Producers featured in this year's Who's Who issue share tips for expanding into different sectors.
By Brett Ruffell
For last year’s Who’s Who issue, we tried something new. We sought nominations for people to be profiled based on a theme – rising poultry stars.
We’ve done something similar this time around, only the plotline is diversification (click here for the digital edition). We asked for the names of people who’ve broadened their portfolios in a variety of interesting directions.
The premise has led to a fascinating collection of people, each with their own unique story to tell. Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry (see page 30), for example, has diversified in every way imaginable – from species to production methods to sales avenues.
Quebec’s Jared Hamilton (see page 20) first branched out into the layer business initially for the manure benefits to support his successful turf grass business. A few years later, thanks to a new entrant program, he’s now a proudly thriving egg producer.
And poultry vet Scott Gillingham (see page 33), commonly known as ‘Doc Scott’, has had a distinguished career not only handling a broad array of responsibilities at Aviagen – he’s also an author, trainer and speaker. These experiences have led to him becoming the go-to resource in the Canadian poultry industry.
While they’re from different backgrounds, I asked a few of the producers we profiled for practical tips any poultry farmer could use when considering diversifying. Some common themes emerged.
For Joe Falk, Fraser Valley’s general manager, it comes down to personnel. “Make sure you have the right people on your team so your core business doesn’t suffer,” he says. Having trusted staff in place allows the Falk family to focus on growing new opportunities.
What makes someone a good fit at Fraser Valley? “They have to have the right mindset, be teachable and willing to learn and grow,” Falks says.
The company now has 165 employees, making staffing and filling positions a key concern. At this size, Falk says finding the right people starts with building a strong human resources team. Once you have the right people, Falk then invests in developing them.
Broiler breeder Jack Greydanus (see page 24) concurs that finding the right people is key. However, he comes at it from a different perspective. His first piece of advice for diversifying is to take risks – calculated risks, that is. He does this by working with a third-party business adviser.
Together, they conduct a market study to assess if the ideas Greydanus and his family have would be profitable and, if so, how he should move forward. “With the right people and the right information, it’s not difficult to do,” he feels.
In Atlantic Canada, egg farmer David Coburn says producers have long viewed diversification as a safety net. “If you have a tough year with one commodity you can fall back on the next one,” he explains.
His key piece of advice is to diversify into areas that are interconnected. “We look for synergies,” Coburn says. “It’s worked well for us.” On that note, Coburn refers to his business as a ‘closed-loop farm’ where different aspects overlap.
For instance, his family composts their farm’s organic waste. They then take composted poultry manure and spread it throughout their apple orchard. They use the apples to produce cider and then put the spent apples back into the compost for the following year.
Coburn also recommends producers consider how new ventures would fit into their schedule. It’s a lesson he learned the hard way. A few years ago, one of his sons was growing sweet corn. “It just so happened that the sweet corn was maturing when we were doing flock change,” he recalls. “You’re so burnt out from closing the barn that you have no energy to go around picking the corn.”
Read more about these and other diversification stories in the pages ahead.