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 Saskatoon under the theme ‘Our story’.
Armstrong, British Columbia
It was the luck of the draw that brought Wayne Johnson and his wife Michelle into the egg business in 2015, when they entered the British Columbia Egg Marketing Board New Producer Program—a program designed to make it easier for new egg farmers to get a start in the industry. But luck could only take them so far, and they quickly got to work to establish their business and build a barn on their 10-acre farm near Armstrong, BC.
The Johnsons had moved to the Okanagan region from Calgary in 2010, where Wayne, a welding technologist by trade, had been managing a neighbouring broiler operation. Seeing a great opportunity to establish their own business in a supply-managed industry, Wayne and Michelle were pleasantly surprised when they became one of four successful applicants.
Wayne drew on his experience in the broiler industry as he and Michelle started planning for their layer operation and building their new barn, but he credits the support of egg farmers in his community for helping him to learn the ropes.
“I was very intentional about getting to know different layer farmers, their experiences, their size, their type of operation, and touring their barns to see what I would need to do for our operation,” says Wayne. “Everyone has been very willing to provide advice when asked, and it has been quite encouraging.”
Sunny Side Up Farm—now in its second year of business—has 4,200 laying hens in a free-range housing system, which keeps Wayne and Michelle, along with their 3 daughters Morgan, 16, Madelyn, 14, and Lyvia, 12, busy. They hope to expand their operation as they get more established, and are investigating ways to best utilize the cropland currently in hay production on their farm.
Though he’s only been an egg farmer for a couple years, Wayne is eager to give back to an industry that has been so welcoming and supportive. He was elected as a director of the BC Egg Producers’ Association, and is a mentor to another egg farmer starting out in the industry.
He’s also looking forward to participating in Egg Farmers of Canada’s young farmer program, where he sees a great opportunity to learn more about the industry and network with other young leaders. “This is a fantastic opportunity,” says Wayne. “I was asked if I was interested in participating, and I was very excited and I immediately said yes.”