Are you looking to learn more about Keenan Family Farms?
Located in Salmon Arm, BC, The Keenans may look like seasoned multi-generational farmers, but I’m here to share the inside story about how Keenan Family Farms in Salmon Arm was founded, how they have evolved, and what you can expect as a customer.
James and Chelsea Keenan arrived in Salmon Arm in 2017, with 4 kids at the time (and one on the way) and a dream of owning a farm. Their story is one of inspiration, ambition, and hard work.
Whether you’re new to buying meat from the farm or have been a customer for years, it’s always nice to get to know your farmer and where your food comes from. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how they transformed their life from being city slickers to first-time farmers, supporting their family and community every step of the way.
15 Things To Know About Keenan Family Farms
1. James and Chelsea Keenan Grew Up As City Kids
In 2016 James and Chelsea Keenan lived in Surrey, BC with their four children (four under six years old I may add). They lived the typical suburban dream, living in a beautiful home, two cars, a white picket fence…you get the idea. They also lived the lower mainland suburban reality, with both parents having to work, long commutes and extra hours to make ends meet, and less family time than they wanted. After a brief work stint in Alberta they realized that they could move away from family and be on their own, and the “seed” was planted for them to do just that… oh and also, start a farm!
2. They Started Keenan Family Farms in 2017
In 2017, they sold their Lower Mainland abode and traded in their postal code for a new home in the Yankee Flats area of Armstrong, BC. With 35 acres of unfarmed land, their reality was about to change!
3. They Are First Generation Farmers
While this couple often disagrees about whose idea it was to start a farm, it’s practically the only thing they don’t see 100% eye to eye on. While James is the carpenter, farmer, and main muscle behind the operation, Chelsea is the homemaker, marketer, accountant, homeschool teacher, and chief Mom at Keenan Family Farms. This powerhouse couple was brave enough in 2017 to ask “What if…?” and as they say, the rest is history.
Were their parents farmers? How did they learn to do all of this?
YouTube. Google. Instagram. Books. These first-generation farmers are research junkies with the perfect combination of “let’s learn about it” and “let’s just give it a try”. They’ve had a few bumps along the way but overall have been way more successful than they ever could have imagined.
My personal favourite insight was seeing how they built a network of FarmHERS on Instagram and were able to share knowledge, troubleshoot, and support each other, networking with farmers from across Canada and the US!
4. They Moved With The Only Expectation Of Meeting The Needs Of The Community
Once James and Chelsea had finalized their plans to move, we wanted to know what they envisioned for the farm. I distinctly remember Chelsea saying, “We won’t know what is needed until we get there” and they quickly set an ethos of wanting to provide what their Salmon Arm community needed. Once they were up there they started meeting with other families and farmers and quickly learned that food supply and security were needed in the area and they started their farm selling chickens and pork.
5. They Foster Ethical Farming
From day one, the Keenans have been passionate about the land that they live on and the animals that they raise. When they first purchased the farm in 2017, their land was covered in an invasive weed. Through some research and conversation with local agencies, the Keenans were able to use their animals (and their poop!) to replenish the land. (For example, the pigs are used to eat the invasive plants and then through their digging and droppings, they turn over and fertilize the soil.)
The animals on the farm live their best life and are raised on pasture, being able to roam free from cages. They eat only non-GMO, soy-free, corn-free food. In 2017, Keenan Family Farms became a certified Animal Welfare Approved Farm by A Greener World. This certification, allows consumers to know that the Keenan’s animals are raised, “outdoors on pasture or range, in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the US and Canada, using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent farm.” The care and life of the animals is of utmost importance to the Keenans.
6. 3000 Laying Hens Producing Farm Fresh Eggs Salmon Arm
In Spring 2023, Keenan Family Farms was awarded a quota for up to 3,000 laying hens through the B.C. Egg Marketing Board. This meant that they went from a few hundred chickens to a few thousand, in short order! This helped spread egg production out of the Fraser Valley and build momentum for more local food security initiatives. Over the year they transitioned from 399 laying hens to over 3000 in September.
Chickens on Keenan Family Farms in Salmon Arm can roam, exercise, dig for worms, and play! When you envision chickens living on a farm, this is what you expect and the result is farm-fresh eggs in Salmon Arm.
At Keenan Family Farms, chickens are free-range, ethically raised, fed non-GMO foods (with no corn or soy), using sustainable practices. I love buying their eggs knowing that my family is eating better quality food and that the animals who provided it have lived a very, very good life.
7. The Keenan Kids Attend Farm School (Like Home School Only Better!)
Their oldest son started kindergarten at home, being home-schooled by his parents, and he couldn’t be happier. Being able to work alongside his Dad, building everything from chicken coops to fixing machinery has been a little kid’s dream come true.
When he’s not in his Dad’s shadow he’s off working with Mom, on everything from egg science 101 to learning about the life cycles of food in the farm garden. The younger family members have since joined the family farm school and the kids all do their school work around the kitchen table and at their computers in the morning and then head out on the farm for the rest of the day.
8. The Keenan’s Have an Egg Mobile
In 2022 Keenan’s operation expanded to having its own Egg Mobile, allowing them to deliver eggs to local cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores, as well as home deliveries. If you get a chance to see it on the road, it pops out as one of the cutest little delivery vans ever! You are most likely to see it on its way to a local Farmers Market or making a delivery.
9. They Take Their Little Piggies To Market (Literally)
As grassroots as it gets, these Salmon Arm pork farmers can regularly be seen at the local community farmer’s markets, with freezers full of pork and refrigerators lined with farm fresh eggs. After 5 years of being at markets, it has been fun to watch them grow from selling at a table with a cooler and a small sign to a full-fledged operation, with tents and banners, and even branded freezers!
10. In 2023 They Expanded With Yankee Flats Meats
In September 2023 they announced that their business was growing again, and they had collaborated with two other couples to open Yankee Flat Meats.
“Yankee Flats Meats is a local abattoir and processing facility located just outside of Salmon Arm and Vernon. Our small business is run by two families, the Keenans (Chelsea and James) and the McKnights (Stuart and Teresa; Scott and Lydia).”
Together they share their passion for sustainable local food systems, agriculture, and community. “Having all been in the farming and meat processing industry to some capacity, we felt mutual understanding and concern for ourselves and local farmers being left without access to provincially inspected slaughter and processing.”
The mission of Yankee Flats Meats is to improve the accessibility of reliable and ethical slaughter and processing services in the community. As the newest licensed abattoir in Salmon Arm, they now offer slaughter and processes services as well as sell their own products which now include beef, pork, and poultry.
11. They believe in the 4th R…
Typically when we think of Recycling we think of reducing, reusing, and recycling. None of this is more evident on the farm, where no object is overlooked, and items are saved for a “when needed” situation, such as when a pig shelter needs to be made for a hot pregnant momma.
The fourth R is something that the Keenans excel at though, which is “Rethinking”. James and Chelsea are very critical of traditional marketing, media, and what society has tried to push us to think we need or want in life. Instead, they focus on the basics. Family. Love. Laughter. Teamwork. Quality Food. Health. Friends. With these things as their foundation, they are able to really focus on what matters and live a healthier, happier life.
12. They are InstaMazing
If you only do one thing after reading this blog, then please let it be following Chelsea on Instagram. She is utterly (pun intended) hilarious, sharing the behind-the-scenes wins and woes of what it’s like to be a first-generation farmer. Her wicked sense of humour and willingness, to be honest, are not only entertaining but educational. Tune into her Insta stories and you never know what you’re going to find… baby pigs being born still in the sac… yes. Pictures of her after she’s gone into town covered in poop… that’s there too! Follow her here.
13. Chelsea is an incredible FarmHER
Chelsea is a powerhouse, in more ways than one. Between raising five children, starting a farm, starting up a new business, moving 400km from home, and having over 250 other mouths to feed, she seems to do it all, with nothing but a huge smile on her face and a witty remark for when things go wrong. She makes following your dreams look easy, and I congratulate her on being willing to step outside her comfort zone and chase down something that is truly remarkable. It may not be for everyone, but it’s everything to the right one and she’s shown us what the power of a dream can really be.
14. The Kids Are As Free Range As The Animals
With forest and fields as far as little legs can run, a custom-built tree house, a trampoline, an outdoor pool, ride-on toys, bikes, swings, and more, the kids have their own theme park in their backyard. The city kid versus farm kid mentality really sunk in on our first visit when after unloading the car I told my kids to head out and play.
With a backyard that is literally 1000 times (or more) bigger than my own, the freedom to run around and play, ALL day, was almost overwhelming for my children to experience on our first visit to the farm in 2017. My kids felt the need to stay close to the house, “to be safe,” not even knowing what to do with all the space and newfound freedom that can only be found on a farm.
15. The Keenan’s Embrace A Simpler Time
Fresh laundry strung out on the line. Children running through the hills without shoes on their feet or a care in their minds. Friends who come for a visit, quickly grab a shovel and start helping out. It’s been inspiring to see the family slow down, reconnect with each other, deeply connect with the environment, and create, what I’m sure will be an amazing life for their children.
Do you want to learn more or order from Keenan Family Farms?
Where can you buy Keenan Family Farms Eggs?
If you live in Salmon Arm or are visiting the area you can get eggs at:
- Downtown Salmon Arm Farmer’s Market – Saturdays 9 am – 1 pm at Ross Street Plaza in Downtown Salmon Arm, Ross St NE, Salmon Arm, BC V1E 3B8
- Grocery Stores – You can now find Keenan Family Farms Products in All Askey’s Farms Locations, Blind Bay Village Grocer, and Sorrento Village Grocery.
Where can you buy Keenan Family Farms Pork?
Keenan Family Farms pork will now be sold under the Yankee Flats Meats label, which will also give you access to beef, and chicken, and I believe additional meats will be added in the future. Learn more and order online here.
What Restaurants use Keenan Family Farm Products?
The following restaurants have showcased their dedication to supporting local, ethical farming and proudly serve Keenan Family Products:
- Spinnaker Cafe
- Timber Shuswap
- Little Red Hen
- Flake Pastry
- Hartmann’s Bakery
Here are the top questions I always get about the family and their products:
Can I visit the farm?
The farm is an active farm and isn’t open to the public.
What’s the biggest challenge they have faced since leaving the city?
Chelsea says, “As a wife and a mom I’ve struggled to find the balance. In the city, I was a “homemaker”. And now on the farm, my house is the last priority. There are always piles of laundry and dirty floors. But I suspect that this city mentality of “keeping a perfect home” will fade soon enough. We are creating memories and learning lessons that can no way compare to sparkling floors and fancy cupcakes.”
Don’t they miss their family and friends?
The Keenans have been inundated with guests, whose visits often last for 2 – 3 days. So if you calculate the actual time that they are spending with their friends, they are spending MORE time with them now, than they did when they lived on the coast. The time is better quality and not rushed.
Don’t you feel bad eating food after meeting the animals?
No, and neither do our kids. We are meat eaters in our house and feel that protein is a valuable part of our diet. Our kids understand the lifecycle and specifically request food from their farm. I also like knowing that by choosing to support a local farmer I am choosing to consume animals that have been well loved and well cared for.
Is this a sponsored post?
James and I met almost 20 years ago when I met my boyfriend and now husband, Jason. Jason and James are pretty much inseparable, so getting to know my boyfriend at the time also meant spending a lot of time with James. Once Chelsea came along it was clear that it was a perfect match and shortly after came baby 1 through 5. James has always been an amazing friend to both Jason and me, and we couldn’t be happier to see him chase his dreams with his family. So while this may look like a sponsored post at times it is certainly nothing more than our family sharing another family’s amazing and inspiring story.