Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features Profiles Researchers
Rachelle Brown

Skeptical at first, she was called back by the farm


October 2, 2009
By Pam Gramiak

Topics

Apart from the small sign hanging at the edge of the yard, the short driveway that leads to the Brown Feather Farms family home reveals few clues to the second-generation turkey farm operating in the background. From the freshly mowed lawn to the tree-lined property, there’s very little evidence the property serves as the hub of what Rachelle Brown describes as a mid-sized turkey operation 30 miles north of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Apart from the small sign hanging at the edge of the yard, the short driveway that leads to the Brown Feather Farms family home reveals few clues to the second-generation turkey farm operating in the background. From the freshly mowed lawn to the tree-lined property, there’s very little evidence the property serves as the hub of what Rachelle Brown describes as a mid-sized turkey operation 30 miles north of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

p14_ON_BrownFeather2
From the daily tasks to moving day, Brown Feather Farms is a family affair. (Clockwise): Robyn, Collin, Rachelle and Marty Brown.

Advertisment

“We try to separate work from home,” she said during a recent walk around the family property. “That way we get to leave work at the end of the day.”

But the farm work that Rachelle (pronounced Rachel) has been committed to full time for the last two years was a long time coming. Having grown up in a small town south of Winnipeg, she didn’t have a farm background when she met her future husband Marty, whose family had been in the turkey business for nearly 30 years. And even after she and Marty got married 16 years ago this June, she still wasn’t sure about being on the farm full time.

“At first I thought farm life was a bit isolating,” she says.

So rather than jump in with both feet on the farm, Rachelle left the turkey production to Marty while she focused on the work-life balance of caring for their daughter Robyn, and son Collin, and working at various off-farm jobs and volunteer activities.

“I wasn’t sure in the beginning if I wanted to be on the farm full time,” she says. “But the farm kept calling me back.”

p14_ON_BrownFeather1
 
As director for District 1, Rachelle Brown is the voice for all turkey producers north of Winnipeg. She says it’s important to her that she stays current with industry standards and initiatives on behalf of the people she represents.


 

Calling her back could be described as an understatement. It might better be characterized as a shout-out. Because once she got that call two years ago, she’s been a going concern ever since.

The self-described hands-on learner says she enjoys being a bigger part of the operation. From the daily tasks to moving day, Brown Feather Farms is a family affair.

“When we’re moving the birds, it’s a family effort,” says Rachelle.

And the help also includes Robyn, their 13-year-old daughter, and son Collin, who’s 12.

“Collin is also hands-on. He’s a strong kid who loves to hang with Dad,” says Rachelle. “He’d rather be working in the barns than going to school.”

As for Rachelle’s role, she says she is a lifelong learner with a thirst for knowledge whose need to learn extends beyond personal fulfilment.

“I also need to learn (about the family operation) because if something ever happens to Marty, or if he has to be away for long periods of time, I can manage the farm.”

And managing the farm, Rachelle says, is definitely a partnership. While Marty could be considered the general manager of the operation, the two discuss the day’s responsibilities and tasks over breakfast. From there, they work together to make sure both business and family are well tended.

“It’s definitely a partnership,” she says. “There’s a lot of co-operation.”

In addition to immersing herself in the family business, Rachelle has also immersed herself in the Manitoba turkey producers’ industry. An active volunteer in her community for many years, she’s now serving in her second year of a three-year term as a director on the Manitoba Turkey Producers board of directors, an opportunity she had been considering for a couple of years.

“I wanted to have my own thing to do (in the industry),” she says of why she accepted the nomination.

As with all decisions at Brown Feather Farms, Rachelle discussed the required commitment of serving on the board with Marty before accepting the nomination. After all, there would be meetings to attend, subcommittees to participate in and, as alternate director at the national level, there would be times she would have to be away from the family for days at a time.

“Being away was the one thing Marty and I really had to talk about,” she says. “But he was very supportive of my decision [to accept the nomination].”
As director for District 1, Rachelle is the voice for all turkey producers north of Winnipeg. She says it’s important to her that she stays current with industry standards and initiatives on behalf of the people she represents.

“I participate at the board level to make sure everyone’s voices are heard,” says Rachelle. “I like to make sure producers in my area are informed.”
Currently the only woman on a board of four people, Rachelle is no shrinking violet. Her sincere desire to represent her producers effectively, combined with her thirst for knowledge, results in lively discussions with everyone she engages with.

“I’m not afraid to ask the questions that are on everyone else’s minds,” she says.

And being the only women on the board doesn’t faze her at all. She’s following a “long line of women” who have served on the board, including one who has served as chair.

“Women don’t just take a back seat on the farm anymore,” she says. “I’d like to think that in my generation, women participate more and are more involved in farming decisions.”

In addition to serving as a board director, Rachelle also represents Manitoba Turkey Producers at the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative (MLMMI) and the Going Forward Poultry Steering Committee, a part of the Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI). The steering committee, which is still in the early stages of development, is designed in part to help producers with upgrades to their on-farm safety procedures, biosecurity, traceability and environmental concerns.

Serving on the steering committee allows Rachelle to be part of something from the ground up. She’s part of the team that helps set the guidelines of what producers need and how the government funding should be spent.

“I want to help producers know what’s out there for funding and ideas,” she says. “I want to be able to communicate with our members because a lot of people don’t know what is available.”

From small-town girl to a driving force in Manitoba’s turkey industry, Rachelle Brown’s skepticism proved unfounded when she got that call to come back to the farm full time. And, she says, her journey is far from over.

“There’s so much to learn,” says Rachelle. “I’m still learning and I’ll always be learning.”