In this edition of Canada’s Tastemakers, FBC’s Ethan Adeland chats with the Rachelle Brown, a turkey farmer from Brown Feather Farms, Vice-Chair of the Manitoba Turkey Producers and a Director with Turkey Farmers of Canada.
FBC: Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
RB - Hello, my name is Rachelle Brown. I am a Manitoba turkey farmer, farming alongside my husband, Marty, of 22 years. We have two adult children. I am Vice-Chair of the Manitoba Turkey Producers board as well as a Director with the Turkey Farmers of Canada. At TFC, I also chair the Research Committee.
FBC: You wear a bunch of different hats...
Yes, it's a juggling act at times. I've been very involved in volunteering for multiple groups and boards in the area (school, church, food bank & community events). I felt that since I was mostly a stay-at-home parent that I had the opportunity to help out where I could. So I've been volunteering for 20 years now. I have been Director for the Manitoba Turkey Producers board for seven years, and Director with Turkey Farmers of Canada for the last four years.
FBC: What is a typical day for you at Brown Feather Farms?
The first thing I look at is my e-mails and reply to anything that needs attention. Then I head out to the barn to help my husband with chores for the morning. I typically will spend the afternoon catching up on paperwork, replying to e-mails, and completing any Board work that I need to do. I spend some of my time on fundraising activities. Summertime means there is a lot of yard work that keeps us busy. Over the years our garden has grown quite a bit so I try to spend some time there as well.
FBC: You've described the farm as "mid-sized". Can you give us city-slickers an idea of what that means.
In Manitoba, the farm sizes vary quite a bit. We have some farms that grow 600,000 kgs of turkeys per year, while some of our smaller farms grow 70,000 kgs of turkeys. Our quota is for just over 240,000 kgs per year which is the range of more than half of the turkey farms (200,000 - 300,000 kgs) in Manitoba. This means that we are allowed to grow that much in a year. This is not a large farm in compared to some other provinces, we are an average Manitoba family farm.
FBC: To manage a family farm is definitely a partnership. Your husband Marty is "GM" of the farm. Do you have a title too?
Yes. My official title is Vice as well as Secretary/Treasurer. Marty is a second generation turkey farmer. He is the one that does the bulk of the work. I typically will help out where I'm needed. My contribution is the business end of farming. About 10 years back we had the kids in the barn with us helping to do chores, and I asked our son to do something. He was quick to reply that "Dad is the boss in the barn, you are only boss in the house!" So I guess that sums it up!
FBC: What is a typical day for you as a Director with Manitoba Turkey Producers?
Well I would say that reply to my e-mails and then read the correspondence that is sent to me, plus prepare information for an upcoming meeting. I keep in regular contact with the Board office and the other Directors as well.
FBC: What are the goals of the board?
We have many! One goal is to provide a high quality and safe product for our consumers under the National On-Farm Food Safety and Flock Care Programs.
Our goal is to ensure the growth of the Manitoban and Canadian turkey industry, as well as strive to produce the highest quality turkey meat for Manitoba, for Canada and globally.We work in conjunction with all Canadian provinces to ensure a superior product nationwide.
Our goal is to support and serve the turkey producers in our province, and work with all industry related groups to ensure the development of the industry.
FBC: How many turkey producers do you represent? How many turkey producers are in Manitoba and across Canada.
In Manitoba we are divided into 3 regions (Northern region, Southern region & Hutteritarian region). I represent 18 farms in the northern region; there is a total of 58 farms in Manitoba. Across Canada, we have 531 farms.
FBC: You're currently the only women on the board, is that a trend you see changing in the coming years?
I replaced another woman when I was elected to the Board so I'm not the first but I hope I'm not the last. I like to think that I bring a different perspective at the Board level.
FBC: Tell us about your role as a Director for the Turkey Farmers of Canada?
This is a challenging role. I am there as a representative for all Manitoba producers. Looking at the bigger picture is key here. Our national agency has a great staff which makes things run very smoothly.
FBC: Living on the farm means "work" is never far away. How do you separate home/work life? Or is that even possible?
That's a tough question. You don't have a separation. When you work where you live, you are always working, or at least on call. It's the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing you do at night. We don't have the luxury of turning off work at 5 pm on a Friday and returning only on the Monday. We could have a houseful of guests one evening and an alarm rings - Marty has to get the issue fixed. You can't put it off to a later date. We have missed many planned dinners or evenings out. But on the other hand, we have the flexibility to take the kids on a afternoon outing or a day trip when we are able.
FBC: You have two teenagers. Are they involved in the family business? Do you see them bringing new perspective on any aspects of the farm?
We have two great kids! Our daughter is the eldest. She’s never had any interest in the farm but has always been available when we needed her help on either moving or loading days. Our son has more of an interest in the farm. It probably comes from following his Dad around from a young age. He has paid attention and knows how just about everything works.
FBC: What do you see in the next generation of turkey farmers?
A higher level of technology is being applied to farming compared to when we first started. I would say that it is the biggest change for the next generation.
FBC: What are your thoughts on farms and farmers using social media?
Social media is a quick way to reach a larger target audience; it's how the new generation communicates.
FBC: Where can we find Brown Feather Farms on social media or is that in the works?
We have not taken to social media yet.
FBC: What is something everyone should know about a turkey farm?
Farmers strive to grow a top quality food source. We care about the birds we grow.
FBC: Do you have a favorite recipe or two to share?
My family's most favorite recipe is when I make breaded turkey fingers, the recipe comes from my mother-in-law.
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp garlic salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- dash of pepper
- 2 eggs
- ½ bread crumbs
- ¼ parmesan cheese
- two turkey breasts
- Cut the turkey breasts into strips
- Mix the following in a bowl: ¼ cup flour, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp garlic salt & paprika, dash of pepper.
- In a separate bowl, beat the 2 eggs
- In a 3rd bowl, mix the following: ½ cup bread crumbs, ¼ cup parmesan cheese.
- Dip the pieces of turkey first in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture & finally the crumbs mixture.
- If you are using leftover turkey, fry in a pan with olive oil until golden brown.
- If you are using raw turkey meat, fry in a pan until golden brown then put in the oven for 45 mins at 350 F
- Serve with your family's favourite dipping sauce and enjoy!