Blake Jennings is the fifth generation of his family to be an egg farmer. But it’s not just a job to him —  it’s a lifestyle.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” says the co-owner of Bayview Family Farm in Masstown, Nova Scotia. Though he helped around the farm as a child, Jennings, now in his early twenties, works alongside his father Glen to run the family operation, which has over 15,000 laying hens.

The Jennings’ farm is part of an industry that is already one of the more sustainable types of animal agriculture. “A few years ago we did a life cycle analysis of our sector,” says Egg Farmers of Canada CEO Tim Lambert. “Over the past 50 years we’ve been producing 50 percent more eggs while using 50 percent fewer resources.” He adds that the industry and individual farms continue to research and invest in new technology, making farms more economically sustainable and driving the use of fewer resources to produce eggs.

“More than anything,” adds Tim Lambert, “Sustainability is part of the work we do to foster trust in the eggs we produce, to give back to our communities, and to continuously improve our products and processes.” Doing so helps give the next generation a strong foundation to build from.

The future is green

Bayview, an award-winning farm that sits on the Bay of Fundy, is proudly referred to by the Jennings family as a green farm. “We were one of the first farms in Nova Scotia to have wind power,” says Jennings. Running at full tilt, the wind turbines that tower over the farm can generate 100 percent of what is needed to power their egg production. The rate varies, however, depending on the weather. For over a decade wind power has helped the Jennings family save on their farm’s electric bill and reduce their carbon footprint. It also means their customers have the satisfaction of knowing they’ve purchased a green product.

Roger Pelissero, Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada, says many people would be surprised at the number of initiatives the industry takes to green their operations — from alternative energy, to housing, to ventilation. “At the core is the well-being of the hen,” he says.

Discussions about improving operations aren’t new. Pelissero bought his West Lincoln, Ontario family farm in 1978 and has always been looking for ways to innovate. “My father and I always sat down to talk about the latest and greatest farm innovations,” he remembers. One way they focused on greening operations was with lighting — first shifting from incandescent to fluorescent, then transitioning to lower-energy LED. Pelissero continues to ponder what’s next on the horizon. “I just sat down with my son two weeks ago and started coming up with a list of ideas for the farm.”

As he says, for Canadian egg farmers, innovation and sustainability are a way of life. Carefully managing resources, and finding new production efficiencies is part of how families run their farms.
Next up at the Jennings farm are barn improvements and renewable energy upgrades. The windmills have paid for themselves,” he says. However, they are nearing the end of their lifecycle. They’re also looking to replace a barn. “We’re thinking about putting solar panels on the roof,” he says.

In the not-too-distant future, Blake will carry on the family tradition as the fifth generation of Jennings farmers to head the farm’s operations. The stability of the industry means that there’s a bright future for him. “I’m excited that I and other young farmers have the opportunity to make a living doing what we love.”