Patrick Froese has quite a lot of responsibility for an 18-year-old. Recently, his father Michael put him in charge of the family’s 6,000 organic laying hens.
But Patrick is taking being farm manager all in stride.
He enjoys the work, he enjoys the challenge of being self-reliant, and he even enjoys being alone in the barn with the birds.
“You get a lot of time to think,” he says. “And you have to rely on yourself to get things done.”
It’s perhaps too soon to say whether Patrick will make a career out of egg farming. Though he’s certainly considering it as a career, he’s just finished high school and hopes eventually to study music at MacEwan University in Edmonton.
So for how, he is making the most out of the experience.
“I like helping my family out,” he explains. “It’s a really interesting, the whole learning curve. This is all new to me.”
“But I like challenging myself–and going right from high school to taking care of an entire operation is a challenge.”
Patrick’s family is relatively new to farming.
Ten years ago, they made a radical change in lifestyle. His father, who had been a schoolteacher in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, decided to get into farming, and the family moved to a rural area near Camrose, about 90 minutes south of Edmonton. (His father, Patrick explains, had grown up on a farm so he was not coming in cold.)
They ran a broiler operation at first, then shut it down and last year switched to organic laying hens. Patrick explains that the hens are fed organic feed and are raised in a free-range aviary housing system.
Patrick’s job is to manage the whole thing.
“My dad is around some of the time, and he gives me my weekends,” he explains. “But it’s a full-time job taking care of the place.”
Patrick finds the work interesting, particularly the mechanical aspect.
“I like fixing things, fixing motors, and getting everything to run smoothly,” he says.
He says his parents are kind enough to relieve him of his duties regularly, so that he can spend time with his friends.
When asked what advice he would give to others his age thinking about getting into egg farming, Patrick says they should learn to be thorough–to check things a lot, and review their own decisions. That, he says, is what he has found to be important to keep the farm running.
Being self-reliant also helps, he says.
“It’s probably going to be a challenge,” he says. “But if you work hard, it will work out.”