There are plenty of articles out there about the death of the family farm as big corporations take over the agricultural sector. Thankfully, for the residents of Salmon Arm and its surrounding areas, the Keenans chose to ignore them as they packed up their suburban life in Surrey, BC and bought their 35-acre farm.
Being able to spend more time with their growing family of five children was one of the biggest reasons why Chelsea and James Keenan decided to make the big move. As first-generation farmers, choosing to lead a simpler life was not exactly easy but what they lacked in experience they more than made up for with a can-do attitude and innovation.
Starting with pigs and chickens, the Keenans have slowly started expanding their livestock for a myriad of reasons. For example, a large part of their property was covered in sulphur cinquefoil, an invasive weed that chokes out much of the other growth. The Keenan’s solution? A mixed flock of hair and wool sheep to chomp away at the unwanted plants and act as a biological weed killer.
Sustainability is a topic that is close to their hearts as is animal welfare. Their pigs are pasture-raised which means they get to spend all their time outdoors eating fresh grass and roots. In case you’re wondering, the pigs do have shelters but typically prefer to spend their time outdoors – typically grabbing a snooze under a tree.
Animal welfare and customer demands go hand in hand. The Keenan Family Farm is Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World which is the only label that guarantees animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range for their entire lives on an independent farm using truly sustainable, high-welfare farming practices. For customers who avoid a soy and corn diet for a variety of reasons, the Keenans ensure that their animals are only fed on non-GMO feed. Apart from giving their animals a high quality of life, pasture-raised pigs also provide a much higher quality of meat. Their drove of heritage breed pigs includes Berkshire, Tamworth, and Duroc breeds that are known for their rich quality of meat.
Their laying hens are given the same luxuries as their pigs. They are allowed to range-freely and feed on grass, bugs, and all the good stuff nature has in store for them. Being exposed to the sunlight makes a huge difference too. Their bodies store huge amounts of vitamin D which is naturally passed on to their eggs making sure that whoever eats them gets their share of this beneficial vitamin too!
One of the areas the Keenans really excel in is getting their farm-fresh produce to their customers’ doorsteps. Keeping up with the times, where customers are used to placing their orders online or on their phones on the go, the Keenan Family Farm established its online store long before Covid hit. While you can still say “hello” in person at the Downtown Salmon Arm Farmers Market on Saturdays, you can order pork and eggs online as well with scheduled weekly deliveries in Salmon Arm, Lower Mainland, Vernon, Coldstream, Lake Country, and Kelowna. Weekly deliveries make it easy to order exactly what you need without worrying about an overflowing freezer.
Owning and running your own farm isn’t easy and the Keenans are quick to point this out. Although their wide smiles belie all the hard work they put in. They’ve had their shares of ups and downs since the farm started – from a couple of failed crops to a challenging climate for medium-sized meat producers. Forging a network of friendships with like-minded farmers has helped them share information and learn throughout the entire process. Enthusiastic about sustainability, the Keenans are happy to share their practices with anyone who wants to learn more. For those who want to really get involved in their day to day lives, Chelsea documents the many things that happen at a family-run farm on her Instagram account.
Ask if they regret giving up a comfortable suburban life to the trials and tribulations of running a farm and home-schooling their kids and you’ll find no regrets – being able to spend time together as family and growing their business while simultaneously contributing towards maintaining the sustainability of our land is what makes it all worthwhile.