A family farm located just outside Thunder Bay, Ont. is hoping the market for its locally raised, artisanal chicken will continue to grow.
Haywire Farm in Gillies Township was the first in the area to take advantage of an artisanal chicken program launched by Chicken Farmers of Ontario in 2015.
The program makes it easier for small-scale farmers to sell their chickens through local stores, markets and restaurants, and has allowed Haywire Farm to take a "big step forward," said Ericka Reszitnyk, who runs the farm with her husband, Zach.
"Customers are quite excited about it," she said.
"Some customers did not know that we have this product available or that chicken was available to be bought from a local farmer, and so they're quite excited to have it, and people are quite excited to try it."
The artisanal chicken program allows small scale farms to raise up to 3,000 chickens per year, and to market and sell them to local stores and restaurants. Before that, small scale farms like Haywire could only raise 300 birds, and could only sell them at the farm gate, without purchasing a license aimed at bigger producers.
Haywire Farm started with 600 chickens last year, said Reszitnyk, and expanded to 1,200 this year. This year, they also began selling their product at the Thunder Bay Country Market.
The chickens, which are certified free-range and are fed locally milled grain, sell for $5.35 per pound.
In the past, the lack of a local abattoir has been cited as a barrier to raising chickens in Thunder Bay, but Reszitnyk said with the new program it's been worth their while to make the trek to a processing facility near Dryden.
"So we've invested in transportation crates, as well as a refrigerated trailer to bring back the product to offer fresh to our customers," she said.
As their chicken farming operation grows, they'll also be using the abattoir in Emo, she said.