It wasn’t that Lauren Mrozowski wanted to be a farmer when she grew up. It’s that she’s obsessed with animals and has been building a business and then reinventing it over and over to feed her passion for animals, her determination to protect them and her dedication to preserving those rare heritage breeds that are threatened while also supporting the needs of her family.
I understand. As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve been creative in shifting gears as necessary over the years. When things worked, I stayed on course. When not working, I swerved. Lauren’s journey has been in that same spirit.
Lauren’s first love was horses, riding dressage and eventually reining and training. She gave Sonoma State a try, but it was horses that held her attention.
Lauren departed the Bay Area with her then-husband and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, where real estate was more affordable. They bought a little house on 40 acres, a fine place to live with their horses while Lauren studied to be a veterinary technician. But a classmate of Lauren’s introduced her to local livestock auctions, and Lauren soon abandoned her studies to pursue her calling as a horse advocate.
What started as a campaign to rescue as many horses as possible from “kill buyers” became Ahimsa Ranch, the Buddhist-leaning “ahimsa,” meaning respect for all living things. Lauren’s rescue operation fostered around 400 orphaned horses along with donkeys, goats, pigs and a mean-spirited yak over a four-year period. It was a labor of love for Lauren, but her husband didn’t share the love. Both the marriage and the ranch finally came to a close.
Lauren loaded up her remaining horse, three dogs and two cats and drove to Boston at the suggestion of a friend, but after a few years of tall buildings and busy streets, Lauren missed green pastures and dirt roads.
Relocating to Santa Barbara, she worked as a veterinary nurse until changing course (again) to study horseshoeing.
“I could never find a good farrier and so decided to do it myself,” Lauren explained. “Shoeing is an interesting blend of veterinary science and metalworking. It’s about understanding the dynamics of movement, improving the life quality of horses, working with customers outdoors. I love it, but after 10 years of shoeing and three knee surgeries, my body stopped loving the work.”
Still shoeing, Lauren moved her two horses, four dogs and two cats from Santa Barbara to a 10-acre rental in Cebada Canyon in Lompoc, what Lauren envisioned as a “hobby farm.”
First order of business was three baby chicks, but the breeder instead sent Lauren three hatching eggs. Feeling an obligation to hatch them, she bought an incubator and was successful in hatching one chick who she named Bubbles.
“Bubbles was so smart and personable,” Lauren said. “She would come when you called her. My daughter, who was 2 at the time, would wrap Bubbles in a blanket, push the chick in a baby stroller and curl up with her on the couch while watching cartoons.
“I started ordering more hatching eggs, all kinds of different breeds of which there are hundreds. You can find whatever you want online, especially at night after a glass of wine,” laughed Lauren.
Hatching various rare breeds was the start of Lauren’s chicken business. In fact, there was a demand for exotic chicks, happy, healthy, friendly, cute and colorful flocks of all kinds.
Since making the move to their “Rancho Olivos,” Shannon and John have been hands-on every step from tending to the seven acres of olive trees, all of which are sustainably and organically farmed, to bottling their extra virgin olive oil (EVO).
With the growth of Lauren’s farm came the idea of a mobile petting zoo. Lauren brought the cutest and most colorful of her pigs, goats, sheep and chickens to events throughout Santa Barbara County. To her surprise, it was the extraordinary chickens that attracted the most attention. People wanted more information. People wanted chicks. And Lauren’s poultry business thrived.
COVID-19 put an end to the mobile petting zoo, but suddenly it seemed everyone wanted chickens. People realized that owning egg-laying hens gave them more self-sufficiency, more control over their food sources and security. At home with their children all day, baby chicks became meaningful and entertaining home-school projects.
“Some people see what I’m doing as a lot of work and expense with few rewards,” Lauren continued. “But my reward is love. I can’t imagine any other work that I’d do for 16 hours a day and be able to get up and do it again the next day.”
Lauren’s mother, Vicki, is one of those people questioning her daughter’s choice to farm, but still Vicki recently purchased a 5-acre property with two houses, barns and stalls in Santa Ynez in response to Lauren’s quest to settle down on her own farm. The dogs, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, turkeys, quail, ducks and 300 chickens naturally came with Lauren.
Next on Lauren’s agenda is a farmstand featuring rainbow chicken eggs, quail eggs and duck eggs, as well as baby chicks. There are apple and walnut trees on the farm and the beginning of a market garden. A goat-sharing program will benefit shareholders with raw milk. And Lauren’s working with a weaver to turn her sheeps' down into wool products. The idea of an on-site petting zoo and perhaps a hands-on farm camp also are in the works.
This is Bindi Farms, the “starting point” of what Lauren believes will finally be a diverse and sustainable business, one that can shift gears as necessary.
Lauren is not about to sit still as long as she can continue feeding her passion for animals while also feeding her family.
“I’m hoping that Bindi Farms will someday be the family cooperative that I’ve dreamed of,” Lauren said. “As I get to know my neighbors, I want to feel a sense of partnership and be of value to the community.”
With all the twists and turns that Lauren has already taken, there’s clearly more to come.
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