Business is booming for Jeremy McWilliams of Saunemin… although it might be more appropriate to say that business is clucking and gobbling.
McWilliams, 18, is preparing for the busy Thanksgiving season as part of his business, Little Farm on the Prairie. He sells turkeys, meat chickens and chicken eggs locally and also sells eggs to three Chicago restaurants: Trat-toria No. 10, Old Town Social and Frontera Grill. The latter is owned and managed by award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality Rick Bayless.
Before his parents, Larry and Lisa, moved the family to Saunemin, McWilliams lived in Ottawa, where he had a paper route. But “when we moved to the farm, I was looking for ideas to make a little bit of money,” he said. In 2002, when McWilliams was 11, he and his father came up with the idea of raising and selling turkeys to continue his income and teach life-lessons. That year, McWil-liams purchased 36 turkeys for his business; he now has about 300 turkeys and 1,600 egg-laying chickens and is building his flock of meat chickens to about 600 to 800.
McWilliams’ sales to the Chicago restaurants began when Marty Travis, a friend through the Stewards of the Land co-op, got McWil-liams on board to sell Thanksgiving turkeys to the employees of Rick Bayless’ Chicago restaurants. Around that time, McWil-liams had expanded his business to include the sale of chicken eggs, and Bayless asked if McWilliams could supply farm-fresh eggs for his Mexican restaurant, Frontera Grill.
Apparently, the eggs were a hit in Chicago, because McWilliams was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Frontera Foundation, Bay-less’ “nonprofit organization committed to promoting small, sustainable farms serving the Chicago area by providing them with capital development grants,” ac-cording to Bayless’ website. McWilliams used the grant to purchase an egg preparation machine. The machine washes and candles 250 dozen eggs per hour. Candling is used to check the quality of the egg and look for any cracks.
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(Source: The Paper 11/4/2009)