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Sustainable Farming — The Glaum Way

John Glaum and his chick hatchery.In the early 1920's John Glaum started a small family farm in Alexandria, Nebraska. At that time it was almost unheard of for a successful family farm to be based entirely on egg producing chickens. But John chose to "put all his eggs in one basket" so to speak.

His use of innovative farming techniques was soon recognized as a "Model Poultry Farm" by local newspapers. Not only did John build his own chicken houses, but also eventually added a hatchery and feed mill. His expertise in the poultry business became widely known and expanded as other local farmers began purchasing both Glaum's chicks and own brand of custom ground and mixed feed.

In 1946 John and his wife Pearl made the move to California to follow their children and established Glaum Egg Ranch in Santa Cruz. John died in 1952 and his son Marvin took over and continued his father's legacy of innovation as he constructed, updated and modernized.

Side ventilation louvresInventive ideas and natural mechanical abilities gained Marvin wide recognition from the nation's egg industry. He designed and built gas powered engines, electric egg gathering carts and manure removal equipment, and side ventilation louvres for barn temperature control — which was featured in an article in National Poultry Magazine. According to his son Doug, "Looking back on my childhood, I realize how hard my dad worked on the ranch. His ultimate goal was to better the ranch with all his innovations and inventions in order to maximize efficiency. Many of his inventions were published in national poultry magazines. We always wondered why he never patented any of his ideas, but his drive was different. He just wanted to take care of his family first, and then the ranch."

One of the greatest plans for continually "taking care of the community" was Marvin's idea of composting the tons of chicken manure produced annually at the ranch. In 1988, the Glaum Egg Ranch created a composting facility at the Aptos ranch and Glaum's Organic Composted Fertilizer was born. Since 1988, farm has produced zero-waste. When most chicken farmers have the burden of trying to find a place for the manure, the Glaum Egg Ranch found a way to use this by-product and profit from it! Glaum 100% Organic Composted Fertilizer is now sold at the Aptos facility and at nurseries across three Western states.

Building a compost pile.

When Marvin passed away in 2004, our family was faced with critical long term decisions about how to survive in the egg business which was increasingly dominated by conventional Midwestern factory farms that could house up to two million birds at a time. After much thought, we decided to follow in our father's and grandfather's innovative footsteps and compete with the conventional large-scale factory producers by converting to a 100% cage free farm and producing organic eggs.

The commitment to cage free and organic methods required expanding and modernizing facilities. As luck would have it, agricultural land with barns previously occupied by a turkey farm not far from Aptos was available and we purchased it. This allowed us to build modern facilities and create above standard conditions for our birds.


While the large industrial farms can produce a cheaper egg with less labor by housing birds in battery cages, they don't provide hens with sufficient space to stand, walk, flap their wings, perch or make a nest. The Glaum cage free barns allow for not only much more space per bird, but also the opportunity for them to roam free with 24 hour a day access to feed (vegetarian with no hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products) and water and to features including perches, community nest boxes and above standard depth of shavings and sawdust for dust bathing and scratching. Additionally, the organic flocks have year round access to the outdoors with double the space recommended by organic certifiers. They are fed an organic vegetarian diet which has ingredients inspected all the way back to the organic fields where they were grown. The organic eggs are hand gathered and processed with all organic approved soaps and sanitizers.

Steve with white hen.

Doug Glaum with brown hen.The current Glaum generation's choice to "put all of our eggs in one basket" as our grandfather once did has been a gamble that has paid off in many ways. The decision to go cage free and organic allows customers the choice between a cheaper industrial farm produced egg from caged birds trucked to their store from far away or a fresh, healthy, local family farm egg from cage free hens in recycled and recyclable packaging delivered to their store within 24-48 hours after laying. It also allows us to farm the right way — to provide above-standard conditions to protect the health and welfare of our chickens — long before market trends or the passage of California's Proposition 2. In Doug Glaum's words, "This is what our ranch is all about. We're not a specialty egg. We're a specialty ranch."

The support Glaum Egg Ranch has received from Santa Cruz County and California is a testament to both the farm's and the consumers' demand for a healthly, sustainable product produced with humane farming practices — a tradition the fourth generation of Glaum family farmers will continue.