This is the fourth 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.
Marc and Cheryl Norleen
Marc and Cheryl Norleen, who farm north of Southey, Saskatchewan, aren’t afraid to try something new. In 2017, something new was egg production, which they added to their diversified farm operation that includes growing grains, oil seeds and pulses and raising sheep and beef.
Marc, who is a fourth generation farmer, started farming in 2006 after attending Lakeland College. Cheryl, who left her off-farm job at a local tractor dealership after their second child was born in 2012, was looking for a venture that she could take charge of and also allow her to be home with her children. Egg production seemed like a natural fit.
To get started, the Norleens decided to learn all they could about the industry—there aren’t many eggs produced in their part of Saskatchewan—so they headed off to Manitoba where they toured various types of egg facilities and barns before creating a business plan. They submitted the plan to the Saskatchewan Egg Producers’ New Entrant Program which helps new producers get their start in egg farming. In 2017, their names were randomly selected and they immediately got to work building their new barn.
The Norleens built a free range barn that houses 9,500 hens, and have a goal to eventually grow the business to include organic production. The biggest barrier to transitioning to organic, says Cheryl, is the shortage of organic pullets to supply their farm, and she says they may consider filling that niche themselves by building an organic pullet barn.
Being innovative and trying out new ideas is important to the Norleens. According to Cheryl, “we’re always experimenting and changing with the times.”
Cheryl describes their busy farm life as “kind of organized chaos,” and says that balancing the various farm activities and family life with their five children Barrett, Landon, Kassidy, Waylon, and Russell, requires a team effort. And, she says, it’s important to them to set a good example for their kids. “It’s important to us to stay on the farm, raise our kids on the farm, and raise them with a strong work ethic.”
The next “new thing” for the Norleens—taking part in the 2019 Egg Farmers of Canada national young farmer program. As new producers, Cheryl says “it’s an opportunity for us to learn how the industry works, and opportunities for future growth.”