauerman thought about growing and selling vegetables first, but it was too labor intensive. He thought about starting an orchard, but it would take years of efforts and investment before his labor and money bore fruit, literally and financially.
He thought about cattle and he thought and he thought, but then hit upon doing what almost no one else in Douglas County does - and he literally "chickened out" and decided on commercial egg production.
"I learned everything from the internet. From Googling, Pinterest and Facebook and from other farmers," Lauerman said.
"I learned what the balance sheet of a wheat operation looked like  from one friend and the balance sheet of an orchard from another," he said. Since this is his first year in the poultry business, he is banking on birds getting him to financial solvency come the end of 2017.
Lauerman has great expectations for the future, especially if the Seattle deal works out. "We are going to test the sale of these eggs in a few stores first and then if the test goes well we will have a contract for all 13 stores."
This deal could easily lead to Lauerman's purchase of thousands more chickens. Even quail egg production would be impacted as a "green" oriented retailer can get $10 a dozen for them west of the Cascades.
Chefs at some chic eateries offer mushrooms stuffed with quail eggs (see photo). Discriminating diners love the flavor and Lauerman loves the impact on his bottom line equally.
Another important distinction between chicken and quail eggs are various health benefits, including helping the body to detox from heavy metals (see Health Benefits of Quail Eggs sidebar), which is ideal for those going through chemo-therapy treatment for cancer.
For more information on Lauerman Farms, visit the website:

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