ARMSTRONG – Residents of BC’s Okanagan Valley will soon have two new commercial egg producers shipping to grocers, with the BC Egg Marketing Board’s recent selection of Chris Grohmueller of Armstrong and Sajid Hameed of Salmon Arm as new entrants.
“Both Sajid and Chris are already well known in their communities for the quality of eggs they produce from their small flocks,” says BC Egg chair Gunta Vitins. “They have solid business plans as well as dedicated customers and we’re sure that with the extra hens provided by the New Producer Program, they are going to be successful egg farmers.”
The two farms will be eligible to grow their operations to 3,000 hens through the program. Both farms were registered with BC Egg with the long-term hope of expanding production.
“It was in the blood,” says Hameed, who grew up on his family’s farm in Pakistan and has worked in the poultry industry for 20 years, first with feed mills then with broiler-breeder and egg operations in Canada.
Since 2015, he has run his own small-lot farm in Salmon Arm and now has 399 layer hens whose free-range eggs he sells at the Kelowna farmers market.
“Free range was the best option for me, and I had a good opportunity with my farm because we have lots of area where my birds can graze,” he says. “There is a huge requirement, especially for free range, because there are very limited free range facilities in the Interior.”
Relations with neighbours have been good, and they’ve welcomed his expansion.
The opportunity to expand through new entrant quota appealed to Grohmueller, who grew up on a squab farm in Abbotsford and raised squab in the Okanagan until the pandemic shut down restaurant sales. The farm then pivoted to sweet corn and pumpkins, and looked to other poultry for its barns.
“We transitioned pretty quickly,” Grohmueller says. “The first summer after getting rid of our squab we experimented with a batch of pullets, raising laying hens. And that’s really what got us into it.”
While it wasn’t his intention to enter egg production, one of the farm’s customers decided to move north and wanted to sell back the layers he’d bought.
“That came with a couple of their customers and we expanded on that,” Grohmueller explains. “We went beyond the 100 birds so we got our small-lot permit, and started running our 399 birds.”
Growth led it to seek a grading station licence in 2022 to expand retail volume.
“Then the new entrant program came out, and here we are,” he says. “It’s an opportunity for us. It played right into what we were already doing. It just allowed us to grow quite a bit more.”
In addition to eggs, the farm also continues to raise laying hens, expanding from its initial 500 pullets to nearly 8,000 a year. It also raises about 4,000 ducks a year.
BC is home to 150 egg farms, 80% of which are in the Fraser Valley. The new Okanagan quota adds layers to the province’s food security.
“Having more local grading stations up here is a huge benefit to the economy,” Grohmueller says.
Both growers will begin exercising their new quota next year.
“In 2023, the goal was to start new egg farmers in areas outside of the Fraser Valley,” BC Egg says. “In order to prove that the applicants are capable of looking after hens, only people with a small lot permit would be accepted.”
The program received four applications this year, all of which were reviewed by a committee to ensure applicants demonstrated a capacity to care for hens and run a small business. Applications meeting the requirements were entered into a random draw.