Waldie David Klassen was born December 9, 1940, in Steinbach, Manitoba. Waldie was raised on the family farm and in 1961 he took over part of his parents’ chicken operation. In 1962 he married Levina Unger. They have two daughters, Debora and Andrea, and one son, Wesley.
Realizing that chicken farmers were at the mercy and whim of processors, Waldie shortly set about to make the business more stable and profitable for farmers. After extensive discussions with other chicken farmers about the problem with processors, Waldie became a leading advocate for an orderly supply management marketing system that would guarantee farmers a decent return. In 1968, after six years of leading the movement, the Manitoba Chicken Producers Marketing Board was formed and Waldie was appointed to its board of directors.
After guiding the industry through the birth of supply management in Manitoba and being instrumental in drafting marketing plans, regulations and orders to make the system viable, Waldie turned his attention to aiding other provinces to organize as a national system. In 1980, his tireless work led to the formation of the Canadian Chicken Marketing Agency (CCMA), the precursor to today’s Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC). Waldie was a director of the new agency and served as chair for three years (1991-94). In the 1990s, he was an integral part of the team that successfully defended all supply-managed commodities (chickens, table eggs, hatching eggs, dairy and turkeys) during the Uruguay Round of GATT trade negotiations.
Waldie was instrumental in the development and implementation of national cost-of-production benchmarks and the internationally recognized On Farm Food Safety Assurance Program, both of which are standards of today’s chicken industry. Thanks to the work by Waldie in food safety initiatives, CFC is the only Canadian commodity group to achieve Third-Party Recognition from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Waldie was the CFC’s first representative on the Canadian Poultry Research Council.
Chicken farmers in Manitoba and Canada, and the supply-managed commodities in general, are sustainable, viable industries because of the trail-blazing work of selfless individuals like Waldie Klassen. He served chicken farmers for 37 years on the board of Manitoba Chicken Producers, including 20 years as chair. He served on various committees of the Chicken Farmers of Canada for 24 years, with three years as chair. As a strong leader in the agricultural field, Waldie inspired many farmers to get involved in farm politics and work in the best interests of Canadian agriculture.
In addition to his contributions to the chicken industry, Waldie still found time to get involved in Keystone Agriculture Producers and locally as a municipal councillor, on Mennonite Brethren Church committees, the Steinbach Housing Authority and inter-denominational Youth for Christ initiatives.