Farming in Newfoundland & Labrador has never been easy. The Newfoundland & Labrador Heritage website states it the best: “Newfoundland and Labrador’s climate and soil have not been conducive to agriculture.” For anyone who has visited, it seems at times that there is more “rock” than “land” in Newfoundland, which is why many people know it simply as “the Rock”.
The Rock is home to one of Canada’s smallest provincial chicken industries, yet it is extremely well integrated and very dynamic. Almost entirely self-sufficient, the province has gradually expanded both its production and processing facilities and has started looking outside the province for new customers.
Andy Larner and his wife Marilyn raised two children, Mitchel and Amanda, now in their twenties, on their chicken farm and look forward to many more years of being their own bosses.
“Supply management has given us the security to create and support a sustainable industry,” says Andy. “There’s also an awful lot of opportunity for growth. As Canada’s industry grows, we’ll continue to grow with it.”
The Larners’ second-generation farm has grown along with the industry since its inception.
“My dad built the business in 1960s. We actually had layers first then switched into broilers in the early ‘70s. I took over the farm in the mid-80s.”
The Larners’ farm is in Whitbourne, west of St. John’s. The farm is right near the hatchery that provides their chicks, which the Larners find very beneficial.
“We get them [the chicks] just hours after they’ve been hatched,” says Andy. “Also, being so close to the [processing] plant helps too because we’re only about an hour away and transport isn’t difficult.”
Andy is quite involved in the provincial agriculture industry. He is a director on the provincial chicken board as well as on the Newfoundland Federation of Agriculture and the Agri-Adapt Council Inc. These activities provide him with additional opportunities to promote chicken and agriculture.
“We used to have ‘Chick Days’, where we’d bring a bunch to the school. There’s a public school right near me but we’ve stopped because of biosecurity concerns. We also used to get people out to farm but we had to stop that. It’s unfortunate because more and more people want to know where their food comes from,” Andy says. “In Newfoundland, Downhome Magazine, with the support of the Federation of Agriculture, has come up with the ’50 Mile Diet’ as a way to promote local products to the consumer. You can find most things within 50 miles of St. John’s.”
“We’re going to keep going [investing in the farm],” says Andy. “We’ve got a job to do for consumers. Consumers want to be confident in the product.”