Local dairy farmers Gary and Marie Baars, who run TNT Hay Sales, have been named the 2017 BC and Yukon Outstanding Young Farmers (BCOYF).
After graduating from high school, Gary hung up a shingle as TNT Agri-Services, offering “relief milking and much more.”
In 2006, TNT Agri Services turned into TNT Hay Sales, as Gary started selling hay, first to local horse farms and then to local dairy farms.
Not long after, the young entrepreneur expanded TNT to include cattle sales.
When Farm Credit Canada offered him a large loan with “no strings attached” in early 2011, Gary used it to start his own dairy farm.
“I had enough money to buy quota for 15 cows,” he recalls.
Two years later, Marie’s grandmother asked if they would manage her 160-cow 80-acre dairy farm in east Abbotsford. The Baars agreed, on the condition they could buy it.
They amalgamated their small herd with her larger herd and have been steadily improving the facilities over the past few years.
Last year, they purchased additional hay-growing acreage in Greendale and joined with two partners to buy a 472-acre 100-cow dairy in Manitoba.
“We have already grown that farm by 20 per cent,” Gary says.
He has also served as a director of both the Mainland Young Milk Producers and the BC Young Farmers.
His entrepreneurial spirit even extends to his recreational activities. Gary and his father-in-law have begun holding cornfield races twice a year, inviting friends and neighbours to race beat-up cars on the farm.
The Baars beat out Jeremy and Tamara Vaandrager of Vaandrager Farms in west Abbotsford for the Young Farmers Award.
After managing several egg farms for other owners, the Vaandragers obtained a 3,000 bird quota in the 2010 BC Egg Marketing Board new-entrant lottery.
In the six years since, they have increased their quota holdings to 6,000 birds and are in the process of converting their farm from a free-run operation to an aviary.
“Aviaries have become common in Europe but it is still a relatively new system in North America,” Jeremy said.
The BCOYF program is sponsored by the BC Broiler Hatching Egg Commission, Clearbrook Grain and Milling, Farm Credit Canada and Insure Wealth.
To be eligible for the award, applicants must be under 40 and derive at least two-thirds of their gross revenue from farming.
They are judged on the progress in their agricultural careers, the sustainability of their farming operations and involvement in their industry and community.
The Baars will now represent B.C. at the national competition in Penticton in November.