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John Huitema: Growing the family farm

This is the fifth in 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, an initiative designed to prepare the next generation of industry leaders.

John Huitema

Dunnville, Ontario

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, John Huitema was a recent University of Guelph graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in marketing management. He ended up back home on his family’s egg farm in Dunnville, Ontario, where he says there were many projects to work on while figuring out his next steps. Three years later, John is now a full-time egg farmer, working alongside his parents, Nick and Cindy, and his sister Charlotte.

Working full-time on the family farm wasn’t something he had considered before graduating from university. “I never thought there would be enough work for the four of us,” he says. “But we realized that there is more than enough work; there is always something to do.” In addition to producing eggs, the Huitema farm is home to 900 pigs and the family runs a custom manure-spreading business.

The family has been egg farming since 1998. They started with 2,000 hens purchased from Cindy’s parents, and grew their farm over the years. Today, the Huitema farm is home to 13,000 hens housed in an enriched colony housing system. “We built the barn in 2018 with room to grow,” says John. “We definitely hope to expand and grow into the future.”

Producing a healthy, safe and nutritious product for Canadian consumers is something he likes about being an egg farmer. John and Charlotte regularly volunteer as Egg Ambassadors, representing Egg Farmers of Ontario at events like the Canadian National Exhibition, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and local fairs and events.

“We get to meet people, and they always think it’s cool to meet a farmer. They appreciate that someone local to them is producing the foods that they enjoy.”

John is participating in the 2023 cohort of Egg Farmers of Canada’s national young farmer program, using it as a launching point to learn more about the egg industry. “I had never given much thought to what Egg Farmers of Canada does,” he says. “Now I’m learning about advocacy, marketing strategies and supply management. I’m looking forward to learning more.”

He’s also learning a lot about different farming practices from participants from across the country. “Hearing about how other people run their farms is eye-opening,” says John. “Sometimes I’ll think, ‘Why haven’t we thought about doing it that way?’ The knowledge sharing, I think, is the key benefit to participating in the program.”