by SUSAN MANN
The first 80 farms to be accepted into Chicken Farmers of Ontario’s Artisanal Chicken program should be starting to produce chickens under the program this spring, and many of them will be seasonal growers.
The Artisanal Chicken program is for small-scale, non-quota holding farmers who want to grow 600 to 3,000 chickens annually for specific markets that they’ve identified. It was launched last year “with the expressed goal of helping to address gaps in the existing consumer marketplace for locally-grown chicken,” according to a Feb. 16 Chicken Farmers news release.
About 100 people applied to the program by the September 2015 deadline, and now Chicken Farmers has opened up the application process again to receive more applications. Of the previous applicants, Chicken Farmers is still working with some of them and continuing the process of reviewing their applications, says Michael Edmonds, Chicken Farmers communications and government relations director.
The average request for each of the 80 farmers receiving approval under the program is to grow 1,800 chickens, Edmonds says. Their farms are located throughout Ontario, including 15 in the east, 20 in the north, 16 in the central region and 29 in the west.
“We don’t have many farmers producing conventional chicken in the north so we’re very pleased by the number of applicants from northern Ontario that are looking to get into this program,” he says. “There’s been a lot of excitement about the announcement (of the program’s launch) in northern Ontario.”
Edmonds says this first-time run through the application process went smoothly. “We’re excited about the variety of applications that have come in and the different markets those farmers are looking to fill – everything from local food markets to working with specialty butcher stores. Some farmers (under the program) are looking to increase their farm gate sales.”
Before the program was developed, small-scale farmers who didn’t buy quota could only grow 300 birds a year for home consumption or farm-gate sales, the release says.
Edmonds says five per cent of Ontario’s annual chicken market growth will be allocated to the Artisanal Chicken program. BF