Les Fermes A. Gauvin et fils, St-Hyacinthe, Quebec
Though he grew up on a family egg farm, Jonathan Gauvin wasn’t interested in taking it over.
He had other ideas. He studied political science at university, did some field work in Nicaragua, and developed a taste for travel and an interest in international development.
In summers, though, he would work on the farm. Manual labour. He hated it.
But one summer, after studies in management at Montreal’s prestigious HEC business school, his family asked him to put his new knowledge to work by helping with the management side of the operation.
All of a sudden, he discovered a new side of the business. A side he could get interested in. A side he could even get passionate about. And so he came back.
“That’s how I learned to love the farm,” he says. “And I’m very happy to have made that choice. It was a deliberate choice–I thought about it a lot. Because it wasn’t a choice that was natural for me to make.”
Growing up on the farm, Jonathan says he never felt pressured to join the family business. His father, he says, was happy to let him make his own choices.
Now that he’s made the choice to stay, Jonathan is giving it his all.
“What I find fascinating is that things are always changing,” he says. “Every flock is different. There are always improvements you can make, for example with the health of the hens. There’s always something new. There’s a diversity to agriculture that I really like.”
Yet it remains, he says, a business that has to be managed. “It’s your baby and you try to build it up to your vision.”
His biggest surprise, since coming into the business, has been learning how complex egg farming can be.
“When I was young, I thought raising hens was just about feed, water and eggs,” he says, adding he now realizes how much more is involved., “I’ve been back since 2010, and I feel it’s still early days when it comes to the business.”
Jonathan’s passion for the business extends beyond the farm; for example, he likes the fact that he can be involved in the feed co-op or agricultural associations.
“I haven’t put aside my dream of working in international development,” he says, explaining that he now realizes how important agriculture is in development work.
“So now I am building up expertise in the area and later on, I can work in international development.”
Jonathan says the transition back to the farm hasn’t been that difficult. Montreal (and his university friends) are close enough that he can travel there regularly.
“I don’t have any pre-conceived ideas about the future,” he says, adding he would like to diversify the operation, but he’s not quite sure what that might involve.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying the fruits of his labour. “There’s nothing better than two eggs with bacon for breakfast.”