SALISBURY — When some young entrepreneurs want to make a few bucks, they might pour some lemonade in a pitcher and put a stand out by the road.
Cookie Weaver decided she was going to sell quail eggs.
The enterprising 9-year old is currently raising a flock of quail on her family’s farmstead in eastern Rowan County. She sells the small, dark brown speckled eggs produced by her birds under the brand Cookie’s Quaility Eggs at Father and Son Produce Market.
While Cookie enjoys caring for her quail, building an egg empire isn’t her end goal. She’s trying to raise enough money to buy the animal she’s truly enamored with.
“This can make money to support her horse habit,” said Matthew Weaver, Cookie’s father.
Cookie first started asking her parents for a horse four years ago. Matthew told her that, when the time was right, he’d build the stable. However, purchasing the horse would be her responsibility.
“My dad was a business owner and one of the things he taught us is from very early on we were going to work for what we get,” Matthew said. “We were not going to get handouts from him. Never once in my life did I get paid strictly for existing, commonly called an allowance. That did not happen in my life.”
Matthew’s father learned the lesson of entrepreneurship by growing a bed of strawberries. Matthew learned it himself as a child by raising and caring for deer. Now, Matthew and his wife, Paige, are trying to pass it down to their four children.
For the past few years, Cookie has been saving up money for her dream pony.
“Cookie has been carefully saving birthday money, Christmas money, money from odd jobs,” Matthew said. “She has an investment account in my business and earns a good interest return, but in order to buy a horse and the supplies and ongoing things, she needs a little more.”
Raising and caring for quail is also a way for Cookie to prove she’s ready to handle a horse.
“The quail is building the character muscles for her to get her horses,” Matthew said.
Cookie isn’t the only entrepreneurial child in the Weaver family. Her younger sister, Carly, has launched her own agricultural enterprise. The 8-year old is currently raising rabbits that will be processed for their meat.
It was actually during a trip to purchase a few rabbits for Carly when Cookie’s eyes were opened to the possibility of raising quail.
“(Paige) found someone half an hour from here who was selling some (rabbits),” Matthew said. “The whole family jumped in our van one time when we had a chance and we drove up there with a cage. Carly picked out one of the rabbits she wanted and bought it. While there, we noticed their quail pins. They had quail and we started asking questions about that.”
When the family returned home, Cookie started researching the birds.
“I remember walking into the office to the desk and seeing a bunch of internet browser tabs open,” Matthew said. “I was like, ‘What is that?’ It was all quail, quail, quail, quail.”
A few months later, in early 2021, Cookie decided she wanted to move forward with her business plan. Using her own money, she purchased about 25 chicks from a hatchery. But on the week her quail were set to arrive, the shipment was delayed.
“That week there was unbelievably cold weather,” Matthew said. “They couldn’t ship anything. They’d all die in the trucks. So it got delayed.”
In the meantime, Paige was browsing Facebook marketplace for farm equipment when she stumbled across someone selling their flock of quail. The seller, it turned out, was the very same person who sold Carly her rabbits.
“It was full circle,” Matthew said.
The family made another trip to the farm, this time bringing back with them a couple dozen quail and a triple-decker cage for them to live in. The cage itself is built at a slight angle, so when a quail lays an egg, the small round object rolls into one of the trays attached to the side.
Every evening, Cookie comes around to collect the eggs, which she packages and puts in the refrigerator. Along with collecting the eggs, Cookie rotates the mobile cages used to protect the quail at least once every 48 hours. She’s also in charge of keeping her ever-growing flock, which now includes 70 birds, fed and hydrated.
Cookie has been selling her quail eggs at Father and Son Produce Market for several weeks. Since quail eggs are a specialty item, selling the eggs has also meant educating consumers on how to enjoy them.
Opening quail eggs requires a pair of specialty made scissors that use a sharp point to penetrate the tough membrane protecting the yolk inside. The scissors are available for sale at Father and Sons Produce. Quail eggs can be fried, pickled, hard boiled or used creatively in recipes. Paige said they are perfect as a unique appetizer.
With more of her quail reaching maturity soon, Cookie has started looking for more avenues through which to sell her eggs.
“I feel like a restaurant is a place where a chef can get creative, make something fun and be an easy place where we take a batch every so often,” Paige said. “We’re hoping at some point to go knock on some restaurant doors.”
Cookie is planning 0n selling some of her quail for meat as well.
When Cookie raises enough money to buy her horse, the animal will fit right in with the multitude of other farm critters already residing on the family’s 48-acre property. In addition to Cookie’s quail and Carly’s rabbits, the family raises chickens, cattle and pigs and also maintains several gardens.
The family is in the process of working on the farm’s branding, but has already named it The Ark Farmstead. They’ve even created an dedicated to their ongoing agricultural activities.
The farm is more than just a way for the family to ensure they have access to fresh, organic and humanely raised food. It’s also a teaching tool for their children.
“I’m grateful to live on a property where I have an opportunity to pass on the values I grew up with,” Matthew said. “I love that.”
Cookie’s Quaility Eggs can be found in the fridge at Father and Son Produce Market, which is located at 1774 Sherrills Ford Rd. and is open Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m.-6 p.m.