One Year Later with Locally Laid

Lucie, of Duluth, is a writer, marketer and reluctant farmer. She and her husband co-own Locally Laid Egg Company, a farm providing pasture-raised eggs in northern Minnesota and partnering with a total of seven other mid-level producers. These farms source and sell within their own regions to reduce food miles and strengthen local economies. Lucie is the author of the funny, true, love story Locally Laid.

So a year later, how is the book doing?

The book has done pretty well and I’m pleased that sales warranted its release in paperback. Perhaps it’s the thrifty farmer gal in me, but I love that folks can get their hands on it for less. Plus, I adore the new cover. The Penguin Random House folks showed me a black and white woodblock-style chicken for the paperback and I commented that I didn’t think it was happy. Then they used a chicken who looks absolutely intoxicated — I love it!

And the egg thing?

The eggs and all the partner farms are holding steady. We’re always fiddling with ways to make systems better for birds, farmers and, of course, the consumers. Though every time the phone rings, Jason and I share this communal thought bubble that reads, “What’s wrong?!” I doubt any business owner ever fully exhales.

What’s your favorite food? And on that note, do you eat a lot of eggs?

This is a little out of left field for a gal who went to Catholic school, but I love matzo ball soup. I think that’s because my teenage kids will help roll out the dough and it becomes a goofy family affair in our teeny kitchen. And the soup is wholly comforting, especially during the damp spring.

As far as eggs go, I almost always have hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. I’ve been known to show up to meetings with a half dozen in my coat pockets to hand out. It makes a gal popular.

What are you reading right now?

Actually, I’m really lucky to be reading an advanced copy of Margi Preues’ new book An Enchantment of Lake Mystery. I’m loving it. Young adult readers today are so lucky, there’s such good writing for them.

What is the number one thing you wish people would “get” about farming and where our food comes from?

That it’s not neat and tidy like Farmville. Things go wrong constantly and you’re always dealing with a lot of imperfect choices, especially in a food system set up for big ag, not mid-size farms. Right now we’re trying to diversify our Wrenshall farm with Pick-Your- Own berries under the brand FarmLoLa.com — and now we have a whole new set of challenges to overcome.

Who is your hero?

I greatly admire Rick Bayless who started the famous Frontera Grill in Chicago. He made the Farm-to- Table movement a thing in the Midwest and offers grants to small farms so they’re able to scale up to mid-size production to serve restaurants. Duluth is so lucky to have supportive places like Duluth Grill and Northern Waters Restaurant that source locally, too.

If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be?

That’s easy: Ira Glass from the public radio show, This American Life. I’ve been a listener since 1994 and heard all these great writers on the show like Sarah Vowel and David Rakoff who are funny, but with depth and purpose. Those are my writing goals, too.

What do you love about Duluth?

I’m from Maine, or as I call it, the other Duluth, so unlike the Twin Cities, it really looks like home with the big water, gritty industry and woodsy-ness. But honestly, I love the quirky community up here. There are a lot of characters and somehow they all fit it.

What is the number one thing on your bucket list?

This sounds so hokey, but hanging out with my kids as much as possible before they leave after high school. I lost a few years during our farm-startup horror show, so I’m aware of the finite time that they’re home. After that, I’d like to rediscover old hobbies like bicycle touring.

You are super funny. Where do you get your sense of humor?

You’re kind. I grew up in an immigrant French Canadian household, so there was this natural tension around language and customs that was ripe for comedy. Add to that, I have an incredibly witty brother and spent an entire childhood trying to make him laugh. But it wasn’t until I left home that it crossed my mind that I might have my own sense of humor.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Gah! I have no idea. Don’t make me adult, please.

What are you most proud of?

I had a little book-signing miracle that still makes me teary. I was in southern Minnesota and a woman, clutching her book, blurted out, “This changed the way I see my family…and myself.”

She told me how her family lost their farm when she was a kid, and from that she’d internalized that they weren’t good business people. But in the book, I take about 1,000 pages of research of what led to the demise of the family farm and condense it into a rollicking 750 words explaining the rise of chemicals, the loss of price protections and the advent of vertical integration.

“You wrote that in a way I understood,” she said, “And I just wanted you to know I see everything differently now.” Yeah, I cried.

Is there anything about you that would surprise us?

I adore public speaking to these big rooms and have such a good time doing it, but after I’m a terrible homebody. I love being in my jammies, by our gas fireplace snuggled with the family watching Stephen Colbert on the laptop. That’s an awesome Saturday night for me.

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