Schoen Eggs, Winkler, Manitoba
Jason Thiessen was a grain farmer looking to expand his operations.
As he thought about what would be a good fit for himself and for his young family, he began to consider the possibility of becoming an egg farmer.
“I never met an egg farmer who complained,” he says. “So I figured that was a good way to expand.”
He started his egg operation in 2012 when he won an egg quota and has never looked back.
He likes the work, he likes his fellow egg farmers, and he likes the idea that one day he will be able to involve his children, two girls and a boy under the age of six, in the operation.
Jason’s farm is in southern Manitoba, near the U.S. border. “You can see the border from my house,” he says.
He still produces grain in addition to eggs. He says the two operations work well together. “We can use our own grain to feed our birds,” he explains. “We see not just a financial benefit, but also nutrition-wise, we can do better feed for our birds.”
In fact, he’s become fascinated by the nutritional aspect of the egg industry, and in particular about what the hens need in terms of calcium to allow them to produce an egg a day.
And he speaks with the zeal of a convert about the nutritional value of eggs themselves.
“If you want to go to the grocery store and buy protein for your family, it’s probably the cheapest, most nutritious protein you can buy,” he says.
One of the big surprises of getting into egg farming, says Jason, is the collegial atmosphere that exists among the egg farmers. “It’s more of a collective effort in working together to produce a good, nutritious product,” he explains.
He attributes the mindset to the system of supply management. “We know what we can expect to earn as long as we do a good job,” he says.
He would definitely encourage anyone who wanted to get into egg farming.
But he says newcomers need to understand that taking on a flock of laying hens is a big commitment in terms of time.
“You can’t think it’s a two-hour-a-day job,” he says. “You have to commit. It’s a full-time job. When issues come up, they have to be dealt with quickly. Your cellphone is always ready for that barn call.
It’s different, he says, from grain farming: “You have times when things are slower and we can make our schedule as we need to.”
But on the upside, you always have fresh eggs available for breakfast.
In fact, says Jason, once your neighbours know you have eggs on hand, they’re likely to become a lot friendlier.