Western Newfoundland is a sparsely-populated region, but one of natural and historic wonders. It was here that Viking settlers built the oldest European settlement in the Americas, over 1000 years ago.
Flash forward to the 21st Century, and fresh local eggs are once again being produced on this remarkable edge of Canada. Pauline Duivenvoorden—a veterinarian, dairy farmer, community leader, and now egg farmer—supplies eggs throughout the region from her farm in Deer Lake.
This New Brunswick native, and second generation Dutch-Canadian, is a uniquely multi-faceted farmer. Alongside her husband, Phil MacLean, Pauline is one of Western Newfoundland’s latest egg farmers. We spoke to her about a lifetime of working on farms and bringing a new source of fresh, locally produced eggs to this sparsely populated corner of Canada.
Pauline grew up on her parents’ New Brunswick dairy farm. She says that, after she attended agriculture college in Nova Scotia, she and Phil moved to Ontario for Pauline to attend veterinary college. When she was nearing graduation, an exciting career opportunity appeared.
“I saw a job board bulletin for a role in Western Newfoundland, working with agricultural animals there,” she remembers. “I knew it was right for us. I wanted to go back to Atlantic Canada, and this was the way to do it.”
In her veterinary practice, Pauline was serving a unique area of the country: a 750-kilometre stretch of Western Newfoundland, from Channel-Port aux Basques in the southwest, to that ancient Viking landing site at L’Anse aux Meadows. While Pauline was putting up to 125,000 km a year on her pickup truck as a veterinarian, her husband settled into dairy farming. By 1999, Pauline was ready to become a full-time farmer.
The lessons of veterinary work served her well, and the network of farmers Pauline supported as a veterinarian has helped her find her place within a close-knit community. “Veterinarians rely on the farmer to give us information about an animal when we diagnose,” notes Pauline. “Attention to detail is critical when you’re a farmer.”
Pauline and Phil became egg farmers in 2017 thanks to the Egg Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador New Entrant Program. Programs like this are designed to make it easier for new egg farmers to get a start in the industry. They love working with their enriched colony housing system in their new barn. It allows the hens to exercise their natural behaviours, with plenty of space, perches, pads for scratching, easy access to water and food, and more.
Joining the egg industry made sense for Pauline. Egg farming operates under Canada’s system of supply management. This policy has made a powerful difference for Canadians, ensuring a fair return for farmers while offering Canadians a consistent supply of fresh, local eggs. Pauline describes supply management as critical to the long-term sustainability of the sector. “My parents operated their farm without supply management, and I saw up close the day-to-day uncertainty of their circumstances,” she adds.
Offering a new source of locally produced eggs in Western Newfoundland has drawn in much interest and local attention. In Pauline’s eyes, it has reengaged the public’s interest in local food. She believes being an active part of the community is important for the agricultural sector. “We put a viewing window into our barn so neighbours could see what’s going on,” she notes. “Giving them the knowledge, showing them how their food is made, is so important.”
And it truly is their food. The eggs Pauline produces are primarily consumed right in Newfoundland, including by the very friends and neighbours who peer through her barn’s viewing window. That’s the beauty of supply management at work.
Pauline and Phil are determined to grow the community’s knowledge of agriculture in every way. They host school tours each spring and fall, set up shop at local fairs and are active members of their community.
“It’s important for farmers to start telling their stories,” Pauline says, “in a time when most Canadians are living in cities. Many people are removed from agriculture now. We want them to be confident in what we do. We want them trusting us. That means reaching out.”