Hay River, Northwest Territories
Kevin Wallington did not grow up on a farm, nor did he study agriculture. Yet he and his family are now the only egg producers in the Northwest Territories.
As director of marketing and sales for Polar Egg, Kevin is bullish on egg farming.
He’d encourage any young person to go into the business. There’s plenty of support, he says, and the work is rewarding.
Kevin more or less stumbled into the job he now holds.
“I had a public relations degree and I came to the North to work with youth,” he says, explaining that his first job was at a youth drop-in centre.
“That’s how I first started dealing with the egg farm. The farm would hire our kids to help out with some of the work.”
The farm at that point was run by someone else.
When it ran into difficulty, Kevin’s father Glen – who had a reputation as a jack of all trades – was asked to manage it. He succeeded in turning the operation around and got into the egg farming business himself.
His sons joined him–Michael first, then Kevin.
Being in the Northwest Territories, the Wallingtons did not have the luxury of being able to ask a neighbouring farmer for advice.
But they quickly established contacts in other parts of the country, and despite the distance found it easy to connect with other egg farmers.
“When we need to, we have been able to pick up the phone and contact people,” says Kevin. “Lots of farmers have been helpful.”
And they have come to rely on themselves.
“We have a good support system,” adds Kevin. “We have the whole family doing this. It’s something we do together, and that gave us confidence.”
When he first started farming, Kevin had to adjust his mindset in addition to acquiring new skills.
“Farming isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” he says, explaining that the decision to go into the business was one he and his wife took together. Even though she does not work on the farm, the lifestyle affects both of them.
The pace is also different.
“When you transition from working nine to five, you have to get used to the idea of being available at all times, and working with live animals that rely and depend on you,” he says.
If there’s one piece of advice Kevin would like to give to young farmers, it’s this: Don’t be afraid to ask established farmers for help.
He says a wonderful synergy happens when youthful ideas and energy meet wisdom and experience. “When you are willing to find people who have wealth of knowledge and ask them ‘What would you suggest?’ it goes a long way towards honouring the people who have experience.
Plus it creates the opportunity to bring new eyes to an issue.
“Being able to join traditional knowledge with new ideas and technology creates a great opportunity for young farmers to move us forward in a healthy way.”