A Triple-Threat Business Owner Supporting Local Makers
Why She's a Tastemaker: Brooke Hayes knows chicken. Like the birds that have inspired her, she is a flurry of activity, working around the clock to bring delicious food to the Columbus community. The poultry that are the backbone of Hayes' entrepreneurial endeavors have lived a happy life on Speckled Hen Farm in Darke County: cage free, raised without antibiotics or hormones and fed locally sourced, non-GMO grain. Hayes' chicken and eggs (and sometimes duck and turkey) can be found on Saturdays at the Worthington Farmers Market (where she's been a vendor for 14 years), at her recently opened market in Old Worthington and on the menu of the Cluckwagon, a chicken-themed food truck that she launched in 2016.
The Chicken Queen: “I just love chickens,” Hayes says, smiling. Self-taught, Hayes easily explains the variety of breeds used in small-scale farms such as hers, where Cornish Rock Cross birds are grown for meat and Golden Buff hens for eggs. Hayes' farm and market are named after her favorite breed, the Speckled Sussex. “They are just beautiful,” she says. “They are gentle, sweet birds that are amazing to look at.” Growing up in Durand, Michigan, Hayes enjoyed visiting the chickens on her uncle's farm. As a fourth grader, and unbeknownst to her parents, she purchased some chicks and set up a brooder in her basement. “I was naïve enough to think that nobody would notice,” she says.
Dedicated to Small-Scale Producers and Artisans: Located at 667 High St., Speckled Hen Market sells artisanal, local products made by small-scale farmers and makers. Many of her provisions come from producers that Hayes met at the Worthington Farmers Market, as well as those that she's worked alongside at 1400 Food Lab, a local food incubator, while developing concepts for the Cluckwagon. “I want to be supportive of other small producers,” Hayes says, reflecting on the mission of Speckled Hen Market. “I want to help people find a venue to share the things that they are passionate about.” The market's refrigerators are stocked with dairy products from Buckeye Country Creamery, beef from VanScoy Farms, goose and pheasant from Pleasant Valley Poultry, quail eggs from Pettibone Urban Game and bison from Ohio Bison Farm. The shelves are filled with jams, maple syrup, chips, pies, breads and produce, among a range of other unique products, all from small-scale farmers and artisans.
Community Driven, Community Support: Open since February, Hayes reports that Worthington has been kind to Speckled Hen Market, the newest business in the suburb's downtown historic district and one that fills a void in the area. “This is where the majority of my customers, my strongest followers are,” she says, adding that the crowd-funding platform Kiva was a huge help in opening the market. Through the loan program that enables everyday citizens to invest in entrepreneurs in their community, Hayes was able to crowdfund $9,000 to purchase refrigerators for the Old Worthington space.