Business & Policy
Promoting chicken in the north
By Brett Ruffell
We know the ink has barely dried on this year’s Who’s Who edition – our previous issue where we profiled rising poultry stars from across the country. However, we’re already planning ahead for next year. And we once again want your input.
The theme for 2019’s Who’s Who is diversity. We’re searching across the country and in different parts of the poultry industry for people who have an interesting and broad mix of focuses.
It could be a farmer growing a combination of different crops and livestock in addition to poultry. Maybe it’s a vet with a varied range of clientele and responsibilities. Or perhaps it’s a researcher studying multiple aspects of poultry – from health and welfare to bird management and more.
Whatever the case may be, if you know of someone who fits the diversity bill we want to hear about them. Visit www.canadianpoultrymag.com/whoswho to send us next year’s nominees. They could end up being featured in next summer’s special edition.
After working on this current issue’s cover story, it wouldn’t surprise me if one of next year’s nominees were part of Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO)’s Artisanal Chicken Program. In its third year, the first of its kind initiative allows growers to produce between 600 and 3,000 birds without buying quota.
The program has proven to be a natural fit for producers with mixed farming operations looking to further diversify their income in a cautious but meaningful way. Al Dam, poultry specialist Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), met a few such producers during a recent tour of northern Ontario.
One artisanal chicken grower he met had a market garden, hogs, turkeys and an on-farm market store. Now, through CFO’s program they’ve gradually scaled up to 3,000 chickens as well. “They’ve done really well,” Dam observes.
It was the second year in a row that OMAFRA teamed up with CFO to visit the region. Their goal was to encourage people to participate in the board’s Community Programs, which the artisanal chicken initiative is an important part of.
Joining Dam for the ride was Carl Stevenson, who advises producers participating in CFO’s Community Programs, and Dr. Scott Gillingham, a vet and Canadian regional business manager with Aviagen.
At night they delivered workshops in Spring Bay, Sowerby, Azilda and Powassan for anyone interested in chicken production of any scale. Gillingham’s talk covered brooding while Dam spoke about what people could produce without quota, nutrition issues, feeding challenges and more.
During the day they visited white meat processing plants and producers enlisted in CFO’s Community Programs. They listened to growers discuss local challenges. For instance, predators like bears are a big issue. The trio also learned that the artisanal program was having a strong impact in the region.
Why? It’s largely being driven by consumer demand. “In the north, there’s been a lot of interest in the whole locally raised food movement,” Dam says. However, before the artisanal program there were no core chicken producers in northern Ontario. Now, thanks to the CFO program there are dozens of licenced small-scale growers. And the program continues to grow.
With September being National Chicken Month, it seemed fitting to mark the occasion by telling this success story. Enjoy the month-long celebration of chicken and chicken farmers ahead!