This is the fifth in the series of profiles for the 2022 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.
Mérédith Lavallée, a Quebec egg producer, says she always knew she wanted to be a farmer. With that goal in mind, she studied animal production at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire du Québec. After graduating with a diploma in agriculture in 2020, she began working full-time on her family farm. Mérédith is the sixth generation of her family to farm in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec.
Mérédith’s family farm, Ferme Volailles Labbé-Lavallée et filles inc., was started by her parents, Maryse Labbé and Patrick Lavallée, in the early 1990s. The business is a family affair: Mérédith works alongside her parents, her sister Mathilde, and her husband, Jean-François Dupont.
Working with her family is one of the reasons Mérédith says she loves farming; she also appreciates the flexibility that comes with being self-employed and the challenges of working in an industry where she’s always learning something new. “Nothing is the same every day,” she says.
The Labbé-Lavallée family started producing eggs in 1999 with 8,000 laying hens. Over the past two decades, the egg business has grown substantially, and they now have quota for 80,000. While the hens were initially housed in a conventional system, in 2016, the farm started to transition to a free range aviary housing system with the construction of three new barns. In addition to producing eggs, they raise pullets, broiler chickens, turkeys, and pigs. Mérédith’s primary role on the farm is to manage the hen and pullet barns, while her sister is responsible for the broiler chicken, turkey, and pig side of the business. “My parents are coordinating it all,” she says.
Looking ahead to her future as an egg farmer, Mérédith is learning as she goes from her parents, with the intention to one day take over the family business when they retire. “We have a lot of projects on the go,” says Mérédith. They recently built a new feed mill on the farm to produce all the feed for their livestock, and their long-term plans include converting additional barns to an aviary system.
In 2019, the farm opened a roadside kiosk, where they sell their farm’s products – including eggs, meat, chicken, and turkey products – directly to consumers. Mérédith’s long-term goals include further diversifying the farm-gate sales side of the business with new products such as fruits and vegetables.
She also sees value in learning from others in the industry and is participating in the national young farmer program. She sees the program as an opportunity to challenge herself and learn something new. “It’s an opportunity to learn about things from a different point of view and understand how others in the industry are running their operations” she says.