Sophie, Fiona, and Beckett Campbell are prime examples of Island youth who truly understand where our food comes from.

Every summer the three siblings—Fiona and Sophie are both 10, and Beckett, 9—raise several dozen free-range chickens, as well as some laying hens in their chicken coop located in the backyard of their home in Glencoe, near Vernon River. This year is no exception, with the youth raising a total of 40 chickens plus eight hens that lay between six to eight eggs daily in total.

About five years ago the Campbells started small with a few laying hens, selling eggs to family and friends. It was a couple of years ago when they moved on to raising chickens for meat.

As Fiona explained, “We sell the eggs, get money from the eggs, and put it toward the chicken food.”

The dedicated youth are out each day gathering eggs from the hens and watering and feeding the chickens. And, of course, cleaning the chicken coop. “It’s very stinky,” Beckett points out.

And just like the eggs, at the end of the growing season the chickens are snapped up quickly thanks to word of mouth. Neighbours and friends, as well as colleagues of the youths’ parents (mother Colleen MacPherson is an occupational therapist and father Scott Campbell is a family physician) are eager to support their children’s ambitious enterprise.

The siblings have a keen awareness of the philosophy of knowing where their food comes from.

“We wanted to get our own eggs because we didn’t want to buy them [at the grocery store],” Fiona said.

“You get to eat fresh food,” added Sophie.

“They stay healthy so that we can eat them,” Beckett said in describing the positive effects of allowing the chickens to live free-range instead of being cramped in cages.

Fiona Campbell with one of the chickens she and her siblings are raising this summer Photo credit: David MacDonald

The siblings didn’t have to go too far for inspiration. Their mother Colleen is a major influence, plain to see when one visits the Campbell/MacPherson homestead and lays eyes on the large, well-tended garden. Everything from tomatoes, peppers, peas, onions, beets, and even blueberries, grapes, and blackberries are found in the garden, while a bounty of apples, pears, and other fruits grow from trees located nearby.

“My mom has a hobby farm just down the road,” Colleen explained. “That’s how I grew up. I grew up weeding the garden, watering and feeding the chickens and the cows. I never got paid for it or had a business like the kids do.”
The garden has been a 10-year labour of love for Colleen and her husband Scott. And while Colleen says it’s a bit of a struggle to keep the garden going due to both her and her husband’s full-time jobs, you wouldn’t know it from observing the splendid results. And, as Colleen points out, the garden thrives without the use of chemicals.

Besides getting enjoyment from raising chickens and hens, the youth also gain some business savvy and responsibility with money. Colleen says the three use a spreadsheet to keep track of expenses. And they make a bit of a profit, too–about $600 last season, in fact–that they put into their bank accounts, which they opened last year.

“We (divide) it into an even amount so we’d all get the same amount of money,” Beckett said.

The kids used their funds to help pay for a trip the family took this past spring, while Fiona and Sophie were able to buy some rabbits, and the accompanying rabbit cages, to raise as part of their 4-H program.

Colleen is happy to see her children continue the family tradition of growing one’s own food. “It gives them some responsibility for looking after animals. They get to understand where their food comes from…[and] we know what [the animals] are being fed.”