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Wander Minnesota: From Layoff To Super Bowl Commercial Finalist

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Amy Rea Amy Rea
Amy Rea is a freelance writer and author of Minnesota, Land of 10,000...
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Sometimes, that old adage about making lemonade from lemons is more than a little true. Although in the case of Wrenshall’s Locally Laid, maybe it’s a case of making omelets from—well—eggs.

Locally Laid is the brainchild of Jason Amundsen, who experienced the all-too-common experience of being laid off from work, not once, but twice in a two-year period. The frustration of the layoffs merged with his concern over not being able to find local eggs at his food co-op in Duluth. An idea was—OK, not hatched, but born.

Jason’s wife Lucie was a little more skeptical. When he presented her with the concept of the chicken farm, her response was: “Is there another idea?”

But no, that was the idea. After spending a year delving into education and developing a business plan, Locally Laid Eggs set up shop in the spring of 2012 and delivered its first eggs that fall.

It was not without difficulty. “The learning curve was like a climbing gym,” said Lucie. “There were many ugly days that first summer on the pasture and the first winter turned out to be one of the coldest and snowiest on record.” No wonder she describes herself as a “reluctant farmer.”

But it wasn’t long before demand outpaced egg production. “People really connected with our eggs,” Lucie said. “They wanted eggs that tasted like eggs did when they were kids.” The eggs are produced from chickens that are not simply cage-free, but pasture-raised, allowed to roam their pastures at will, finding foods they love in the grasses and clover. (They do have hoop coops to protect them during bad weather.)

Part of the Amundsens’ education involved working with the U of M Duluth’s Center for Economic Development. A business analyst there told the Amundsens about a contest sponsored by Intuit. The contest involved small businesses getting people to vote on the Intuit game website, with 8,000 Intuit employees also involved. The winner will receive something small businesses never dream about: the chance to have a commercial on during the Super Bowl.

The Amundsens thought: Why not? Even if they didn’t make the cut, it gave them a great opportunity to talk about their eggs and healthy chickens and raise more awareness.

The competition was fierce, with tens of thousands of entries. But Locally Laid survived the first round, and the second, and now there are just four small businesses in competition for that coveted Super Bowl ad spot. Between now and Dec. 1, you can vote for Locally Laid daily by visiting this site (no registration required).

The Amundsen family learned they were in the Final Four when a limo arrived at their farm with several Intuit employees and Bill Rancic, television host and winner of the first season of Donald Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice.

“It was wet, cold and muddy out on the pasture and our surprise guests could not have been more gracious,” said Lucie. “They came into the paddocks, picked up chickens and asked great questions about the way we farm. I’m pretty sure some of them had to throw out their shoes after.”

So: help an environmentally responsible Minnesota farming family out, and vote every day through Dec. 1!

If you’re wondering where you can find Locally Laid eggs, just check out this page on their website.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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