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A century in the making: Kathryn Richards leads her family’s egg farm into the future

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

Kathryn Richards

Red Deer, Alberta

As the fifth generation in her family to till the soil and tend to the land, Kathryn Richards is carrying forward a heritage of farming that spans a century. As a curious child collecting cracked eggs as part of her chores, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to stick with farming as she got older—but as an adult helping to run one of the oldest continuously running egg farms in Alberta, there’s no place she’d rather be.

An unexpected homecoming

Driven by a thirst for knowledge, Kathryn pursued a bachelor of science degree at the University of Alberta, specializing in crop science. While she initially veered towards pursuing horticulture, fate intervened when her father faced a health scare, calling her back to the farm to help. 

Rolling up her sleeves to get to work, Kathryn immersed herself in the intricacies of farm management and soon realized it was where she belonged after all. Today she works side by side with her parents, her 86-year-old grandfather who still drives the tractors, her uncle and a sister who pitches in seasonally.

Embracing change

At Fauna Farms, Kathryn and her family ushered in a new era of egg farming, embracing automated technologies and sustainable practices while transitioning to an enriched colony housing system. New evaporative coolers ensure optimal conditions within the barn while automated egg packers help streamline operations.

“Thanks to the coolers, the temperature of the barn has never gone above 23 degrees in the summer, even though it gets close to 40 degrees here sometimes,” says Kathryn. 

“One of the most exciting things is that technology has come to a point where the maintenance involved in running a barn is extremely low and there’s barely any physical labour left compared to when I was a kid. The birds are healthy and happy and the system we have currently works so well.”

A passion for learning 

For Kathryn, farming isn’t just a job—it’s a vehicle for lifelong learning. “I love being part of a community that supports each other,” she says.  “And through my work as an ambassador with Egg Farmers of Alberta, I get to spread the word about the amazing things happening in our industry.”

As a newer farmer, Kathryn is looking forward to connecting with others in the egg industry through the national young farmer program. “It’s pretty awesome to have all those people with shared experiences in the same room, to network with and problem solve, and learn how different we are and yet how we are all alike,” she says. “It’s so nice to talk to people who understand what your life looks like.”

Nurturing future generations

Kathryn sees endless possibilities for the next generation. “I think my children, if they choose to pursue this, will have a very good life as egg farmers—it’s a very supportive industry and makes me very hopeful for the future,” she says.

“Eggs are one of the most environmentally friendly animal proteins that are also cost efficient for consumers—a very desirable product in this day and age. As we continue to educate the public about what we do and our intentions behind it, I believe we’ll create a very stable demand for eggs in the future.”