There’s going to be a lot more hens roosting at Keenan Family Farms.
Last September, Salmon Arm farmers Chelsea and James Keenan submitted an application to BC Egg’s New Producer Program, which provides an opportunity for an eligible new producer to receive up to 3,000 “units of layer quota” – in other words, hens.
The Keenans’ application was successful, giving them an opportunity to sell eggs through local grocers.
“Chelsea and her family are well known in Salmon Arm for their Egg Club delivery service as well as for raising high-quality pork,” commented Gunta Vitins, chair of BC Egg in a media release. “We are so pleased to have an experienced small lot farmer and marketer become a full-fledged egg farmer.”
In addition to their pork and lamb, the Keenans are known for their eggs – an item that tends to sell out at the Downtown Salmon Arm Farmers Market. The Keenans have been operating with a small lot permit that allows them up to 399 layer hens. Though they can sell their eggs at farmers markets or through their home delivery service, because the eggs aren’t graded they can’t be sold in stores. With quota that will change.
“Part of the reason our eggs have been popular in the past is that they are corn and soy free…,” said Chelsea. “We’ll be keeping that diet with these chickens as well.”
The Keenans will not be taking on 3,000 layer hens overnight. They have a barn to build for the birds, which will be free range (meaning they will have access to the outdoors), as well as their own grading station. They are also required to market their own eggs. So the Keenans will be taking on modest increases to their flock over time.
“They’re staging it up so we’re going to start with 1,000, and then we’ll bump over the course of two and a half years to the full 3,000, which is so they can allow us to build our market so we don’t have all of a sudden 3,000 eggs a day to sell to stores,” Chelsea explained, adding local businesses have already expressed interest in carrying Keenan Family Farms’ eggs.
“Supporting local is so huge in Salmon Arm – everyone has linked arms, it’s so great,” said Chelsea. “So I’m confident in our ability to market this product. And it’s a product we stand behind, and that we’ve been selling for years now. We just have an ability to grow.”
Chelsea and James relocated from Surrey in 2017 to their 35-acre farm on Yankee Flats Road. With their five children, they have established a farm that in 2019 was Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW). This certification, according to AGW, lets consumers know the Keenans’ livestock is “raised outdoors on pasture or range in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S. and Canada, using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent farm.”
The Keenans don’t expect to be producing eggs with the first 1,000 hens until early 2023.
“We are not scared of hard work and we have made it now, almost five years starting from scratch on this farm with our pork and with the eggs, and now expanding on the egg side is just such a cool opportunity for us as a family,” said Chelsea.