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Friends, neighbors pitch in to help California chicken farm after fire

By Augie Martin and Dan Simon, CNN
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Soul food farms
  • Soul Food Farm is highly prized by customers, including fine restaurants
  • Chickens raised there feed in vast fields and live a relatively stress-free existence
  • A fire in September 2009 killed more than 1,200 chicks at the farm
  • Friends got together to raise more than $30,000 to help save the farm

Vacaville, California (CNN) -- You might think green eggs are only found in a Dr. Seuss classic. But at a small, family-run and highly regarded chicken farm on the outskirts of the San Francisco, they're a relatively common sight.

"Isn't that beautiful?" said Soul Food Farm owner Alexis Koefed as she held one of the green gems. "The thing about farm eggs is, once you've had them you can't go back to the store and buy eggs again," she said.

Chickens at the Soul Food Farm roam freely around the farm's 50 acres. They enjoy vast fields of natural grass and generally live a stress-free life, feasting freely. It's a philosophy unlike that of the industrial chicken farm, and Koefed and her loyal customers believe it produces better eggs and chicken.

Soul Food Farm's rise to popularity wasn't limited to locals and the farmer's market regulars. Instead, Koefed's methods attracted the attention of many of the Bay Area's top restaurants and their celebrity chefs, including Alice Waters of the nationally renowned Chez Panise in Berkeley.

But an overnight fire in September 2009 raced down the rolling hills surrounding the farm nearly put an end to it. By the time it was extinguished, much of the farm and some 1,200 chicks had perished.

With the existence of Soul Food Farm at stake, determined friends, neighbors and loyal customers of the Koefeds came to the rescue.

"It was so inspiring and heartwarming, Koefed said. "It was a wonderful feeling to know that people cared about the farm as much as I did."

Friend Bonnie Powell organized a fundraising effort of raffles, silent auctions, and dinners. She helped raise $30,000 to build new coops and replace the chicks killed in the fire.

"You can't hear something like that and just go, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry that this thing you have worked so hard for is done and there's nothing anyone can do about it,'" Powell said.

Through the intrepid determination and loyal commitment of a true community, Soul Food Farm is back on the map.