When Frank and Elma Pauls won the B.C./Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) award in 1990, young son Brian thought how cool it would be if he followed in their footsteps.
As it turns out, he did just that, and it’s very cool indeed.
“I remember going through the process with dad and thinking it would be really sweet to be part of that program one day,” says Brian Pauls. “We are the first-ever second generation regional winners in the OYF program, so that’s pretty special.”
Brian and his wife Jewel were recently named the 2016 B.C. & Yukon Outstanding Young Farmers. Based in Chilliwack, B.C., the couple runs a number of egg layer, broiler, turkey and field crop farms at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley and out of Saskatoon. While it might be described as a “multi-site business”, Brian says the term is misleading.
“It sounds like a massive entity covering tens of thousands of acres,” says Brian. “In fact, it’s more akin to one big farm on several sites.”
Still, it’s an impressive operation, especially when you consider how it started.
“When my dad was 15, my grandfather had a serious car accident, so dad quit school to keep the farm going and help his mom.”
Brian wound up working alongside his dad on the family farm before leaving to attend the University of British Columbia. Yet when his dad called and offered him a management role, he didn’t hesitate.
“I had dreamt of farming my whole life, so I thought about it for two seconds and then told him I was coming home. I’ve been farming here ever since.”
And while they say that hard work is its own reward, trophies are nice too.
“I was surprised and relieved by the award. When you start farming you don’t think ‘hey I’m doing this for the trophy’, but we’ve worked really hard and it’s great to be acknowledged for that.”
One reason for the Pauls’ success is their focus on continual improvement.
“We recently built new facilities that are more technologically advanced,” he says. “By installing LED lights, high efficiency ventilation and the latest in computer controls, we’ve lowered our environmental impact and our costs while becoming more competitive.”
They see that as a good start, but they aren’t stopping there.
“This year we started growing hops and built a hops processing plant. We’re also working to meet new consumer demands for specialty products like ‘cage-free’ and ensuring compliance with evolving animal care guidelines. As the marketplace changes, we need to change with it.”
Dealing with changing demands is hard enough; handling public misconceptions is even tougher.
“People think that what they see on TV or YouTube is true for the whole industry,” he says. “In reality, our barns are clean and our animals are well cared for. To feed a growing population we have to be cost effective, but that doesn’t mean we use added hormones and steroids or mistreat animals.”
For Brian and Jewel, countering those false images of agriculture is critical.
“I think the trendy term these days is ‘social license,’” says Brian. “In the end, it’s about building relationships and earning trust.”
Of course, the most important relationship is with family, something Brian knows only too well.
He and Jewel have been married since 2007 and have four children: Janae, seven, Brooke, five, Faith, three, and Kaden, one.
“Success in business is a high priority, but my number one goal is teaching my children how to work, how to live and how to love farming.”
Could there be a third generation award winner in the Pauls family?