Alberta farming family diversifying growing farm businessBy Egg Farmers of Canada
This is the third in the series of profiles for the 2022 national young farmer program participants. They are all young leaders taking part in Egg Farmers of Canada’s national young farmer program. The goal of the program is to provide young farmers with the skills, knowledge and experience to be leaders in the industry.
In 2016, Deanna Hiemstra and her husband, Darryl, started South 36 Farm near Taber, Alberta, after being selected for Egg Farmers of Alberta New Entrant Program draw.
After graduating from Lethbridge College with a diploma in animal science, Deanna settled into a role working in sales with a local feed company. As their family grew – she and Darryl now have five children, including Addi, 10, Kenzie, 9, Bailey, 7, Lincoln, 5, and Deacon, age 2 – she left her role in agricultural sales to focus on raising her family. For Deanna, who grew up on a dairy farm near Lethbridge, Alberta, the New Entrant Program created an opportunity to fulfill her goal to return to farming full-time.
“I’ve always loved agriculture,” Deanna says. “I love working with the animals, I love the challenges, I love the lifestyle.”
The Hiemstras submitted a business plan to the program but weren’t selected in the first year – the following year, in 2015, they were the successful applicants. They sold their home in town and purchased a 71-acre property near Taber.
The farm had a house and shop, so building a new barn was a priority to get their egg business up and running. They started with 5,500 hens in a free run system. In 2020, they expanded the barn to house up to 10,000. They have also diversified their business to include raising goats and now have approximately 100 breeding stock and are licensed for on-farm slaughter and sales. For the first three years, Deanna managed the farm full-time while Darryl worked off-farm in the trades; since they expanded their egg barn and added the goats, Darryl now works full-time on the farm.
While not new to agriculture, Deanna was new to producing eggs, so she says she has appreciated the support from the local farming community as the farm was ramping up and since expanding. “We’re only four miles from a Hutterite community, and they’ve been a big help… the people from our feed company, the people we meet at the regional meetings, overall, if we have questions or struggles, everyone has been really good about helping us out and offering us their experience and advice,” she says.
Building a network of other egg producers is one of the reasons Deanna is participating in the 2022 Egg Farmers of Canada’s national young farmer program. “I thought it would be neat to meet other people who have the same struggles as we do,” she says, “and gain some knowledge along the way.”