“Everyone knows me from the eggs,” Jackie Gifford said. “I go to dinner in the state of Maine and (people) come over to us at the table like ‘you’re the egg girl, right?’ My husband’s rolling his eyes going ‘Man, we can’t go anywhere without people knowing you.’”
Gifford, of Waldoboro, has delivered eggs for Bowden’s Egg Farms for the last 18 years. She’s delivered to restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, schools, retirement homes, inns, bed and breakfasts, bagel shops, country clubs, golf clubs, resorts, even Ames True Value Supply.
“Our eggs are literally everywhere,” she said.
Gifford started with the Waldoboro-based egg farm when she was just 17 years old. Dennis Bowden, who delivered eggs to her mother’s restaurant, was looking for another driver, and Gifford was looking to earn some money.
“I got hooked,” Gifford said of the job. “I loved it.”
She was soon working five days a week, finishing up high school through the adult education program. Since then she has driven just about every route the farm serves and currently delivers to the Camden and Rockport area on Mondays and Damariscotta, Edgecomb, Boothbay, East Boothbay and Southport on Fridays.
While she doesn’t currently drive it, her favorite route takes her through her old stomping grounds in Wiscasset then into Bath, Brunswick, and Topsham. She’ll hit the highway into Freeport, then a few more stops in Cumberland County before she shoots out to Bowdoin and Bowdoinham. Next up is Litchfield, then Richmond and finally Dresden before she makes her way back to Route 1 and north to Waldoboro.
“It’s easy but not,” Gifford said of egg delivery. “It’s a lot of walking, lifting, going up and down flights of stairs. I get about 10 miles of walking a day.”
With each customer she brings in the eggs, checks the dates, rotates the stock, and credits the business for any cracked or broken product. She can carry 10 flats at a time, a total of 25 dozen.
Not that she doesn’t have the occasional “oopsie,” especially when the weather turns cold.
“I’ve slipped on ice and put my face in the flats,” she said. Or the tailgate gets iced up “and you’re getting out … of the truck and boom! You’re falling. And eggs are everywhere. It’s a sticky mess.”
Summer deliveries present their own issues. Making 40 or more stops a day at the height of the season can take 10 or 11 hours.
“Traffic slows you down.” she said. “You’re a big truck; you ain’t gonna pull U-ies like these cars do around you. You just sit and wait. Put your four-ways on and wait.”
Through it all Gifford maintains her infectious smile.
“I’ve always had people ask me ‘why are you so chipper and you’re always smiling and happy?’” she said. “Well, I prefer to keep myself happy. It makes my day go better.”
According to Gifford, the recent sky-high prices for eggs were caused by the bird flu epidemic in conjunction with rising fuel prices.
“The Canadian geese bring it in and the turkeys spread it and it will kill a whole hen house in a matter of days,” she said.
Gifford said a lot of local eggs were shipped out of state to stock shelves depleted in more populous areas.
“It was crazy,” she said of the price increase. “I’ve never seen it that high. It got up to almost $6 a dozen. Extra large brown used to be $1.89 (a dozen) and it jumped.”
Gifford said the brown eggs produced by Bowden’s Farm’s Rhode Island Reds hold together better than white eggs, which are often a little older from being trucked in.
“You crack them and they don’t go loose and the whites don’t spread and the yolks don’t pop easy,” she said.
While she doesn’t deliver them, Gifford said she loves duck eggs too, especially for baking.
“They have a lot of body to them,” she said. “The whites are a lot thicker … The yolk is more creamy and vibrant.”
She’s not tried goose eggs or an emu egg, she said, although she has been asked if Bowden’s Egg Farms sells them.
Gifford worked at a handful of other jobs in the past, but her work at the egg farm is the through line. Delivering eggs ticks a lot of boxes for her and it doesn’t hurt that the farm is like a second family.
It also doesn’t hurt that she gets to be out in the community, she gets to talk to people, and she gets to spend her days driving through the beautiful scenery in Maine.
“And I can bring my dogs,” she said.
Animals are the other through line in Gifford’s life.
She was born in Bath, but grew up splitting her time between Woolwich and Wiscasset. She was 5 years old when her parents divorced. Her mother owned a restaurant and her father worked for Bath Iron Works for 30 years. He also kept a small farm.
Gifford spent her childhood helping with the pigs and chickens and ducks and geese on the farm.
“And then I got into horses.”
When she was eight or nine she decided she wanted a pony.
“I had to work for it myself – that was the deal,” she said. “You have to have responsibility. If you want it you (have) to earn it and take care of it.”
She mucked out stalls at Stan’s Stables in Dresden and every morning and evening she would go to Kicks and Giggles Farm in Wiscasset to turn out and grain the horses.
It took her a year, but she got her pony.
Dakota was “a naughty little pony,” she said. “He would bite and kick and no one could ride him but me … But he taught me to ride and he taught me seat.”
She learned to ride English and to jump from Cathy Lewis at Kicks and Giggles and from Sharon Kinney at Andwemet Farm in West Bath.
Lewis is the one who got her started with barrel racing, not a sport that’s overly common in Maine.
“It’s an amazing, natural rush,” Gifford said of barrel racing. “It’s only like 15, 16 seconds … but those seconds (are) the most fun you’ll ever have.”
Gifford attended barrel racing camps prior to the start of the season and recalled how the trainer would have students running the course without the horse before having them walk it on horseback, then they would take it at a trot, and then at a canter.
“There’s a lot to it,” Gifford said. “You come into the pockets and you gotta learn how to sit and turn and bend with them. It’s all fast action. You gotta do it fast. That’s why they teach you in slow motion.”
Gifford hasn’t raced in years though she hopes to get back into it someday.
“Life gets a hold of you,” she said. “Bills and life.”
Gifford’s first horse was a 3-year-old untrained quarter horse whose owner kept him free range in a field. When she was 14 she had the opportunity to care for and train him and was eventually offered a chance to buy him.
“It took a long time for him to be mine,” Gifford said. She paid him off when she was 17 or 18 years old. “He’s a big, beautiful, handsome man,” she said of Poco, whom she still owns.
She is more focused on endurance riding than barrel racing these days but Poco is older now and not up to longer rides so Gifford bought another quarter horse, Pistol, about four years ago.
Her menagerie isn’t limited to the two horses though. She also has a miniature donkey named Sadie and a black and white Welsh pony named Pirate that she bought for her youngest son’s fifth birthday.
Gifford’s two American pit bull terriers, Bianca and Posha, routinely accompany her on her egg deliveries, and a French bulldog named Eva recently joined the delivery crew.
Back at home she has a “decent-sized” Maine Coon Cat named Phoenix and a foot-and-a-half long bearded dragon named Spike. There are ducks and chickens too.
Gifford and her husband, Brandon, an offshore lobsterman she met while delivering eggs at the Nobleboro Village Store, bought 23 acres in Waldoboro and in 2020 they built a barn and established Gifford’s Farm.
The couple live there with their two sons, Landyn, 10, and Gauge, 9, and “all the animals,” she said.
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