I took a trip down to the Orlando area last week, primarily to do some research on the interesting and well-developed Vietnamese food scene in the ViMi district.* It was a happy accident that the folks over at Visit Orlando hooked me up with a quick visit to Lake Meadow Naturals, a small-scale free-range egg farm in Ocoee—the only cage-free egg producer in Florida, in fact. We sat down with owner Dale Volkert and a few critters for an awesome mostly-egg breakfast cooked by Camilo Valsco, a young Colombian chef of Barnie's Coffee Kitchen, followed by a walk through their facilities.
* Translation: EAT ALL THE BANH MÌ.
A transplant from a family of Wisconsin dairy farmers, Dale moved to Ocoee in 2004 where he first started raising chickens, geese, and ducks primarily for personal consumption. It wasn't long before local chefs began asking him to sell the eggs. These days, the farm keeps a flock of 3,500 chickens in several large barns with access to huge outdoor pastures. They produce over 3,000 eggs per day, sold mostly to local restaurants (it seemed like every restaurant I visited featured them on the menu) though they make it as far south as Miami where you can find them served at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink.
Now I know from a pure taste standpoint that it's really tough to tell the difference between "good" eggs and "normal" eggs, but danged if being on the farm and watching the very chickens that laid 'em for you don't make them taste better.
Equal parts operational farm and educational center, Lake Meadow Naturals is open to the public for visits. It's a beautiful space and the eggs and other products sold through their farm stand can't be beat.
For a closer look at their operations, check out the slideshow above.