By Resi Walt
(Dunnville) – If you ask Brian Ricker’s children what they want to be when they grow up, they will tell you without hesitation, “A farmer, just like my dad.” It’s easy to see how much they look up to their father, and that Brian Ricker is a farmer with a big heart.
In 2015, Brian and his three youngest children, Silken, Theo and Eli appear in the tenth anniversary edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page (July) is sponsored by the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.
Although raised on a dairy farm, Brian credits his start in turkey farming to his friend and mentor – John Delane. The two met in the early 1990’s and Brian eventually bought John’s turkey farm from him.
By 1999, Brian was ready to build his own barns. Today, he is raising 13,000 turkeys in Dunnville, Ontario. As a turkey farmer, Brian’s main priority include ensuring each bird in the flock has constant access to good feed, fresh air and clean water. Brian adds, “It is my job to make sure the birds are as comfortable as possible.”
Birds arrive when they are just a day old (called poults) and will live on the farm for ten weeks until they are ready for market. The Ricker family raises four flocks per year. Hens are raised for the whole bird market, which are most commonly used at seasonal times of the year such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.
Brian has three part-time employees who help look after the turkeys. This allows Brian to spend his time elsewhere when needed. Since 2007, he’s has also been farming 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat.
Brian has been on the Turkey Farmers of Ontario Board for nine years, serving as a director for his district. Other farmers in the district will call him with their questions, concerns or ideas, and Brian brings these messages forward to the rest of the board.
The Turkey Farmers of Ontario holds an important role in the industry. Brian and the other directors are annually tasked with setting the price for live turkeys (the amount the farmers receive for their birds). The board also meets with processors and other industry members to determine how many turkeys will be grown that year, setting the industry volume depending upon how the market is growing.
Both Brian and his wife MayLynne are active in their communities as well. They both sit on committees at their church and Brian is both chair of his local school board and a volunteer firefighter for the last 25 years with the Canboro fire department.
Family life is really important to the Ricker family. Brian and MayLynne are the busy parents of seven children – Bethany, 18; Gemma, 16; Owen, 14; Shasta, 13; Silken, 11; Theo, 9 and Eli, 5. The four youngest children all moved to Canada from different areas of China as toddlers, after being adopted into the Ricker family and have completely assimilated into life as Canadian farm kids. All of the Ricker children are musical and play a variety of instruments. Said MayLynne with a chuckle, “We almost have enough kids for a band!” They play hockey and soccer and enjoy time spent on their grandparents’ dairy farm in Northern Ontario.
When they’re not busy with responsibilities on the farm, the Ricker family enjoys spending time together swimming in their backyard pool. They also enjoy boating on the Grand River or in Lake Erie which is only a few kilometers from their home.
Brian is pleased that the market for turkeys is growing as consumers are becoming more interested in turkey meat and therefore are buying more turkey products at the grocery store. This is good news for farmers like Brian, as they are able to expand their farm and look toward the future.
An interview with the four can be seen at http://www.farmfoodcare.org/calendar-videos/2015/july.php
The tenth annual “Faces of Farming” calendar, featuring the theme of Home Grown & Hand Made, is designed to introduce the public to a few of Ontario’s passionate and hardworking farmers – the people who produce food in this province. Copies can be ordered online at www.farmfoodcare.org. A list of retailers selling the calendar is also located on that website.