By Kelly Daynard
There was never any doubt in John Kapteyn’s mind that he wanted to become a farmer. Growing up, he spent his free time helping his parents on their family farm in Simcoe County.
When asked why he wanted to farm, he answered, “I love to farm because it is very rewarding to raise birds or plant a crop and see them through all of the stages to egg production or crop harvest.”
After high school, he went to study agriculture at Kemptville College and there, met his future wife Tammy, a horticulture student. The two were married in 1997. Today, they are raising their children in the same way – helping on their family farm and developing an appreciation of a rural way of life. They continue to farm with John’s parents.
The family grows crops on 700 acres of land and raise broiler-breeder chickens. A broiler breeder farm breeds chickens for other farmers to raise for meat. In John’s barn, hens and roosters live in a free-run setting together. The hens produce fertile eggs which are collected and sent to a hatchery for hatching. Once the eggs hatch, the day-old chicks are raised on a broiler chicken farm until they reach market weight.
John’s served as a director on the Ontario Broiler Chicken Hatching Egg Producers’ Association (OBCHEPA) since 2005 and is now the organization’s chairman. He has also served on the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission (OBHECC) for five years. This is the regulatory and pricing authority for Ontario hatching egg producers and hatcheries.
John and Tammy are proud to see their children’s growing interest in the farm. Isabelle, Holly, Cordell, Willem and Nickolas now have quite the menagerie of their own including donkeys, goats, rabbits and ponies that they are responsible for – and are very proud of. They also help in the barn. Nickolas, especially, enjoys spending hours riding in the tractor with his dad.
It’s not all work for the family, though. They’re all avid baseball players who participate in a number of local teams. Holly and Isabelle are enrolled in a competitive dance team while the boys swim, play soccer and hockey.
This year, the Kapteyn family members are the faces of August in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar, produced annually by Farm & Food Care Ontario. The calendar is designed to introduce Ontarians to the people who grow their food. Their page is sponsored by the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg Producers’ Association.
But the Kapteyns grow food for more than just the people in this province. For the last 10 years, the family has donated a field to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. That field is used to grow a variety of crops that are donated to help feed hungry people. Since its founding in 1983, the Foodgrains Bank has provided over 1.1 million tonnes of food and seeds worth over $682 million to millions of people in 78 countries.
The Foodgrains bank is a project John believes strongly in. He explained, “We have been very blessed in our industry and feel that donating a portion of our harvest to those in need is the least we can do.”
One of John’s pet peeves comes from the term “factory farming” which can be used by people that don’t understand farming. John says that his farm may be considered large – with 30,000 hens – but emphasizes that “it’s still a family affair every day” with three generations of Kapteyns working together to raise crops and poultry.
He added, “We care for our animals because they’re what give us our living. Sometimes we probably put them ahead of ourselves.”
To see a video interview with the Kapteyn family, visit http://youtu.be/U3552g2AevY