In the beautiful Township of West Lincoln, Ontario, you’ll find the egg farm of Roger Pelissero, Chair of Egg Farmers of Canada. A lifelong egg farmer and advocate for the industry, we recently sat down with Roger to chat about life on a family farm and the future of the industry. We were joined by Roger’s son Jacob, who farms alongside his father.
Roger, tell us a little bit about this farm.
Roger: This farm that we’re on today, my father purchased in 1974. We moved our farming facility here from St. Catherine’s in 1976. In 1984, my wife and I purchased this farm with my brother and his wife, and began our term as the next generation of egg producers.
Jacob, do you remember what it was like growing up and working on the farm?
Jacob: On Saturdays we had an option—either go help on the farm or go clean your room. I would think, “I can go on the farm to pick eggs or go clean my room for free?” So, I would work on the farm. Over time you learn to appreciate that and get a sense of pride and ownership.
The memory that always comes to mind are snow days. I mean, what’s more Canadian than a snow day? For us, a snow day meant helping dad. You would go and pick eggs while dad would take out the tractor and make the biggest pile of snow he possibly could, and we would go tobogganing or get pulled by the tractor or play pond hockey… we did a little bit of work but we had a lot of fun too.
One thing that makes farming so different from other professions is how often families work together. So, what is it like working as a father-son duo?
Roger: It’s been a little over three years since Jacob came back full-time. We’re still learning that curve… allowing him more flexibility and leadership. That takes trust. For so many years I was the one making all the decisions. Now, I can go away and not give the farm a second thought because we’ve gotten to that level of trust.
Jacob, in what ways does your dad inspire you as you step into your career?
Jacob: Family is a big part of a family farm. Growing up, dad coached us in football, hockey and soccer, going with us on school field trips. This lifestyle is a lot of work, but it also affords some flexibility. Dad was the shuttle bus driver for morning hockey practice because he was able to in a way other parents working other jobs couldn’t. Dad’s a leader. There’s been a lot of lessons he’s taught me on the farm that apply to other aspects of life.
Roger, what have you done to pass along the values that have allowed you to thrive as a farmer?
Roger: I try to walk the talk. There are people who stand back, and there’s people who try and make a difference. My own dad taught me that sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and get involved. I love working with other members around the board table, talking about our industry, working with our family members. At the same time, I still love coming home and getting my hands dirty in the barn.
Roger, in addition to being a farmer, you are also a leader in Canada’s egg industry as Chair of Egg Farmers of Canada. In that role, what do you hope to leave behind for all the Jacobs in Canada—the next generation of Canadian egg farmers?
Roger: I hope to leave behind an industry where young farmers will continue to receive a fair return for producing eggs for Canadian consumers. We want to make sure they can make a fair living to support their families, and help them nurture the system of supply management, recognizing that it’s a privilege.