Harry Eisses and Colton Wohlgemuth
By Pat Grotenhuis
Like many children his age, ten-year-old Colton Wohlgemuth enjoys playing hockey and baseball. Unlike many of his friends, though, he also has been helping on his family’s egg farm since he was four.
Wohlgemuth enjoys having the chance to work alongside his parents, grandparents and sisters on the family’s egg farm. His grandfather, Harry Eisses, is proud of the fact that three generations of his family are now involved in the business.
“It was always a family farm, and when our daughter and son-in-law came back to work with us it was thrilling,” says Eisses.
Although he is young, Wohlgemuth is planning on continuing the family tradition and has every intention to farm when he finishes school.
“I really like it. It’s a lot of fun to collect eggs and help with the harvest,” says Wohlgemuth.
Eisses moved to the farm when he was 15 years old. Both he and his older brother showed an interest in the farm work, and built up the farm while their father worked in a factory. At that time, the farm was a dairy and cash crop farm, and the family bought laying hens later on.
As time went on, Eisses took over the laying hen portion of the farm while his brother took over responsibilities for the dairy cow herd. Decades later, the brothers and their families still share responsibilities for planting and harvesting crops
Although the family has been running the farm for such a long time, there is still an ongoing learning curve and adjustments that need to be made.
“It’s always a challenge. We tweak something every year to do things a little better,” says Eisses.
Eisses goes on to explain that this year will mark the final year the hens are raised in their current barn, and although plans are not finalized yet, they hope to build a barn that uses the colony housing system for hens. This system allows hens to roost and gives them more space.
Farm work is always a large undertaking, but, like Wohlgemuth and his sports, Eisses has found many ways to remain active in the community over the years as well. He is a councillor on Egg Farmers of Ontario and a member of church groups, along with being a fundraiser for the Royal Victoria Hospital and involved in the community recreation centre.
Whether it is through interacting with people during community activities or doing other forms of outreach, Wohlgemuth and Eisses both see a large benefit to teaching the public about farming and answering their questions. Wohlgemuth, who has many friends that do not come from a farm background, likes to bring his friends to the farm and show them the hens and equipment, and he talks to his friends about the farm regularly.
“Kids from the city think it’s something new and different. They think it’s cool and like coming to the farm to see the hens,” says Wohlgemuth.
Eisses is supportive of his grandson’s efforts, and does his best to share his family’s story.
“I think it’s very important that people realize where their food comes from and that their food is safe. We’re losing our numbers of farmers so it’s more important than ever, now, to share that story,” says Eisses.
This year, Harry and Colton represent egg farmers in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by Egg Farmers of Ontario. The calendar is designed to introduce Ontarians to the people who grow their food.
To see an interview with Harry and Colton, visit – http://youtu.be/YaYB-qQTUto