Blake Jennings: I couldn’t imagine doing anything else
This is the first of a series of profiles of young egg farmers. They are all participants in the Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum annual conference in Calgary Feb. 13-17 under the theme Growing Connections.
Bayview Poultry Farms Ltd., Masstown, Nova Scotia
Blake Jennings gets almost poetic when he talks about life on the farm–the beautiful views, the calm surroundings, being with the animals. It’s a life he was born into, and it’s a life he clearly loves.
And nothing pleases him more than thinking that one day he will become the fifth generation of his family to operate the family egg farm.
“It’s nice to carry on what our family did,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
The Jennings farm is in Masstown, Nova Scotia, near the head of Cobequid Bay, an arm of the Bay of Fundy, about 15 minutes outside Truro.
That, according to Blake, is “a comfortable distance;” he makes no bones about preferring the rural life. “I’m not a fan of being around the city,” he says. Even Truro, with 12,000 people, “is big enough for me not to enjoy.”
What he does enjoy is the farm–its work, its rhythms and its routines.
Bayview Poultry Farms has about 14,000 laying hens, as well as some pullets and a seasonal pumpkin and squash operation.
The family keeps a few roosters–not because they are needed but because, according to Blake, “it helps keep the hens calm.” Their crowing is part of the atmosphere on the farm.
Blake has spent his life helping out and is becoming more and more of a partner to his father Glen. (Grandfather Cecil lives next door).
He enjoys the work.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks to run an egg farm,” he says. “There’s a lot of work that goes on behind closed doors.”
For example, he says, the cleaning and disinfecting is important, and it’s part of the mix. But it’s not something people usually think of.
His day usually starts at 6 a.m., when they gather the eggs, and runs until supper time.
(With the farm producing upwards of 12,000 eggs a day, does he ever accidentally drop any? Yes, he says, but only about two a day. Sometimes, though, he drops none at all.)
With the animals, Blake and his father are on call 24/7 – to deal with emergencies like power outages, for example. (Even though the farm uses wind turbines to generate electricity, and can operate its barns emissions-free, a power outage creates problems because they need power to turn on the wind turbines.)
Blake particularly enjoys working with his father.
“I love him to death,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s difficult at times. We argue a lot but we get through it.”
His friends, or visitors to the farm, never tire of asking questions about the operation. He says there’s not really an ‘average’ question. People ask about his chores, or how a chicken can lay an egg every day, or how double yolks happen.
He’s ready to answer them all.
“I love what I’m doing here and where I’m at,” he says, adding that he’s looking forward to growing the farm in the future.