The best way to get reluctant kiddos to eat their eggs? Get them out to a local farm where hens roam free, foraging on grubs, fallen apples and the seeds of weeds.

Before they moved to Maine, Brunswick therapist Stacey Jenkins and her family, all Florida natives, didn’t think much about the ills of standard commodity egg production: thousands, if not millions, of de-beaked hens crammed together in fetid, disease- and death-ridden battery cages, stacked ceiling high. While living in Tampa, Jenkins, now a social worker at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, always assumed the big brand Eggland’s Best were the best she could scramble. Here, she got a taste of something better.

“I noticed a difference right away when I cracked them, the yolks were so orange,” Jenkins said of her first Maine farm eggs. “I was used to more yellow.”

The day they relocated to Brunswick, Jenkins received a housewarming gift that’s not uncommon in Maine: free-range eggs from home chickens. The eggs came from Spring Peepers across the river in Topsham, an old homestead turned hobby farm in year five of its 20-year revival plan dreamed up by Tara and Tim Coste, colleagues of Jenkins’ husband, Dan.

The Jenkins’ daughters, Ava, 8, and Macie, 4, gobble up the “eggies” they gather from a strutting flock of black sex-link chickens guarded by a pair of feisty ducks. Ava and Macie coddle the sex-link chicks (a cross-breed of Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks; roosters helpfully hatch out of the shell a different color) that incubate every spring in the Costes’ creatively cluttered home office.

The girls and their mother help Tara Coste, who suffers from arthritis, wash and sanitize eggs. The Jenkins enjoy the eggs scrambled and mashed into egg salad. They always bring the hard-boiled eggs to Passover seders. At the farm, they enjoy Coste’s egg-rich ramekins of custard, hollandaise sauce and deviled eggs enlivened with home-canned, home-grown zucchini relish – and Miracle Whip.

The girls consider Spring Peepers their adopted farm. In lieu of composting, the family saves kitchen scraps for the farm’s chickens, who are partial to potato chips.

Though the Costes aren’t Jewish, they host the Jenkins family on the farm most Friday nights to light Shabbat candles and share a ritual breakfast-for-dinner of farm eggs and bacon. Come summer, Tara Coste’s students and colleagues from USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College, including the Jenkins, flock to her “farm Fridays,” relaxing together over s’mores and beers.

“See, I’m proof you can be a professor and a farmer. Talk to your husband,” Tara Coste jokes, touching a nerve, when I visited Spring Peepers with the Jenkins girls. But she couldn’t do it without engineer spouse Tim, who fixes all the vintage farm machines and works “insane hours” during spring planting and fall picking seasons.

I’m that professor’s spouse, but sadly not that hardworking or handy. I’ve also finally accepted that my economist husband will never be a gardener – nor much of a cook, though he does reliably fry eggs every weekend, brew coffee every morning and make our preschooler’s lunches (plus handle a huge chunk of the child rearing in his off hours). His time is too scarce. Enjoying good food together, including paying double for real farm eggs, is our shared priority.

We’re not a family that eats brunch out much, either, though my huevos rancheros-loving husband wishes we would. We jointly decided last minute on Mother’s Day to drive out to Crissy’s Breakfast & Coffee Bar in Damariscotta, a bakery and lunch spot friends have long urged us to try. The menu was chockful with inventive egg variations. “Where do your eggs come from?” I asked the waitress after the bill was paid.

Turns out they buy from Bowden’s Egg Farm in Waldoboro, a respected local source. I wish more diners followed their lead. We try to patronize affordable places that still care: The Schoolhouse Cafe in Harpswell (which also poaches Rose’s Duck Eggs from nearby Basin Cove Farm), Palace Diner in Biddeford and even the Broadway Delicatessen (which also serves Bowden eggs) in Brunswick, our hometown.

Still, for me, eggs from Spring Peepers’ free-range flock of 15 edge out many others. The Costes practically give their farmstand eggs away for $3 a dozen, especially now that they buy organic feed.

The GMO-free grains cost twice as much, which is why organic eggs at the farmers market sell for as much as $6 a dozen.

The New York Times recently detailed how bird flu has killed or necessitated the culling of tens of millions of poultry birds, particularly in Iowa, the largest egg-producing state, where “more than 40 percent of its egg-laying hens are dead or dying.” Such quarantined, bio-hazard factory barns are the polar opposite of the bucolic farms Mainers can freely visit with their children.

I take for granted our ability to drop by a farm like Spring Peepers with Theo, where he recently felt the magic of plucking eggs from a nest box for the first time.

“You’re a real farmer now,” Tara Coste said, as he proudly handed her two eggs.

Maybe now he’ll eat his eggs.

“I don’t like eggs; I don’t like the yellow thing,” Theo has complained in the past, tolerating just a few bites of fried whites. “You smell like eggs,” Theo says as an insult, when someone releases a fart.

Thankfully, the cholesterol in egg yolks is less maligned of late. The yolks are the source of much of an egg’s fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients, including choline, essential to brain health. It plays a critical role in fetal development.

Perhaps that’s why a family friend who is a doctor has long urged pregnant women to consume an egg a day. He even persuaded his pregnant daughter-in-law, a longtime vegan, to start eating eggs.

If you or your toddlers can’t stomach yolks, sneak whole eggs into the simple pancake recipe (below), or stir or bake an egg into your breakfast oatmeal, creamy pasta carbonaras and fried rice dishes. Make yolk-rich chocolate mousse; add an extra yolk for fudgier brownies. Cunning parents deploy stealth eggs to beef up their family’s nutritional arsenal.

TWO-INGREDIENT EGG AND BANANA PANCAKES

I learned about this popular Paleo recipe, which is gluten and dairy free, from a recent post by Emma Christensen, recipe editor of thekitchn.com. When the pancakes were doused in Maine maple syrup, my picky preschooler, Theo, gobbled them up. The mashed banana and beaten eggs alchemize into delicate, velvety crepes. Use good farm eggs. (See the April 5 “Green Plate Special” column on how to measure irregularly sized local eggs in recipes.)

Makes about 8 small pancakes

1 medium ripe banana

2 large eggs, well-beaten

Maple syrup, for serving

OPTIONAL ADDITIONS:

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon honey

HEAVIER TOPPINGS:

1/2 cup granola

1/2 cup coconut flakes, chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips

1 cup fresh fruit

Butter or oil, for greasing the pan

Use a fork to thoroughly mash the peeled banana in a bowl. Continue mashing until it has a pudding-like consistency, with no large lumps remaining. It should yield 1/3 to ½ cup mashed banana.

Whisk in the optional additions. The pinch of baking powder will yield fluffier pancakes. (Save any chunky, heavy ingredients for once the pancakes hit the griddle.)

Pour the eggs over the mashed banana and stir well until thoroughly combined but still much more liquid than regular pancake batter.

Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Melt a little butter or spread vegetable oil in the pan to prevent sticking. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter per pancake onto the hot skillet.

Cook for about 1 minute, until the pancake bottoms look browned and golden when a corner is lifted using a thin, wide spatula. The edges should start to look set, but the middle will still be loose and wet.

Sprinkle any of the heavier toppings on top of the pancakes as first side cooks. Flip the pancakes much more gently and slowly than you would regular pancakes: Work the spatula about halfway under each one, then lift until the unsupported half is just barely lifted off the skillet. Lay the pancake back down on its other side. Cook for another minute or so, until the second side is golden brown.

These delicate crepes taste best fresh off the griddle, served with real maple syrup and any additional toppings. Leftovers can be refrigerated and warmed in microwave.

Laura McCandlish is a Brunswick-based food writer and radio producer. Follow her on Twitter @baltimoregon and read her blog at baltimoregon.com.