Small lot egg farms, those with 100 to 399 laying hens, have seen an immediate increase recently in available licences in BC, rising from 25 to 50.
At first glance, this may not seem like a lot of farms, but in speaking to Al Sakalauskas, executive director of the BC Egg Marketing Board, he explained these are smaller farms, sometimes with a diversity of activities including egg production, so it is believed that adding 25 more licences to the previous 25 will be enough to fill the province’s demand.
“The board decided to fill a need in the market,” Sakalauskas said. “These farms are generally in regions where people sell eggs at the farm gate.”
Each farm must apply for their small lot licence once a year, with the nominal fees covering the egg board’s administrative costs. In the first year, the application process must be notarized, and while the Egg Marketing Board recognizes there is a cost in doing so, it is only required in the first year to establish and confirm the identity of the owners.
These small lot owners are not a part of the quota system, but can access some portions of the information available to larger egg farmers who are part of the quota system.
“We give them a smaller version of a manual and do some testing,” Sakalauskas said. “They have access to parts of the producer website as well. We want them to have access to information.”
Information is important to ensure healthy birds and high quality eggs. Even a farm producing the lowest number of eggs in the small lot scale can expect to be gathering about 100 eggs a day which is a significant amount of work. Plus, as small lot producers, there is no grading of the eggs.
“The majority [of the small lot farms] are in specialty areas like free run, and free range, but they’re not certified,” noted Sakalauskas. “They haven’t gone through the formal certification process.”
As outlined by Sakalauskas, many of the small lot designated farmers participate in a range of other activities besides egg production. One working farm on Vancouver Island helps homeless and addicted individuals find a place in society again through hard work, engagement and reconnecting to the earth. Residents work on the farm and tend livestock, fruits, vegetables and herbs, while working through rehabilitation programs.
“This is a case where it’s not just about 399 chickens,” commented Sakalauskas. “It’s about something larger, an organization that the chickens are a part of. They are leveraging in a really cool way.”
The Vancouver Island farm has an onsite farm market for members of the community to purchase locally grown food.
The small lot licensing is not for the hobbyist. These are significant egg producing operations capable of about 12,000 dozen eggs a year, yet remain small enough to focus on local and regional sales – not like the large egg producers that supply grocery chains. Some small lot egg farmers drop out of the program, freeing up licences over time through attrition.
“Anyone can hold up to 99 birds without the application process,” Sakalauskas said.
Of course a back yard chicken coop or a small chicken farm of any size has to meet municipal requirements first and foremost.
Those interested in applying for a small lot egg farm licence can contact the BC Egg Marketing Board through a variety of channels noted on the organization’s website at www.bcegg.com.