Elecia Chinnick and her partner Jarod started farming because they wanted to know what was going into the food they were eating. Then they started feeding their friends and family. As Elecia says, “it snowballed from there.”
In 2016, they joined the Chicken Farmers of Ontario’s (CFO) Artisanal Chicken Program, growing 600 chickens, and are planning to grow 1,000 next year. The CFO offers the program to people just like Elecia and Jarod, who want to raise and sell chickens, but on a smaller scale than traditional operations. The couple also raises pigs and turkeys.
Elecia and Jarod each grew up on farms in Ontario, met at school in Thunder Bay, moved to the Yukon for nearly seven years, and decided to settle back in Ontario four years ago when they started having a family.
They built Three Forks Farm on nearly 100 acres just outside Bobcaygeon in eastern Ontario. In 2013, they grew 200, then the maximum allowable number of chickens under the Family Food Program of 300 chickens in 2014 and 2015, and applied for the Artisanal Chicken Program in 2016.
“Initially, we weren’t sure we could get into the artisanal program because we had an older barn,” Elecia says. “But everyone I’ve dealt with at CFO has been helpful in navigating us to where we need to go.”
Their white rock chickens are raised in a brooder barn for the first couple of weeks, then they go free range. A tented structure keeps them safe and sheltered at night, and they’re let out in the morning where they have access to a large pasture.
Part of the reason they thrive is Elecia’s attention to biosecurity. For example, when she had two flocks going this year, she knew that the younger ones are more susceptible to disease, so she tended to them first, and then cleaned up and took care of the older flock.
She says that the requirements of the artisanal program are fairly straightforward, and that staff helped her with validating her processes and writing them down.
Elecia and Jarod sell their birds at the Bobcaygeon farmers’ market, and to customers who buy bulk orders of two to 20 chickens. They also offer a winter monthly meat box that combines chicken and pork cuts. They have a website at www.ThreeForksFarm.ca
and market through Facebook.
Elecia recommends the program to other farmers and advises people to talk to the staff at the CFO, who are “really flexible in pointing out what are the good parts of your system and what needs improving.”
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