Donald Gaultier is new to egg farming. He and his wife Shannon have just finished their first year in the business.
They couldn’t be more pleased.
“Every morning, I think about how lucky I am to be an egg farmer,” says Donald. “It’s a dream come true.”
Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes is a small community one hour southwest of Winnipeg.
Donald is the fourth generation of his family to live in the region since his great-grandfather came over from France.
He did not grow up on an egg farm. His father had a small beef farm and ran a septic tank business.
But he was interested agriculture, and that’s what he studied at the University of Manitoba. His first job after graduation was as a junior salesman with a feed company, and he travelled around the area selling feed to egg and poultry farmers. He became interested in egg farming as he got to know egg farmers through his sales job.
The thought of going into egg farming stayed with him even after he took a very different job, working for a credit union.
In fact, getting into egg farming became a dream.
So he and his wife Shannon applied through Manitoba Egg Farmer’s New Entrant Program. In February 2013, their name was drawn and they were awarded 6,000 quota units.
Getting picked came as a shock. After all, they weren’t farming at the time.
But they jumped at the chance.
“It was never a question of, ‘do we do it or not?’ says Donald. “Mentally, we were ready.”
Less than one year later, in January 2014, they welcomed their first flock to their brand-new egg barn.
It required a big adjustment in their lives.
First of all, they had to build the farm, situating it on a piece of land next to their home.
They also had to rejig their work lives.
Donald left the credit union, and focused on establishing the egg operation. His wife Shannon kept her full-time job as a municipal official, but is as involved in the farm as her husband.
“We do everything together,” he says, adding that their three sons, aged 18, 11 and seven, also help out.
“That’s another thing we like about egg farming,” he says. “It’s a family thing that we can do together, and we like doing it.”
Now that he has a full year of egg farming under his belt, Donald says one thing about the industry has surprised him: the openness of egg farmers, and their willingness to support and mentor him.
“In this industry, everyone was more than happy to help us – and even without us having to ask questions, people offered information. Everyone we talked to said we should call them if we ran into problems. When we went to meetings, people we’d met before would come up to us and ask us how things were going. You could tell they were sincere.
“That’s what surprised me–how close everyone in the industry is.”
“We are satisfied with our first year,” he says. “We had a good basis of knowledge going into it, but we weren’t experts. We got a lot of help from others in the industry.”