Established in 1989, Brown’s Bay Packing Company a pillar of the community of Campbell River, BC. Proudly owned and operated by Dave Stover and Don Millerd, their roots in the fishing industry go back a long way. In fact, through Don’s involvement, the family has been a leading contributor to the industry’s development for over 100 years.
The Millerd family’s historical connection was recently documented in a Raven Call video production, “Through the Gate: The Great Northern Cannery Story.” As the story goes, Don and his siblings were raised at the Great Northern Cannery(GNC) which, over time, grew to what is now known as West Vancouver. Their grandfather Francis Millerd was a visionary and an innovator who owned canneries in Knight Inlet and Rivers Inlet, amongst others. At GNC, Francis Millerd successfully created an inclusive community that was ahead of its time with respect to employing and housing new Canadians and First Nations. The result was a thriving, loyal workforce that would be flexible to social, economic and technological changes over time.
With this lifelong connection, Don developed a love of the B.C. Coast, spending his younger years in the camps and on the boats. Despite a brief career diversion to practice Law, Don’s love of the coastal waters prevailed, and he returned to establish his own salmon cannery in North Vancouver in the early 1980’s.
The Great Northern Packing Company (GNPC) employed over 100 people and was known for being a great place to work. That reputation helped attract employees but the respectful workplace helped retain them. With a staff made up of more than 50% First Nation members, GNPC followed in GNC’s footsteps as an inclusive employer.
As salmon farming was in its infancy back then, Don saw an opportunity to diversify the canning business during slower seasons. This was a benefit to the business in many ways including keeping the workforce steady throughout the year. From then, he became a true pioneer of live salmon processing. As salmon farming in B.C. grew, and moved further north, Don took the opportunity to expand the contract salmon processing business by building Brown’s Bay Packing (1989). He hired Dave Stover to manage the operation in 2002 and their partnership grew from there.
Later in the 1990’s, Don’s other businesses continued to grow with the evolution of salmon farming and, in 1996 he partnered with Stolt Sea Farm Inc. to build Englewood Packing Co. (Englewood) near the Vancouver Island town of Port McNeill. For some years, Don operated both the wild salmon plant and two farmed salmon plants. In 2000, he sold GNPC. In 2007, Marine Harvest purchased Stolt Sea Farm Ltd. and eventually, Englewood was closed.
While he’s now semi-retired, Don is still involved in the partnership with Dave at Brown’s Bay Packing Company. He and his wife Mary spend more time on land now than they do on the water. Their Pemberton farm is Don’s new love and he spends much of his time there with the cows, horses and herd of grandchildren.