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Wednesday

April 2014

16

These farm-fresh eggs are as good as gold

Eggs from the Rasmussen farm are the 'coop du jour' for many Lake Country residents

There are not "six geese a' laying" on the Rasmussen farm in the Town of Merton, but there are about 50 brown chickens who lay an average of 30 eggs a day.

There is no "eggs for sale" sign at the entrance to the 50-acre farm, which straddles the border of the Village of Chenequa and the Town of Merton on Highway K.

Most of Dennis Rasmussen's regular customers put their orders in practically before the eggs are laid.

"Occasionally, I will put a sign out if I have some eggs left over. But it doesn't happen very often. I have one lady who comes on Saturday mornings and usually buys whatever is left," Rasmussen said.

No Egg Sign - Although there are usually about 50 laying chickens on the Rasmussen Farm in the Town of Merton there is seldom "eggs" on the farm market sign because Dennis Rasmussen's regular customers usually have bought all of the eggs shortly after they are layed.Connoisseurs of the fresh eggs that are produced by dozens of Lake Country farmers and homeowners like the Rasmussens say eggs purchased right out of the coop have a distinctly different and tastier flavor than "store-bought" eggs.

Rasmussen thinks one of the differences is that eggs produced for mass consumption contain chemicals that have been injected into chickens to produce more eggs and keep them healthy while living in densely populated and confined quarters. There are no such chemicals in Rasmussen's eggs.

Dennis Rasmussen"We mix our own feed. Corn, oats and a little concentrate," Rasmussen explained.

Rasmussen's brown eggs also feature a large, brightly colored yolk. "Packer gold" is how his daughter Laura Dwyer describes the color because it resembles the gold in the Packer's green-and-gold logo.

Dennis and his daughter Laura think the bright gold comes from the carotene that is the grass that the chickens eat.

Dennis said his chickens spend their lives doing what chickens are supposed to do: roaming free while picking at the ground rather than being tightly packed in a large coup with scores - perhaps hundreds - of other chickens.

There is a small wooden coop where they will spend the night and lay their eggs.

Every morning Rasmussen turns them out to let them roam around the farm.

He will occasionally build a fence along a nearby corn field to keep the foxes and coyotes away.

Sometimes a chicken will fall victim to the prowling predators, but most often they just die of old age, he said.

He goes to the mill at the Merton Feed Co. to replace the ones he has lost.

He does not slaughter his chickens.

"I will keep them forever. I don't like killing them," he said.

Rasmussen said he may gather as many as 36 to 38 eggs a day from the wooden bin in the coop where the chickens lay the eggs.

"They don't like it too hot, and they don't like it too cold. The perfect temperature is about 55 degrees," he said.

Rasmussen, his wife, Karen, and their seven children are the fourth generation to live on the 150-year-old farm.

Rasmussen's great-grandfather Peter started the farm after arriving in the United States on a boat from Denmark.

In addition to operating the farm, Dennis Rasmussen, an Air Force Vietnam veteran, worked as a rural postal carrier for 38 years.

The Rasmussen families have faced their share of challenges. Their 14-bedroom farm house was destroyed in a fire in 1940. The family remodeled a carriage house to serve as home until the present farmhouse was built in 1982.

In May, Laura was severely injured in a freak accident when an 800-pound tree limb fell 40 feet during a wind storm and struck her. Partially paralyzed, she, her husband Christopher, and their four children are living with her parents while her home in Oconomowoc is being remodeled to accommodate her new lifestyle.

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