This is the first of a series of profiles of young egg farmers. They are all young leaders taking part in Egg Farmers of Canada’s national young farmer program, and will participate in the Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum annual conference in Ottawa February 24-26 under the theme ‘Growing Canada for 150 Years’.
Ask Andrew Packham about the overall trend in egg farming, and he’ll tell you that generally things are always changing for the better.
Press him a bit on what he means by ‘better,’ and he’ll tell you that things are improving across the board.
In particular, he says, changing technologies and techniques are making egg farming more efficient for the farmers.
And new approaches are also having an impact on the hens.
“As things progress, it’s better for the hens and better for us working with them.”
For example, he says better water systems in the barns improve the welfare of the laying hens. And better ventilation systems mean barn temperature and humidity no longer fluctuate like they used to.
“Forty years ago, when everything was mechanical, those things weren’t an option,” he says.
The challenge for egg farmers is just to be able to keep up.
Andrew grew up on the farm with his parents Lyle and Marianne, and his brothers Jeremy and Josh. “We were always busy, either playing or working,” he recalls of life with his brothers.
“There was always something that needed to be done.”
Almost as soon as he could walk, his parents had him gathering eggs. His brothers have moved off the farm. He’s stayed, but he’s not yet fully involved.
“I work full-time as pipefitter and plumber Monday to Friday,” he explains. “I am at the farm every weekend, and normally a few nights during the week as well, either doing regular chores or doing equipment maintenance. And I do as much field work as possible.”
The farm has about 12,000 white and 4,000 brown laying hens. His parents own and operate the farm, with the help from Andrew’s wife Nicole and other employees. They also operate a registered grading station.
Nicole, Andrew notes, is not from a farming background.
He recalls that when they were dating, she would hang around the farm and do things with him.
When she was looking for a part-time job in college, his parents hired her.
“She basically never left,” he says.
Andrew says working as a family is one of the good things about what he does.
Egg farming, he says, is a big time commitment. The farm runs seven days a week, 365 days a year.
But Andrew, who notes proudly that he is a fourth-generation egg farmer, says having a multi-generation operation helps spread out the work.
“It’s not like you are stuck there seven days a week,” he says. “There’s an advantage to family.”