Cummings School Farm Donates Eggs to Food Banks

Even without veterinary students on campus, the school’s teaching chickens remain busy, providing dozens of eggs a week to local people in need
“Most of the time, the eggs are only a couple days old by the time we bring them out to the different food banks,” said farm supervisor James Phillips. Photo: Courtesy of James Phillips
“Most of the time, the eggs are only a couple days old by the time we bring them out to the different food banks,” said farm supervisor James Phillips. Photo: Courtesy of James Phillips
April 24, 2020

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On a normal day, the Cummings School Farm in Grafton sells up to seven dozen farm-fresh eggs to people on the veterinary school’s campus. But with students and most staff and faculty staying at home due to COVID-19, the eggs started to accumulate quickly.

The farm’s staff makes sure they don’t go to waste. Farm supervisor James Phillips said about thirty dozen eggs a week are donated to local food banks in Grafton, Upton, and Uxbridge.

“Most of the time, the eggs are only a couple days old by the time we bring them out to the different food banks,” said Phillips.

The food pantry at the United Parish of Upton is considered a supplemental food pantry, which means they provide non-perishables and paper products, but don’t normally have perishable goods like eggs.

“These eggs have been a blessing to every single person we’ve handed them to,” said Amy Griswold, coordinator of the food pantry. “We included the eggs in no-contact doorway drop-offs for local seniors, and we handed them out to every patron who came to our last food pantry. I can’t thank the farm enough for donating them.”

She said some members of the community are normally food-insecure and alone, and COVID-19 “has made their aloneness exponentially worse. To be able to give them a dozen eggs, I know, for a little while, they can cook themselves a nutritious meal. It’s a great source of protein and easy to fix for people who just have a frying pan and a hot plate.”

Phillips said the farm will continue to donate eggs for as long as they have extra, which happens in the summer sometimes, when fewer students are on campus.

Hens and their eggs, put to good use

The farm’s hens lay white eggs, many shades of brown eggs, and pale blue-green eggs. And no, they weren’t dyed for Easter.

“Primarily, the Ameraucana hens lay a light blue-green egg, or an olive kind of color. It does look quite pretty, so I always add one or two of the whites and a blue-green in each dozen,” said Phillips.

The eggs, which are sold on the honor system, normally sell for $4 per dozen, and some customers leave an additional donation. The proceeds go toward subsidizing the costs of running a 200-acre teaching farm.

Cummings School Farm has about 120 egg-laying hens, divided into three groups by age. Most “layers,” as he called them, start laying eggs at five to six months old, and they’ll be most consistent from seven to 24 months old. The older group doesn’t lay as many eggs as the younger two groups.

“Some of the heavy breeds we have right now, the more production-style birds, they’ll lay 260 to 280 eggs a year. Other breeds, like Ameraucanas, may lay only 200 eggs a year,” he said.

These hens are part of Cummings School’s teaching flock—the birds from whom future veterinarians learn how to care for backyard chickens. Cummings School Farm also introduces D.V.M. candidates, and prospective students in the Adventures in Veterinary Medicine program to other food animals, including cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.

Normally, Phillips said, classes with 20 or so students come through multiple times a week to work with the farm animals. Under the COVID-19 circumstances, there’s a lot less activity going on, and the animals are on a bit of a vacation, he added.

Angela Nelson can be reached at angela.nelson@tufts.edu.