A young farmer with a bright future
It was a cloudy spring day in the Midwest when we rolled up to Lightfoot Family Layers in our white, Vital Farms SUV. Two sky-blue barns emerged from behind the trees; flocks of brown hens decorated the grass around them.
Zack, our Vital Farms farmer, stood out front in a grey hoodie beneath a worn canvas vest with his name stitched above the right breast pocket. If I had to guess, I’d say that Zack’s been sporting this classic look since he was 15, when he began working in agriculture.
Zack is a new Vital Farms Farmer. He began his journey with us in December of 2022 after saving up to purchase the two barns that stood tall before him.
“How’s it going so far?” I asked curiously.
“So far, it’s been very worth it. Before this, I was working 80 hours a week. Now I get to work less and be home with my family. It’s a much better lifestyle.”
While Zack is no stranger to life on the farm, he is new to egg farming. Although, from an outsider’s perspective, it appears as though he’s been in the business for years. Zack’s entrepreneurial spirit has guided him through restoring the old barns, troubleshooting feed systems, and updating the pasture to make it increasingly safe and secure for his girls.
Still, Zack has big plans for Lightfoot. One of our favorites includes planting new trees for his girls.
“They love the trees. They always go straight to them for protection against the sun and larger birds in the sky. I’m going to plant a lot more for them out here.”
In addition to hens, Zack and his wife raise a family of four kids. Each of them plays a role in the success of the pasture.
“My family helps out on the farm. My three-year-old son likes to gather eggs and place them in the trays. He goes to the barn every morning to gather them. Always puts them right side up too,” he explains as a proud father.
Every so often, Zack and his family take a break from the farm to travel to their two favorite vacation spots: Wyoming and Montana. There, they enjoy tent camping and riding UTVs through the wide-open BLM land.
A break in the conversation has me looking down at the congregation of hens around our feet. At this moment, I can’t help but ask if Zack has a favorite among his flock.
“Oh yeah. Eventually, after spending a lot of time with them, you can pick ’em right out of the crowd. There’s one in the barn over there,” he gestures to the left of the pasture, “We call her penguin. She has a shorter tail and waddles around a bit. There’s another in this barn with a lot of white feathers. She’ll jump right up on my shoulder and stay there while I work.”
As the early evening settles over the farm, I ask Zack my final and favorite question.
“Is it safe to assume you eat a lot of eggs?” I ask inquisitively.
He chuckles, “Oh yeah, we eat a whole lot of ’em.”
“I thought so,” I laugh along with him, “Do you have a favorite dish to make with them?”
His eyes sink deep into thought until he looks at me with a humble smile.
“A fried egg sandwich.” He says confidently and then pauses for a moment. “But if you’re going to eat a fried egg sandwich, you have to eat it right, which is the Amish way. With only one slice of bread. You spread butter or mayo on the bread; I like mayo best, and then fry an egg with some cheese and put it on top.”
Zack kindly took the time to write his recipe down to share with the Vital Farms community.