"I think the thing that makes us special is that our farm-gate meat business grew out of a simple desire to provide better meat for our family. I was fed up with high-intensity commercial poultry farming... slowly I started to section off parts of my barns to raise chickens longer, with more air flow, natural light cycles and all natural grain feed. I stopped using antibiotics and super feed and found myself the best air-chill processor in Ontario. At first I produced enough for my family. Then our friends began to request that I grow for them as well. Word travelled and soon people from all over the region began buying meat from us."
- Paul Kent, owner & operator
My parents, Roza and Paul Kent Sr., purchased our family property back in 1956. An immigrant couple from Romania and Hungary, they put their hearts and souls into building a new life in their new country.
My father built our chicken barns with his own two hands, doing the majority of the construction work himself. He completed his first two-story barn in 1958, adding a three-story expansion in 1963 and again in 1968. His final barn was built in 1984.
Over the years, my dad ran a thriving industrial poultry operation under the supervision of the Ontario Chicken Producers Association and Marketing Board.
My beloved mother, Roza was known for her generous hospitality. There was not a chicken catcher or delivery man that was not invited into her kitchen to receive hearty home-cooked meals. When Mom passed away in 1982, the wake was a three-day event, the menu was according to her explicit instructions and the cars lined the property, spilling out down the road half a mile each way, on both sides. It is fitting today that our business continues to open its doors to the community, providing products that reflect our love of good foods and good friends.
I took over the poultry operation in 1978, which at the time was producing approximately 250,000 chickens (just over a million pounds of meat) per year. As the markets began to shift in the 1980's, I began to experiment with more wholesome, less industrial chicken operation.
I began converting sections of our barns to grow chickens for longer periods on an all-natural, 100% vegetarian grain feed. I opted for natural light cycles (as opposed to the industry standard high-intensity continual lighting) and gave the chickens lots of extra room to move about. Soon I found that I no longer needed antibiotics or drugs, and with making the switch to all-natural processing we became the leading provider of chemical free meats in Niagara. I also began to air-chill my birds, something that almost no one at the time was doing.
The product was so delicious that I began to grow more and more. I first began selling to friends, and then friends of friends and soon across the entire Niagara Region. Our good family friend, Nancy Broerse became my right-hand sales lady, and for years was known simply as "Nancy, the Chicken Lady." Together we built a thriving small-town business centered around the concept of a farm-gate to table product.
That's me, as a boy circa 1960. I am standing in the field that today houses our special events catering park.
In the early nineties, I set up a local catering company, originally as a way to showcase our poultry products alongside Niagara regional wines and produce. For years I maintained my small, retail chicken operation. The catering business grew rapidly and quickly became our main industry, with Kent Heritage Farms running on the side to customers in the know.
It wasn't until 2008, my youngest daughter Rebecca joined our team and together we decided to reinvest in our roots and revitalize our Retail Sales Business. Working side by side, we worked as a father-daughter team focussing our energy on reestablishing Kent Heritage Farms as the leading supplier of air-chilled, drug-free premium poultry and local drug-free beef and pork.
By 2012, the wholesale sector began to take notice of our thriving farm-gate to table business. To accommodate the growing demand for wholesale services, we reinvested on a grand scale, fully renovating our St. Davids facility in 2014. A massive undertaking, Kent Heritage Farms OMAFRA certified facilities are a poster child of cleanliness, safety and efficiency.
Now we are a small but mighty cryovac packing house, complete with industrial catering kitchen. We look forward to what the future holds with great hopes and dreams for the next generation, my grandchildren.