Welcome to our brand new, soon-to-be regular Q&A feature: Ask an egg farmer!
For our first edition, we’re chatting with Stephanie Nanne, a seventh generation egg farmer in Perth, Ontario. Stephanie grew up around egg farming, and her family helped instill in her a strong work ethic and values that she embraces day-to-day with her hens.
Now that Stephanie’s raising her own family on the same farm, she’s excited to see them experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from egg farming too. Needless to say, Stephanie is passionate about egg farming and producing a product she’s incredibly proud of.
How long have you been an egg farmer, and how did you become involved with your family operation?
I grew up on my parents’ farm and started gathering eggs when I was 8 years old. It was kind of an expected chore. We usually had a few chores in each area of the farm, but I was always more involved with the hen barn.
Even though I was the youngest, I was the fastest gatherer between me and my siblings. I just always enjoyed the barn and working with my family. I always wanted to follow my dad around everywhere he went, so being in the hen barn was a nice place to be.
I graduated from university in 2012, and since then I’ve been working part-time on the farm!
What are some of the unique challenges that come along with egg farming in Canada?
I would say bio-security in the last couple of years has been a challenge. Maybe not just in Canada, but everywhere—we’re always having to update bio-security and find new ways to make that better.
A bigger challenge would actually be public perception. I’d love to be able to have people understand more about what I do and what we do on our farm. People see things on the internet that aren’t necessarily true or reflecting [egg farming] in Canada. Here we have standards that are a lot higher than in other countries. That’s probably the biggest challenge we face.
What is it like working around hens—are their behaviours something you have to learn and adapt to?
They’re a naturally timid bird, so you have to be careful not to make loud noises. Just have a routine and not surprise them—try to keep to a routine with food and water and don’t disturb them.
I do enjoy hens. They have a nice temperament about them. When you go into the barn in the morning, they have personalities and you can hear them talking to each other, especially first thing.
If you could offer a piece of advice for someone thinking about a career in egg farming, what would it be?
Take advantage of the network there is through egg farming. For my husband and I, it’s been great having the support network, not only of Egg Farmers of Canada but also other farmers and business representatives. They’re just a phone call away and they’re always quick to respond and willing to help.
Definitely take advantage of that, because there’s always something to learn, and always someone willing to teach you.
I actually got to be part of Egg Farmers of Canada’s young farmer program which had events through the year, with at least one farmer from every province. I got to meet farmers from all across Canada, and that was an amazing opportunity to learn about what they do on their farms, or different parts of the industry. Everybody had a different production system and learning from them was a great experience.
There are also the benefits of supply management as well—it’s a great thing to have because we’re a smaller or mid-size producer. It gives us more certainty, and allows us to know that there’s stability in the industry. We’re just starting a family so knowing about the stability and income is a big factor.
With supply management you know you have a place to sell your product without having to worry about marketing. The industry can make sure the bar is raised because of the high standards for animal care, for product quality, for everything.
Why are you proud to be a Canadian egg farmer?
That’s an easy one: I just love that we’re able to produce a good quality, healthy product that’s affordable. People can buy our eggs from anywhere and they’re fresh.
And I love that I can work with my family and take care of our hens and produce a product that I’m proud to sell, and proud to say is mine.
Thanks to Stephanie for sharing her story with us—keep on the lookout for the next installment of Ask a farmer soon!