This is the second 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’.
Barrhead County, Alberta
Nathaniel Visser works on a family egg farm, in an agricultural area northwest of Edmonton Alberta. His friends on nearby farms produce pork, dairy, beef, turkey and grains. The foods are the building blocks of the typical North American diet.
The farmers all know each other. That proximity, and that interdependence, colour Nathaniel’s vision of his work as an egg farmer.
“I know that whatever I’m producing will be eaten by my friends and family,” he says.
As a result, he feels a strong need to be accountable in his work. Because the consumers he answers to are not anonymous faces, but people he knows.
Nathaniel, who grew up on the family farm, says Canada’s system of supply management helps him have confidence in what he produces.
“I’ve always trusted the quality of Canadian eggs,” he says, explaining that the system allows family farms to thrive.
His family’s farm has about 24,000 hens. They also have about 3,000 acres planted in grains, mostly canola and wheat.
He began working in the barn at the age of five, and always knew he wanted to work in agriculture. So when his father Rick announced that he was looking to be less busy, Nathaniel took on some of the load.
“I love the lifestyle more than anything else,” he says. “You just set your own pace. You get to see projects through from start to finish. You work your own hours and on your own schedule.”
His particular pleasure is fixing broken equipment—“or trying to fix it!” he says with a laugh—but he also enjoys the variety his job provides.
“When you get tired of being in the barn, then you can work on the grain. And vice versa.”
And some days, he says, it’s just nice to get into a truck and spend a day or two behind the wheel hauling grain. It’s a break from his other tasks.
He also likes being able to spend time with family—in particular his wife Caroline and their young daughter.
Nathaniel says he’s quite confident about the future of egg farming, and by participating in the young farmer program he hopes to learn more about the governance of the industry so that he can be more involved in the future.
As he looks to the future, he sees paying more attention to animal welfare—an issue, he explains, that resonates with young people, especially those who aren’t involved in farming.
“I believe I’m responsible for these animals,” he says. “It’s important for me to oversee the welfare of these birds.”