By Jeanine Moyer
(Seaforth) – Carol Leeming is a professional egg farmer. And in addition to caring for her flock of 42,000 hens, she’s a mom, wife, career woman, motorcycle enthusiast and self-proclaimed ag-vocate (an advocate for agriculture). This busy woman has been involved in agriculture and poultry all her life and is proud to produce the highest quality food possible for egg-lovers to enjoy.
Leeming and her husband Bob have been egg farmers near Seaforth, ON for more than 25 years. She says egg farming has come a long way over the years to reach current standards that are second to none in animal health and care. “Technology and innovations have resulted in some of the highest quality standards in agriculture, creating the safest, highest-quality eggs possible,” says Leeming . As one example, she said that the average hen laid approximately 130 eggs per year in the 1930s. Today, with improved diets, lighting and housing, a hen lays about 310 eggs a year.
Eggs from Leeming Farms match the high quality of all other eggs produced in Canada, but her farm is a little different than most. That’s because her hens like to stay up late – sleeping during the day and staying awake all night long.
“Egg laying is triggered by the quantity of light,” explains Leeming. “And since it takes a hen approximately 24 hours to make an egg – and they don’t read clocks – they don’t really care if they are awake during the day or night.” She makes sure her hens get the necessary 13-15 hours of light through the night, so when she and her family wake up in the morning, the hens have laid their eggs and are ready for collecting, packing into trays and storing in the on-farm refrigerator for shipping. This way, Leeming can make sure she can help with the farm chores in the morning before she goes off to work at an off-farm job.
“Modern technology allows us to manage the barn’s lighting, resulting in both time and energy efficiencies on our farm,” says Leeming. In addition to the scheduling advantage that enables both Leeming and her husband to work off the farm while the hens are sleeping during the day, when the lights are out, their hens can also sleep during the hot days of summer, reducing stress on the animals while conserving extra energy needed for ventilation on hot days.
Alternatively, the hens are awake and moving around during the night, when the lights are on, creating additional warmth on cold winter nights. Leeming says hen barns don’t need to be heated because hens produce enough of their own body heat to heat the barn. The barns are also well ventilated because, “fresh air is so important for all of us, including our hens.”
Energy conservation and sustainability are also critical on the Leeming egg farm. “We have conducted an energy audit on our farm, just like some people do in their houses,” says Leeming who uses energy efficient light bulbs and a high efficiency cooling system for their egg cooler. They even generate electricity from an on-farm solar panel and wind turbine. “Environmental stewardship is important to us. It’s an integral part of our vision for our farm and family,” she explains.
In addition to caring for their hens, Leeming and her husband – along with the help of their three children, Jessie, Laura and Troy, and neighbouring farmers – work 300 acres of land, growing corn, wheat and soybeans. “Everyone helps out – we are a farm family and we are proud of what we do.”
It’s no surprise that Leeming and her family also eat a lot of eggs because, she says, “they are healthy – a great source of protein, they can be prepared in so many ways. We are proud of what we produce.”
It takes a lot of hard work, ingenuity and dedication to care for their flock of hens, but Leeming and her family enjoy their unique lifestyle. She says they are guided by their love of farming and their mission, “to care for our land and animals in the most efficient and sustainable way possible.”