Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Stephanie Simmons feels that learning about egg production is something she owes to her family.
“The farm has been in the family forever, and I feel it’s something that should be passed on,” she says. “So I feel it’s my duty to become more involved in that part of the business.”
It’s a duty she takes on with pleasure, as she and her brother Thane prepare to one day take over the family business from their father Douglas and uncle Ian.
The Simmons family farm has two main areas of operation: 15,000 laying hens on the one hand, and a large greenhouse operation and garden centre on the other.
Stephanie has until recently been more interested in the greenhouse part of the business. “I have a big passion for the greenhouse, and I want to make it better,” she says.
But she realizes the greenhouse and garden centre are seasonal, whereas egg production provides a steady, year-round income.
Because the egg operation is so important, learning about egg production is “something I need to do.”
Stephanie has a good based to build on. She grew up on the farm, and was involved in farm chores from a young age.
“I remember being five or six, and I would go around with a little two-gallon bucket and gather eggs by hand,” she recalls. “Then you would put them in the trays yourself. Now it’s all done by machine; it’s changed a lot since I was young.”
As she grew up, she was unsure about what she wanted to do with her life.
After high school, she did office work for Sobey’s for a few years. But the lure of the family business was strong, so in 2007 she came back to the farm full-time, taking a special interest in the greenhouse.
“I just started working my way up,” she says, adding that she took time out to go back to school for a diploma in business management specializing in the greenhouse industry.
She says her father hopes to retire in a year or so, and to prepare for that she has been taking on a bigger role in the farm. Though she is torn between the hands-on part of the business and administrative work, she is leaning towards sales and marketing.
In 10 years, Stephanie hopes to be a part-owner in the operation, and she hopes her brother will be part of the picture.
Up to now, Thane has been more involved with the eggs, she says, but she feels she needs to understand that side of the operation as well.
“You can’t just depend on one person,” she says.
So now she wants to learn.
“Agriculture is a big part of my world,” she says, adding that it’s a very rewarding area to be in because you see the direct results of your work.