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Opening the door for the next generation of agricultural leaders

This past February I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with eight young egg farmers from across the country. We sat around a boardroom table and talked about our farms, our interests, our communities and our industry.

Some shared deeply personal stories about what it means to carry on their family tradition of farming. Like Eric Simpson from Ontario, who spoke of the challenges he faced when at the age of 24 he took over the family operation with his brother after the sudden passing of their father.

Others told us of the opportunities that drew them to the industry and why they chose to build a career as an egg farmer. For some it was the rural lifestyle that attracted them to the industry, while others like Jason Thiessen, elected to build a career in egg farming because of the stability afforded by supply management.

They were insightful, perceptive, and anything but shy. And, after spending an afternoon with them, I quickly saw them not as young people looking to gain experience, but as the future leaders of agriculture in Canada.

They are entrepreneurs, members of Boards, and passionate advocates in the making. They are driven to produce the highest quality product for Canadians, and are committed to lead progress and to give back to their communities.

As the weekend went on, our group joined young farmers from all industries at the Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum annual conference.

At this conference, Aaron Law—a young egg farmer from New Brunswick—stood up before the 160 conference attendees and recounted his personal struggle that culminated with a decision to buy his family farm and carry on their proud tradition.

Aaron went on to explain, that he intends on being a leader within his industry—one that will move things forward well in advance of being asked, let alone forced to.

This was a very proud moment, and one that I was grateful to have taken part in.

Aaron, Eric, Jason and all the young farmers in our industry are the reason we need to rise to the occasion before us. For Canada’s egg industry, close to 30% of egg farmers are under the age of 45, and more and more young Canadians are choosing to build a rewarding career in egg farming. While 1 in 5 farmers is new to our industry, others are taking over the family farm that has been in the family for generations.

These young farmers have an essential role to play in maintaining the vibrancy of our agriculture sector and the success of our farms.

By creating forums for discussion and offering guidance we can nurture an understanding of our industry’s history and work through challenges side by side.

Canada’s egg industry has a bright future because of young farmers. And together, we can empower these young Canadians to take on leadership positions in their industry, their communities and in their country.