ABBOTSFORD ‚Äď After graduating from high school, Gary Baars hung up a shingle as TNT Agri-Services, offering ‚Äúrelief milking and much more.‚ÄĚ On January 11, that ‚Äúmuch more‚ÄĚ made the now 33-year-old Chilliwack dairyman, hay salesman and cattle dealer and his wife, Marie (26), the BC & Yukon Outstanding Young Farmers for 2017.
In 2006, TNT Agri-Services became TNT Hay Sales as Baars started selling hay, first to local horse farms and then to local dairy farms.
‚ÄúWe sell a lot of hay to different dairy farms,‚ÄĚ Baars says.
Not long after, the young entrepreneur expanded TNT to include cattle sales. When Farm Credit Canada offered him a large loan with ‚Äúno strings attached‚ÄĚ in early 2011, Baars used it to start his own dairy farm.
‚ÄúI had enough money to buy quota for 15 cows,‚ÄĚ he recalls.
Two years later, Marie‚Äôs grandmother asked the Baars to also manage her 160-cow 80-acre dairy farm in east Abbotsford. They agreed, on condition they could buy it.
‚ÄúWe amalgamated our small herd with her larger herd and have been steadily improving the facilities,‚ÄĚ Baars reports.
His entrepreneurship did not stop there. Last year, he purchased additional hay-growing acreage in Greendale and bought a 472-acre 100-cow dairy in Manitoba with two partners.
‚ÄúWe have already grown that farm by 20%,‚ÄĚ Baars says.
He has also served as a director of both the Mainland Young Milk Producers and the BC Young Farmers.
Baars‚Äô entrepreneurial spirit extends itself to his recreational activities. Twice a year, Gary and his father-in-law hold Cornfield Races, inviting friends and neighbours to race beat-up cars on the farm.
To earn the 2017 award from judges Rick Thiessen (2004 BC & Canadian Outstanding Young Farmer), Mark Sweeney (retired BC Ministry of Agriculture berry specialist) and Kurt Bausenhaus (partner in KPMG Abbotsford), the Baars outpointed Jeremy and Tamara Vaandrager of Vaandrager Farms in west Abbotsford.
Vaandragers close second
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.
They have since increased their quota to 6,000 birds and are in the process of converting their farm from a free-run operation to an aviary.
‚ÄúAviaries are common in Europe but still relatively new in North America,‚ÄĚ Vaandrager notes.
Gary and Marie Baars will represent BC at the national OYF competition to be held in Penticton in November.