“I actually find turkeys to be very fascinating creatures.” Astrid Stephenson starts off when asked about being a turkey farmer in Alberta. “It’s fun to try to find ways to make each flock better than the last.”
Astrid’s farm is located just outside the small hamlet of Opal, Alberta. “Being able to be outside and work with animals every day is exactly what I wanted in a career.” Astrid grew up on her parents’ dairy farm and there she loved learning as much as she could about agriculture and animal care. Astrid attended NAIT and completed her Animal Health Technician Diploma. After a few years of working in and around Edmonton she felt the farm life calling her back. The opportunity to move back to a rural environment and purchase a turkey farm arose, and Astrid jumped at the chance.
That was almost 5 years ago and Astrid admits while it was a daunting decision for a young adult it has turned out to be an amazing and rewarding experience. Family support has been hugely important for Astrids success. Luckily both her parents and brother live close by, and they always help her out when she needs them too. But for the most part Astrid says being her own boss and having the sole responsibility of caring for her birds makes each day more interesting than the last. Astrid’s new husband commutes each day to his job as an electrician and she spends her days working in the barns. She says even though her husband grew up in an urban area he admires the fact that she is running her own business.
Astrid says this lifestyle is possible because of the assurance of production that farming within a supply managed commodity provides. The purchase of quota guarantees that Astrid will be able to sell her product and a rate which will allow her to receive a reasonable return for her investment. She enjoys that production is predictable; she knows exactly what to plan for, creating an efficient farming facility. She enjoys being able to contribute to the local economy and provide quality product as a local producer.
When asked about her favorite part of turkey farming, Astrid replies “Getting a new flock and being able to try new things in order to produce better birds than last flock.” She says her main goal is to make this flock her best flock yet. Astrid is constantly looking at innovative ways to help her birds be healthier and stronger. “Each flock presents a new competition with myself to see what I can do to beat the last flock!”
Astrid’s farm produces about 780,000 kg of turkey yearly which translates into roughly 52,000 birds. She raises turkeys year round with 1 brooder barn for the poults and 2 grow out barns for the turkey’s once they get older. Since purchasing the farm she has built one new barn and upgraded the equipment in the other two newer pre-existing barns. While both projects were quite large investments, Astrid knows that the turkeys are happier in the newer, more efficient barns. The modern feed and watering systems allow Astrid more time to focus on her birds. “The birds will tell you if they need something, you just have to make sure you are there to monitor them.”
With that Astrid stops for a moment to play with her two dogs Daisy and Sheena, and gets ready to head out to her barns.