Community–Based Egg Grading Report Released

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Peterborough - Farms at Work, through a $29,100 Seed grant made in late 2015 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, has produced a report on the feasibility of building community egg-grading facilities as a way to support the local farming community and provide more opportunities for the community to access local food within east central Ontario.

“Through consultations as part of our recent Red Tape Challenge for the food processing sector, we heard from small producers and processors on barriers they are facing to get their product to market. I’m pleased that our government, through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, partnered with Farms at Work to address one of those challenges by funding this important feasibility study on egg grading to support small egg producers. The ability to grade eggs would enable small farms to legally sell their eggs in places like our local farmers’ markets, bringing more local food to the plates of consumers in Peterborough.” - Jeff Leal, MPP

Agriculture is a major opportunity for community economic development and the largest source of self-employment in the region. Yet, many farmers struggle to achieve long term financial security, and the number of farm businesses in the province has been declining for many years. Egg production offers an important opportunity to expand options for stable and sustainable livelihoods, but the lack of accessible community-based egg grading facilities creates a barrier for small and medium scale farmers.

Currently, ungraded eggs can only be sold at the farm gate on a farmer’s property, while graded eggs can be sold at farmers’ markets, restaurants and stores, making them much more accessible to consumers. This study explored the feasibility of developing community-based facilities which would allow farmers expand the market for their locally-produced eggs.

The research showed that offering egg grading services would be financially feasible as long as there were enough local eggs to grade within a reasonable distance from the facility. The farmers consulted via survey, and focus group, were anxious to include eggs as a financially profitable part of their business and have their eggs graded, so they could legally sell them off the farm, especially at farmers markets. However, they also described the challenges they face with the regulatory environment. Nearly all diversified farms are limited to keeping only 100 hens for eggs, restricting both revenues and profitability. The cost of egg grading adds additional cost to an already marginal part of the business.

“This grant from Ontario Trillium Foundation made it possible for us to assess the feasibility of egg grading for small to medium diversified farms in the community, but also pointed out the financial challenges of egg production on those farms,” said Pat Learmonth, Director of Farms at Work. “This is a first step to building better supports that enable people to connect with agriculture and their sources of food”.

Results will be disseminated widely to stimulate further discussion about how to strengthen local economies, provide more support to small egg farmers, and increase consumption of locally-produced eggs at venues such as farmers’ markets, local stores and restaurants. The Report is available online at farmsatwork.ca/library

Farms at Work promotes healthy and active farmland in east central Ontario. We seek ways to support viable farm businesses and ensure that farmland is actively used for the production of food, fuel and fibre, while at the same time promoting environmental integrity. Farms at Work is a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform. www.farmsatwork.ca

An agency of the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities. www.otf.ca