By Patricia Grotenhuis
Taking over shares in her family farm while majoring in molecular biology and minoring in statistics at the University of Guelph was not what Kelsey Ottens pictured herself doing when she finished high school.
Ottens, now in her fourth year at the University of Guelph, was looking for a summer job two years ago when her parents approached both her and her brother about buying the family’s broiler breeder farm from them. A broiler breeder farm breeds chickens for other farmers to raise for meat. The siblings now own the majority of the farm. Her brother runs the farm while Ottens helps with management decisions and works at the farm on weekends and during holidays from school.
“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It’s a part time job, but way more interesting than other jobs I could have had,” says Ottens. Although she is not sure what life holds for her at the end of university, Ottens says she will probably have a career off of the farm, but continue farming.
Because of her commitment to farming, Ottens is featured in the 2013 Faces of Farming Calendar published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Her page is sponsored by the Ontario Broiler Chicken Hatching Egg Producers’ Association.
With farming being one of her main loves, Ottens has an assortment of other interests which keep her busy. She plays intramural sports at university, and enjoys travelling. She visited the Mediterranean last summer, has been to Africa, and wants to see Asia next. Skilled at arts, Ottens made and sold bracelets while in high school, and continues to make them in university. She also used to draw and paint, but now finds it hard to juggle her arts with her other commitments.
While at school, Ottens applies agriculture to her studies and talks frequently to her fellow students about the farm to help teach them about agriculture. Her major research project in fourth year will explore fertility of broiler breeder chickens, based on the amount of light they get. “If I would have decided sooner to take over a portion of the family farm, I probably would have done a minor in agriculture,” says Ottens.
Although Ottens and her brother own a majority of the family farm, her parents are still playing a large role and helping with decision making. Lately, some of those decisions have been centred on environment improvements, with the family preparing for the installation of solar panels on their barns. Regular changes are also made in the barn to ensure the chickens are comfortable and content.
“I don’t know exactly what I like about farming, but on a wide scale it’s neat to see what makes the birds content enough to lay eggs,” says Ottens. Ottens is happy with the decision she made to buy into the farm, and enjoys the features of farm work. Although her original goal was to continue her studies at medical school, she finds enjoyment in helping manage the farm. She always helped growing up, but now that she is a part owner, she looks at it differently.
“I like the variety, and not doing the same thing all of the time. I also enjoy the fact I’m working with the others and on my own,” says Ottens.