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Continuing the legacy: How this third generation farmer got called back to her roots

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.

Lacey Merks

Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

As a third generation farmer, Lacey Merks finds her roots deeply embedded in the fertile lands of Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia. Her grandparents John and Lucy Merks, who immigrated from Holland in 1953, laid the foundation of a farming legacy that Lacey proudly continues today alongside her parents Andre and Janie and her brother Dre.

A family affair

“My journey into egg farming was almost predestined,” Lacey reflects. Her grandparents began with a dairy and apple farm in 1955 but later switched to raising chickens for meat in 1968. Their poultry operations then expanded further to include farming eggs in 1977 when Lacey’s father joined the farm.

Today Lacey and her family are involved in all aspects of the poultry sector. Their farm produces eggs, chicken and turkey, and they also raise pullets and broiler breeders. Together, their family has 25 barns in the Gaspereau Valley and surrounding areas, including a farm in Bonshaw, PEI.

Getting her start

Before returning to the farm full-time in 2017, Lacey explored various other career options. Inspired by her father’s love of flying, Lacey earned her private pilot license at age 19. Shortly after, she flew across the country in a small engine plane with the idea to earn her commercial pilot license. After a two-year stint in business school at Saint Mary’s University, she earned her master hairdressing license in 2003 and her nail technician license in 2014.

Eventually, she traded manicures and cuts ‘n colours for getting her hands dirty in a different way.

“After being away a short time, I began to miss working for myself and being with my family just made sense. Plus, I have a passion for this and I’ve always been proud of where I come from. We’ve always been a close family, and farming together has only strengthened those bonds.”

“I’m very much a homebody and enjoy being with my family. We see each other and work together every day,” she says.

Innovation and sustainability

One notable recent advancement at Merks Poultry Farm Ltd is their transition to enriched colony hen housing in 2020. This upgrade from conventional systems provides the hens with more space, perches, and scratch pads to enjoy, enhancing their quality of life. While exploring the possibilities of green technologies like solar panels, Lacey and her family are continually seeking other ways to make their operations more sustainable.

Community involvement

Lacey’s involvement goes well beyond the farm. She is active on the Egg Farmers of Nova Scotia Board of Directors and participates in the women and the egg industry program by Egg Farmers of Canada. These roles have expanded her understanding of the industry and provided a platform to connect with other women in farming. “Being able to take part in these programs is a big stepping stone,” Lacey notes. “It’s not just about learning, but also about building a community where we can share knowledge and support each other.”

Looking ahead to a bright future

Farming comes with a unique set of challenges, but for Lacey, the rewards far outweigh the hardships. She finds particular joy in producing healthy, affordable food every day. “There’s something incredibly satisfying about knowing the eggs we collect every day are enjoyed by families across Nova Scotia,” she says.

As she looks to the future, Lacey is optimistic about the role of young people in agriculture and especially keen on involving her 11-year-old daughter, Piper, to pass on the legacy and values she cherishes. “I want her to have the opportunities I’ve had to learn and grow within this industry,” she says.

With her diverse background and unwavering commitment, Lacey exemplifies the spirit of modern farming—rooted in tradition yet forward-thinking and adaptive enough to sustain agricultural practices across generations.