Kieran Christison, manager of Daybreak Farms on Oct. 30, 2020. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)

Skeena Voices| Sunny-side-up

Kieran Christison takes a crack at the egg business

When Kieran Christison’s father, Ian, passed away in 2018, she dove head-first into the egg farming business without very much support. Now she is the manager of Daybreak Farms in Terrace.

Christison, 30, has always been a farmer. She grew up on Vancouver Island, where her father ran a 130-acre farm near Cobble Hill. It was a commercial egg farm with around 50 cows, 40 acres of potatoes and hay.

“It was a lot of fun, it was dirty and we always had pets, it was a lot of fun,” Christison said. “I always knew I wanted to be a farmer, I always loved the cows and I always had a steer as a pet.”

In 1991, when Kieran was one-year-old, her father saw what is now Daybreak Farms for sale in the newspaper. He had no idea where Terrace was and had never visited northwest B.C. After “a little adventure” to Terrace, Ian Christison purchased the farm with a partner.

“As I got older, my dad bought the partner out and we got more involved in the business. My dad was coming up here more often so I was having to take care of the chickens and the farm back in the Island so that was not so much a wake up call but it was like a ‘okay, I don’t mind doing this, I can get up, go check the barn,’ it was kind of a leisurely schedule,” she said.

She was around 14 when she decided she wanted to be an egg farmer, in contrast to her older brother and sister who did not have much interest.

She moved up to the Northwest in 2010, living in Smithers for three years before deciding it was time to be at the farm in Terrace.

“The realization was like ‘yeah, this is what I want to do, I want to take this from being a farm to being a business, to being an empire eventually,’” she said.

“I saw that vision early on and it’s kept me working, driving to eventually get there.”

Seven years later, Daybreak Farms is a unique agriculture business, with products sold at large retailers like Save-On-Foods and Walmart. Unlike most egg farms, Daybreak Farms does everything in-house, from production to grading to marketing.

“We have to be that way because we are so far removed, the closest grading station is Abbotsford so we are pretty remote. Probably the closest egg farm is someplace like Salmon Arm down in the Okanagan,” she said.

The farm mills its own feed with grain from the Prince Rupert port and adds fish meal and fish oil.

“That gives our eggs a little bit of a unique flavour and colour that adds to it, so that’s what makes Daybreak eggs a little bit more unique.”

She said that omega makes the birds a little bit healthier, gives the eggs more omega content. Without the mill it would be very expensive to ship feed up to the northwest and would raise the price of eggs in the store.

Being a food producer in an isolated place took on a whole new meaning for Christison when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The demand for eggs was like nothing she had ever seen before, driven by consumers concerned about the pandemic. Food security and the importance of local agriculture was something her father instilled in her at a very young age living on Vancouver Island, which she compared to the northwest — it can be cut off from the rest of the province at any time.

“If Highway 16 gets cut off in any way we are completely vulnerable, so it’s having the farms here and having the diversity up here to feed ourselves is such a passion of mine and I really want to move forward with that,” she said.

“We would have been just left out to dry if we didn’t have Daybreak here supplying this area with food, we are the only agriculture up here that supplies the area, we are so insecure in terms of food security it’s kind of scary.”

Christison herself was somewhat isolated and vulnerable when she took over management of the farm without a lot of support. She quickly realized she had no idea how to run a business.

“It’s all a challenge, it’s all new to me, I haven’t managed anything before, like I said I’m just a farmer so managing people, I don’t have that experience and I’m more of an introverted kind of person so that’s a big challenge for me,” she said.

“I did think about doing business courses and there was a professor in town and he said ‘why? You are doing it, so you are going to come across these challenges but you are not going to learn that in school.’”

As a manager, Christison is more focused on the business side of the farm these days, and she spends a lot of time doing errands, replying to emails and helping staff with assorted tasks. She enjoys interacting with customers and the public, answering questions about the process and sharing information about eggs.

But she still loves being hands-on, getting out and helping on grading days twice a week.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, eggs are loaded onto rollers where they are washed and dried. Then they are back-lit so their internals and shell can be inspected. Finally, the eggs are weighed and dropped into a packer.

“It’s very busy, it’s a processing facility so you always want to keep it going and the faster you can get those eggs pumped through the earlier your day is, so it’s a lot of fun.”

“I really do love the farming part of it, I love getting in with the birds and actually seeing my flock, I love the free run, so you can walk through your flock and check them out, you can check the health of them, check out the eggs. A good quality egg, you pick up and you feel it, you kinda try to squeeze it a bit seeing the quality of it, crack it open and seeing the nice dark colour and the high yoke and seeing the quality of the egg and that’s always very satisfying.”

Christison has some goals for the future of Daybreak Farms, like transitioning to a cage-free farm with zero waste. That would mean switching from Styrofoam to pulp cartons and composting manure, any broken cartons, cracked or bloody eggs and deceased chickens. She hopes that Daybreak Farms will become a household name in the north and that she can be an inspiration for other young women while advocating for the northwest to become more food secure.

“We are a family-owned company, it’s a female run company, my mom owns it, I manage it and we have a very close family friend that is our accountant so we are a very tight group,” she said.

“I’m 30, I’m female and I run this farm on my own and it’s totally doable.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

Haleigh Callison during a photo shoot for the Toronto Furies when she played professionally in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. (File photo)
Former Smithereen frustrated with COVID-deniers following horrific bout with the disease

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

India farm protest Dec. 1 2020 (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
Demonstrators gather in Terrace to support farmers in India

Many farmers are protesting changes to Indian agriculture law

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Terrace RCMP have arrested Kenton David Fast, who was unlawfully at large. (Terrace RCMP Photo)
UPDATE: Terrace RCMP arrest man who was unlawfully at large

Kenton David Fast was arrested on Dec. 1, 2020

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

Most Read