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Scott Wiens

An “accidental poultryman” who believes in service


October 2, 2009
By Jim Knisley


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Scott Wiens believes in service. As chairman of the Chicken Farmers of Alberta he is serving his industry and, in a larger sense, because of his involvement with the Chicken Farmers of Canada at the WTO talks in Geneva, he is also serving his country.

Scott Wiens believes in service. As chairman of the Chicken Farmers of Alberta he is serving his industry and, in a larger sense, because of his involvement with the Chicken Farmers of Canada at the WTO talks in Geneva, he is also serving his country.

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Alberta’s Scott Wiens, pictured here with his wife Susanne and daughters Kate and Marisa, says Alberta producers voted with their money to support world-class research at the U of A. (Photo Courtesy CFC)

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His desire to serve doesn’t end domestically. Last fall, he, his wife Susanne and 12 others went to Peru on behalf of Food for the Hungry. The trip was about “teaching life skills and how to create a better life,” he said.

“The things we take for granted, they don’t have,” he said. As for his professional life, he might be tagged an “accidental poultryman.”

It began when he was in second grade and his father moved onto the farm. But while the move to the farm seemed like a good idea it wasn’t part of a plan. It was fortuitous or serendipity.

Scott’s father was a house builder. He had built a house on a farm. That farmer’s plans didn’t work out as expected and the farmer asked if Wiens would like to run the farm for a while.

It seemed like a good and welcome idea and the rest, as they say, is history. The farm prospered and poultry became the family business.

Scott said he wasn’t always sure he wanted to farm. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to do something else either.

After high school and two years of Bible College it was time to choose. “My wife and I concluded the farm offered us a good life and we chose to stay,” he said.

Staying meant producing chickens in Alberta where the climate can be a bit of a challenge. “Nothing works well when it’s cold,” he said.

Cleaning out a barn at minus 40 is something no one ever gets used to, but you adapt, he said. The trick is to put your head down, work hard and keep at it until the job is done as efficiently as possible. If that means working through the night, you do it because delay doesn’t accomplish anything.

While there isn’t much on the way of technology to deal with extreme cold Scott was one of the first to install a misting system to help the birds cope during the hot dry summers. “It is very effective,” he said.

When the opportunity to join the board of the Alberta Chicken Farmers presented itself four years ago Scott accepted the challenge. It was, for him, an opportunity to serve.

“The important thing is serving your industry, your country, your fellow producers, your community.” he said. “It’s important to make sure you are serving each other in the best way you can.” It also ran in the family; Scott’s father served on the Lilydale board.

As chairman he traveled to Geneva last year for the WTO talks and is closely following developments. In the past nine months he senses a shift in both the tone and the substance of the negotiations.

With the onset of the international recession countries have been changing their positions. But as to where the talks are now headed, “I don’t think anyone has a good sense of where they might end up.”

There has also been a shift within Canada.

“I think Canadians and consumers are seeing the value of the Canadian industry and the local economic benefit,” he said. “I think the federal government sees this and I think more and more Canadians see this and the discussion within Canada has shifted a lot.”

Part of the shift has come because of the troubles facing the Canadian hog industry. The hog industry expanded to meet expected demand in the U.S. and overseas. But the U.S. seems determined to protect its industry and is adopting every excuse to keep Canadian pork out. As a result the Canadian hog industry is shrinking and asking government for cash to sustain it.

Because the Canadian poultry industry is supply managed, it has been able to build demand for poultry within Canada and is not dependent upon increasingly fragile export markets. “The Chicken Farmers of Canada has set a realistic target for increasing domestic demand and has a sound plan for hitting the target,” he said.

The CFC also has an animal care program that is supported by veterinarians and reputable animal welfare groups. “This is pretty significant,” he said.

It allows the poultry producers to meet critics head on and put the claims and evidence before the public. “Canadian consumers are educated and are seeing through the rhetoric” that is coming from some more extreme groups, he said.

“Canadians want to see things done properly and what we’re doing is legitimate,” he said.

Part of doing things right is continuing support for research. Alberta producers are justifiably proud of the poultry research team at the University of Alberta. It has become a hotbed of world-class poultry research.

Scott said that from a producer’s standpoint it was simply a case of building on a good thing.

“A number of years ago, there was a group of researchers doing good work – particularly on broiler breeders at the university.” The Alberta poultry industry, the Alberta government, Canadian producers and the federal government noticed, “we had a good thing going.”

The provincial marketing board committed significant dollars to ensure that the research continued and expanded and the others joined in with their support.

As for Scott himself he has two more years on the provincial board. After the term is completed the board’s bylaws require a one-year step down. At that time his two daughters, Kate and Marisa, will be teenagers and becoming more active and he would like to spend more time with his family.

It might also have a bit more time for his “Prairie boy” hobbies – fishing and hockey.

An online journal of the trip can be found at the following website:
www.teamperu2008.blogspot.com


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