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New poultry abattoir signals revival of small farm in West Kootenay

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

For many people who suffered the loss of farm status when the meat regulations were introduced in BC in 2004, the recent announcement of a certified mobile poultry abattoir operating this year in the West Kootenay could be their saving grace.

Slocan Valley residents Judi Morton and Alex Berland have purchased the region’s first mobile poultry abattoir — a Canadian Food Inspection Agency-certified structure that will give small farmers the chance to sell local meat to local stores.

That hasn’t happened since meat regulations were changed in 2004, said Morton. The BC Meat Inspection Regulation forced a lot of small farmers in the West Kootenay to get rid of their herds of animals — with meat birds, cows, sheep and pigs all going the way of the dodo — since they could no longer process and sell them locally.

There used to be 14,000 meat birds grown annually for sale in the region from Nakusp to South Slocan, said Morton, but the regulatory change evaporated that to around 4,000 today.

People with farm status (see below) need to make a certain amount of money to retain that status so they depended a lot on selling animals like meat birds to keep that status intact.

Raising birds was really suited to small farm operations, Morton said, and that was the majority of the farms in the West Kootenay area. But most of those small farms could not afford to truck their animals great distances to a CFIA-certified facility and still make a profit on the sale.

So once they could no longer economically process and sell their animals locally it put huge pressure on farmers, said Morton, with many people ultimately losing their farm status — a designation that gives people a break on income taxes, vehicle insurance and gasoline, to name a few.

The abattoir will help many of those people get their farm status back now that they have the opportunity to sell birds locally in stores across the West Kootenay, she said.

“I feel there is a lot of pent up need for this, that it has just come pouring out,” she said. “People are just so excited that they can be producing again.”

The mobile unit will be ready April 15 and will do its first run in the Slocan Valley in Passmore June 9-10. There are three mobile docking stations in the region, including Salmo, Passmore, Silverton and Harrop.

The mobile unit will only be allowed to set up with a CFIA inspector on site at certified docking stations. A CFIA inspector from Cranbrook will be coming over to do the inspection.

CFIA is a federal agency that provides inspectors to any food processing unit. They have to inspect every bird alive beforehand and check every heart, liver and spleen from the birds afterwards.

Morton said the mobile unit now has a commitment of 5,000 birds, 1,000 short of the number they need to keep it viable and pay the seven staff members they will employ. However, Morton was confident they would easily fill that quota.

The cost will likely be between $4 to $4.50 to process the birds, with turkeys, geese and ducks worth more. The facility will also be able to process rabbits.

The unit can pull in farmers from Burton, Lardeau Valley, Fruitvale and Nakusp and everything in between in the central West Kootenay.

“We should be able to provide our own birds in this area,” said Morton, who has a small, mixed-use farm in Passmore. “We should be able to become sustainable in this area.”

For more information on the abattoir, contact Judi Morton at


Related stories

• For a story on where Nelson City council is at with the chicken bylaw, click here.


Farm status requirements

You just have to sell $2,500 to $10,000 of farm gate produce a year to qualify depending on the size of your lot.

In order to receive and maintain the farm class, your farm must meet the following criteria:

• If your land is smaller than 8,000 square metres (two acres), you must earn $10,000 from the sale of primary agricultural products.

• If your land is between 8,000 sq. m. (two acres) and four hectares (10 acres), $2,500 must be earned.

• If your land is larger than four ha. (10 ac.), $2,500 plus five per cent of the actual value of any farm land in excess of four ha. (10 ac.) must be earned from farming activity on the land.

Your minimum annual income will be calculated based on the farm gate prices of your agricultural products.

This income may be calculated for either of the last two years ending Oct. 31.

Primary agricultural products must be sold each year.

Crops grown for home consumption cannot be included as part of your minimum income.

Source: BC Assessment