Taking on new challenges: poultry and hop farmers named Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers

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Raymond and Tracey Bredenhof, of R&T Poultry and Bredenhof Hops at Abbotsford, B.C. are one of the two winners chosen as Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2021.

The Bredenhofs operate a 40,000 broiler per cycle chicken operation in the Fraser Valley. Poultry farms are quite common for their area, but what’s less common is growing hops.

Part of what draws Bredenhof into hops is that they’re a challenge, says Raymond.

“We had some land that we weren’t using, so we had tried a number of things — we grew sheep on there for a long time, we grew some sweet corn, we tried some different things — eventually we decided to put in hops, which is the “spice” of beer, so it’s a very different industry than chickens of course, it’s a very intensive crop, very challenging,” he says.

Not only are hops an intensive crop, there’s also not a lot of regional knowledge for growing, processing, and marketing them. Bredenhof and a few others in the area had to start that knowledge-base almost from scratch, but part of what makes Bredenhof’s operation so successful is his willingness to be an early-adopter, and to be innovative.

Bredenhof’s knowledge as a heavy-duty mechanic has come in handy as he has built much (if not all) of his own processing equipment for his operation — a dryer, conveyors, balers, bale breakers, and a pellet mill have all gone up since he started in hops in 2015. Not to mention the primary end of things, hops require specialized cutting and harvesting equipment that can be difficult to operate and maintain.

Two major disasters have struck Bredenhof’s operation: a barn fire in 2020, where thankfully, no birds were present in the barn at the time; and most recently the devastating floods that swept across the Sumas Prairie on Nov. 14 and 15.

“We had 15 pick-up trucks in our yard, some of them even beat the fire trucks,” says Bredenhof of the fire in 2020. Neighbours really stepped up to help out during that time, and the same went for the flooding situation.

“Our farm was very mercifully not terribly affected by the flooding. The water did enter our property but didn’t encroach on the barns or the houses,” says Bredenhof.

This year’s Outstanding Young Farmers were named in a virtual event held December 1st to 3rd, 2021. Joining the Bredenhofs were Jenny Butcher and Wes Kuntz of Little Brown Cow Dairy at Brantford, Ont.

Catch the full conversation with Bredenhof and Lara de Moissac, below:

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