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 Saskatoon under the theme ‘Our story’.
Kate Van Deynze-Fleming
You might say that Kate Van Deynze-Fleming was raised in the barn, alongside her three sisters on their rural Manitoba dairy farm. Kate says if they weren’t in the barn caring for the cows or milking, they were out in the field haying or outside playing. So when the opportunity arose to come back to the family farm after attending the University of Manitoba and then teaching away from home for a few years, Kate knew that was exactly how she and her husband Tyler wanted to raise their family.
Kate’s oldest son, Billy, was born shortly after returning to the family farm, and siblings Anna and Luke followed. Now 9, 7, and 5, her kids are growing up in and around the barn and animals just like she did, though with different livestock to care for. In 2012, Kate, together with her parents Daniel and Joann, decided to transition their dairy farm to egg production. “When the cows went out, I cried,” says Kate, “the cows were my whole life.” But Kate and her family didn’t have much time to think about the past, with only five months to renovate their barn and get their first flock in by August.
“When we went to meetings and told people we wanted to be up and running in five months, some people laughed,” says Kate. “They didn’t believe we could do it, but my dad had a plan, and we made it happen.” Now five years in, the farm has 12,600 hens housed in an enriched system. In addition to egg production, the Van Deynze-Fleming family also grows grain on their farm and future plans include expanding the business to raise pullets.
The Van Deynze-Fleming household is a busy one, with Kate working part-time as a pre-school teacher and Tyler working off-farm as a millwright. The family is actively involved in hockey, with the kids playing on local teams and Kate and Tyler coaching. This means that her kids spend much of their time alongside her in the barn, doing chores, homework, and playing, just as their mom did when she a kid. “It gets easier as they get older, and now they are taking on more responsibility,” says Kate. “I really want my kids to have the same opportunities as I did, so that’s why we are doing this, building this business.”
Kate is a proud advocate for her industry, and says learning about the egg business was a bit of a steep learning curve after spending the first part of her career in the dairy industry. She is looking forward to the opportunity to take part in Egg Farmers of Canada’s national young farmer program, to share what she has learned over the past five years and to gain skills and experience to develop as a leader in the industry.