He is the egg man: N.W.T.'s Polar Egg expanding operations
Hay River-based company seeks solutions to geographic barriers in North
A commercial egg operation in Hay River, N.W.T., still hasn't cracked into southern markets after six years in business.
And that's eggs-actly how the owner and operator of Polar Egg, Kevin Wallington, wants it — for now.
"My priority is expanding our sales in the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and in Nunavut. My focus is on going north, rather than on going south," Wallington said.
Wallington became the manager of Polar Egg in December 2012. This month, he takes over as the owner of an operation that includes the egg inspection — or grading — plant and the Hay River Poultry Farm, about 10 kilometres out of town.
- FROM 2012 | Hay River eggs to crack northern market
Keeping the eggs North
His current brood of 118,000 hens produce about 100,000 eggs a day, or about 38 million eggs a year. Cartons of eggs are sold to grocery stores, restaurants and wholesalers in Hay River, Fort Resolution, Fort Providence, Fort Smith, Enterprise, Fort Simpson and Yellowknife.
That's enough to make a lot of omelettes and pound cakes.
It's not enough, though, for Polar Egg to compete with southern grading stations, many of which process in a single day what Wallington processes in a week.
Even if he could get into southern grocery stores, Wallington said he wouldn't, while he's looking for solutions to financial and geographic barriers in the N.W.T.
"It's the isolation, it's logistical challenges, it's the cost of transport," Wallington said of doing business in the North, adding that he wants his company, which is the only commercial egg farm in the territory, to lead by example.
"These are the type of challenges we face across northern Canada and the circumpolar world. They are not singular to us."
Recently, N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod outlined his concerns about economic roadblocks in the territory, specifically supply management quotas.
Simply put, supply management dictates how and where agricultural products such as eggs, poultry and dairy are sold between provinces and territories. The system limits supplies, in theory, to maintain stable prices for farmers.
Wallington said the current supply management system works in his favour because it allows his current surplus — the eggs too small for the South, but too big for his current buyers — to be shipped, inspected and sold as generic eggs to places like British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
New northern markets
For the last few years, Wallington has worked with the Inuvik Community Greenhouse to get eggs into Paulatuk and Aklavik, N.W.T.
Pam Noland, chair of the Peel River Garden Society and the Aklavik Greenhouse co-ordinator, has lived in the community for 12 years.
She said the 144 egg cartons that arrived every week for six weeks have sold out every time.
"The taste was different — they were fresher — and people were really encouraged to support a northern business versus things always coming up from the further south," she said.
Noland sees the potential not just for egg sales, but for egg production in her community.
"If they put something here, even smaller-scale, it could bring jobs to Aklavik," she said.
"It seems like Inuvik gets jobs because it's a government centre and Tuk [Tuktoyaktuk] now having the road, but it just seems like Aklavik is enough off to the side that we don't get the jobs, and this might open up food security jobs."
Wallington said he continues meeting with grocery retailers and government, hoping his eggs will be in more local baskets in the next few months.