Ayden Gartenlaub made sure he didn't ruffle any feathers earlier this month when he announced he would be stepping down from Ayden's Eggs.
The young entrepreneur who graduated from Highland High School this year will head to Fresno State in the fall, leaving behind the small-business empire he started in 2017.
Of course, as anyone in the ag industry knows, it's all about planning. While Ayden was looking to his future, he made sure that Ayden's Eggs had one as well — just in someone else's hands.
"I know that you'll be happy knowing that you'll be able to get the same great eggs from someone who shares the passion and drive to deliver that product to you," he said in a video on the business's Facebook page announcing his successor, Sarah Celine Pursel.
Sarah Celine, 15, is a freshman at Bakersfield Christian High School. Upon joining the school's FFA program, she discovered a passion for poultry and set up a small coop at home.
When her parents, Scott and Belinda, learned that Ayden was looking for someone to take over his business, they saw it as an opportunity for their oldest daughter.
"We really wanted to focus this project for Sarah," Belinda Pursel said. "But it's definitely a family effort. The whole family is involved and they love it. It's a nice addition to what we're doing."
The Pursels also operate Hopeful Harvest, which provides weekly boxes of organic produce to the community. A portion of the proceeds funds their nonprofit Supporting Overwhelming Situations (S.O.S.), which the Pursels founded to help support families dealing with life-changing experiences.
They were inspired to help others after their own family journey caring for their then-17-month-old daughter Anastasia, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Through her treatment as well as for son Benjamin, who has undergone numerous surgeries for an inner ear condition, the Pursels wanted to help others.
For now the two endeavors are separate with Sarah Celine overseeing the 400-chicken operation.
Last weekend was her first at the helm for The Hens Roost's Saturday farmers market downtown where Ayden's Eggs is a vendor.
"It was really fun," Sarah Celine said. "I went to a couple before with Ayden when he was mentoring me. This week I did it on my own. People introduced themselves and it was really nice to meet new people."
The young businesswoman will also have a chance to meet fellow egg lovers this week at the Meet Your Grower dinners being held by The Kitchen. While most focus on one business, this event is unique as it will celebrate the changing of hands from Ayden to Sarah Celine.
The four-course menu (see sidebar) will be served at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and 7 p.m. Friday with space available for both nights.
Proud mother Belinda notes that her amazing student, who received all As in her honors programs this year, is ready for this opportunity.
"The work ethic is there, but it will be a challenge and a lot of hands-on work," Pursel said, noting that along with the feeding and care of the chickens, work includes daily egg collection, washing, packaging and labeling, all done by hand.
"It will be a great experience to learn to put it all into practice," her mother said. "It will be a challenge, help her grow as a person and get her out there into the community."
Dad Scott said he is grateful to Ayden for laying the groundwork for this endeavor and showing them how it can grow. And he thinks his daughter is a natural for this.
"Sarah has a very caring heart," he said. "Her little sister is a leukemia survivor. I see her caring for these chickens in the same way. She's a big mother hen ... She has always been a caregiver."⠀⠀⠀
Sarah Celine said she sees what Ayden took away from his business and looks forward to her own journey.
"The whole experience helped him grow as a person. I'm just looking forward to all of it."