By: Emily Blake
The Yukon is known more for its dark frigid winters and the Klondike Gold Rush than farming. But Alan and Cathy Stannard, owners and operators of Mandalay Farm, are hoping to change that perception.
“When we look over our property we’re truly blessed or lucky or fortunate, whatever you want to call it, to live where we live,” says Alan. “The Yukon is probably one of the more beautiful places in Canada for all of its variety.”
With a passion for locally-sourced food, the couple purchased the 160-acre property in 2009. Initially they board horses, though the family dabbled in keeping cattle. Laying hens were a constant, and up until last year, they also kept meat chicken and turkeys.
Now Alan and Cathy run the farm with their son Duncan. In an effort to supply local grocers, they welcomed 2,000 hens from Edmonton earlier in 2017 to launch into large-scale egg production.
Alan says they spent six years researching and planning the move to larger production.
Finishing touches were just finalized on the new barn, which began construction last summer. A modern farm that makes use of technology, the focus is on the well-being of the birds.
“We’re very much all about the birds, probably to our own detriment,” Cathy laughs. “I think it’s a better quality product in the end because they’re happier.”
There’s no question that the birds will be well-cared for. There are small temperature controlled chicken-sized bay doors that raise to allow the hens access to the winter garden where they can scratch and play. There are also nest boxes, nipple drinkers, heaters, circulation fans in each corner of the barn, chimneys with fans to address humidity and conveyors to collect the eggs once a day.
“Everything is all controlled by a computer, so the computer tells us everything,” explains Cathy. “If there’s a problem in the barn with heat, with water, temperature or whatever it is, if someone walks in, it texts us.”
There is also a grader that inspects, washes, dries and sorts the eggs before they are stored in a cooler where they’re ready to be shipped to local supermarkets.
But getting to this point has taken a lot of hard work.
“Nobody believes you can do it, everyone from the banks to your suppliers,” says Alan. “I think they were quite shocked when they came up here in the middle of winter to help us put the equipment in.”
There are unique challenges to farming in the territory as well, including a building code not suited to agriculture, cold winters and a remote location with expensive transportation costs.
However, the Stannards note they have gotten a lot of support from the agricultural branch, local contractors and farmers in British Columbia and Alberta.
“It’s been a lot of going out and seeking advice and talking to people and seeing what worked well for them and what didn’t,” Cathy says.
When they’re not farming, Cathy is a full-time nurse and Alan works for a helicopter charter company.
In terms of future plans, Alan says they hope to continue expanding the farm to 6,000 birds. Over the next five years.
Those interested in learning more about the Stannards and Mandalay Farm can their Facebook page.