Laura, a Spanish poultry farmer, happily surrounded by hundreds of happy hens

Laura has found happiness among hundreds of hens, who are also happy thanks to her. This is not the beginning of a children’s story. It is the real story of Laura Polo, a Spanish woman who decided to swap the hustle and bustle of the big city, Bilbao, for the noisy clucking of lots and lots of hens.

She is one of the participants in the GRASS CEILING Spanish Living Lab, an initially self-taught entrepreneur who later trained in agriculture and livestock farming to be able to set up her happy hen farm. However, she claims that there is still not enough training in poultry farming for those who, like her, want to earn a living by raising hens.

Her company is called Avicultura Granja Pepín and it is located in a small village in the province of Palencia, called Alba de Cerrato. “Hens are my passion,” she told the Spanish public television programme “La Aventura del Saber” (La 2 TVE), “and they must be given the care they deserve.”

Her hens eat noble cereals such as wheat, barley, corn, and sunflower seeds, when there is no soya. They do not consume animal or vegetable fats, nor do they consume colourants or palm oil. And as a supplement, they eat vegetable waste from the family garden that Laura tends with her husband. “The eggs that our hens produce have the quality seal that comes from the way we care for them: good food, respect and a large natural space where they can move around. The hens know us and that shows in the flavour of the eggs,” says Laura.

Laura has learned to live without a clock, although she works from dawn to dusk. “We use sunlight as a natural clock.”

In 2017 she opened her first shed with 500 hens. Four months later she set up the second shed with 740 hens. In 2018 the third shed arrived to house another 450 hens. In 2019 she reached maximum capacity: a fourth shed where she halted expansion. “We don’t want to lose the essence of the care and craftsmanship of our final product. With this number of hens we can earn a good living, manage the farm and care for our animals.

She says that GRASS CEILING is providing a great opportunity for the voices of rural women to be heard in European institutions. She has met other women in the sector with similar problems, and sharing their experiences helps them to find joint solutions. “We must continue to enhance the visibility of rural women. We are gradually making progress, but there is still much to be done”. However, the main drawbacks they have are the low population density in rural areas and the limited services available. “It is essential that small towns have access to basic services that allow us the quality of life we deserve. This would attract new residents and entrepreneurs”, Laura says.

“I hope, at least, that we can continue to make a living and our brand can become well-known… I am happy here … no one can change that”.