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Third generation egg farmer focuses on growth

This is the second 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. 

Brett Graham 

St. Mary’s, Ontario  

Brett Graham is the third generation to produce eggs on his family farm near St. Marys, Ontario, carrying on the tradition started by his grandparents in 1953. After finishing his B.Sc. in Agriculture from the University of Guelph in 2004, he worked off-farm for a short time before returning home to the farm in 2006 to work full-time with his parents, Scott and Laurie Graham and his wife, Jessica.

After fixing up the old farmhouse, the next order of business was to build a new layer barn, which was completed in 2009 and now houses 34,000 hens. The construction of a new farmhouse followed in 2015, and in 2017, a new pullet barn. 

“When I came home, I wanted to make some changes,” says Brett. “I wanted to upgrade our facilities, and those were the three priorities.”

Continuing to modernize and grow is a priority for Brett, with the construction of a new layer barn underway in the summer of 2022. The new barn will feature an enriched colony housing system. “We’re building a bigger barn than we need right now, and we will try to grow into it,” Brett says.

As the farm has grown and changed, so has Brett’s family, with the arrival of sons Ben, age ten, and Will, age four. Jessica, who worked off-farm as a teacher, now works full-time on the farm and helps with the farm’s accounting. Having completed a farm succession plan, Brett’s parents have taken a step back in the day-to-day management of the farm but continue to help out as needed.

Brett is a councillor for Zone 6 (Perth, Waterloo) of Egg Farmers of Ontario, and has been featured in several awareness campaigns, including “Who Made Your Eggs Today” and CTV’s Fields To Forks. Getting more involved at the board level – following in his father’s footsteps, who was a long-time Egg Farmers of Ontario board member and chair from 2012 to 2020 – isn’t something he’s ruling out. But, he says, he needs to wait until the timing is right. “We’re busy right now… I’m here every day at the farm, and we have young kids,” he says. “Maybe in time, we’ll see what happens.”

In the meantime, Brett wants to learn more about the industry and gain some leadership skills. That’s why he’s participating in the national young farmer program. “I know what happens in a pullet barn and in a layer barn,” he says, “but past that, I’d like to learn more about what happens to eggs once they get to the grading station, how they get distributed, the logistics behind it. Also, what happens at the board table – just get a better understanding of the whole system.”