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Why this Salmon Arm farm is increasing egg production 10-fold

James and Chelsea Keenan from Keenan Family Farms in Salmon Arm.
James and Chelsea Keenan from Keenan Family Farms in Salmon Arm.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Katrina Keenan Photography

A farm family in Salmon Arm is rolling up their sleeves in preparation for a huge expansion in the next two years.

Keenan Family Farms is known for its pork production, but increasing its laying hens from a few hundred to a few thousand, after being awarded quota for up to 3,000 layer hens through the B.C. Egg Marketing Board.

Supply chains to the Lower Mainland were severely disrupted after major flooding events last fall, 2021, and tragically thousands of farm animals died in the agriculture disaster.  

READ MORE: Thousands of animals dead in 'agricultural disaster,' says B.C. government

Farm co-owner Chelsea Keenan said this is an opportunity to spread out areas of egg production — to not put all the eggs in one basket, if you will — and build momentum for more local food security initiatives.

“So many egg operations are located in the Fraser Valley,” she said. “Farmers are required to grade the eggs which means lots of eggs go to Abbotsford to get graded. We really saw egg supply problems when the highways were closed.”

Last September, Keenan submitted her application to B.C. Egg’s New Producer Program, which provided the opportunity for the small operation to majorly increase egg production and sales.

“This year the program was limited to just small operations outside the Lower Mainland,” she said. “It is the first year they have done this, to promote provincial food security to support new producers from outside the Fraser Valley.”

READ MORE: Empty shelves, higher prices expected as B.C. floods disrupt supply chains

Ungraded eggs can only be sold directly to customers. Keenan said they will be building a grading station to remove the risk of having to send their eggs elsewhere for grading, and it will allow them to sell in grocery stores.

“People are excited to support local production and small businesses,” she said. “I don’t think we will have a problem finding grocery store managers who want our eggs.”

The family has been doing a lot of groundwork leading up to the expansion and are currently developing strategies with a plan to start building structures in the spring. They plan to build another barn that will house free range hens, a grading station and a storage facility. They will need part time workers in the future and a delivery van.

Keenan and her family moved to Salmon Arm from the Lower Mainland five years ago, with no farming experience and a passion to get out of the rat race. 

“We wanted to teach our kids new things and raise them in the country,” she said. “We started a pig farm. We still have our pork business, it is what we do full time now. The eggs go hand-in-hand, it is all about local food production.”

The B.C. Egg New Producer Program was established with the intent to provide B.C. residents who have an interest in egg production and agriculture but are from outside the regulated supply chain, an opportunity to contribute to the sustainability and renewal of the regulated egg sector. The program was reviewed and amended with revisions implemented in June, 2021.

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