ARMSTRONG – The idea of seeing their children grow up to pursue dairy farming as a viable career was John and Candice Riemersma’s core motivation in applying for the BC Milk Marketing Board’s New Entrant Program.
It also won the couple a spot among the three families selected as finalists in this year’s program, which the board announced on July 21.
John is a second-generation producer who grew up on his family’s dairy farm in Agassiz with parents Pier and Fennalies and brother Simon.
While he enjoyed working on the family’s farm, John had another passion: sport. So, in 1995 at the age of 18, he left the farm to attend Briercrest College and Seminary in Saskatchewan. John played varsity volleyball and completed a degree in sports administration. He also met his future wife Candice and after graduating the couple moved to Alberta where John completed a Bachelor of Arts and Kinesiology degree at the University of Lethbridge, and Candice achieved a Bachelor of Education.
Back home in Agassiz, his parents sold the original farm and moved to Armstrong to start another dairy operation in 2010.
Two years later, John and Candice planned to make a short visit to Armstrong to help Pier and Fennalies transition the farm to Simon. The couple and their four children – Cash, 14, Mila, 11, Lucy, 9, Remington, 6 – have been helping on the farm ever since.
While John and Candice had a long-term vision for themselves in the world of athletics, their family and the farming lifestyle have brought the couple back into the dairy sector.
“The coaching world is pretty tough,” John says. “You’re gone lots and away from the whole family. So, we decided to come to the farm thinking that we can farm together as a family and have our kids involved.”
Working hard, seeing the job through and overcoming adversity are some experiences the Riemersmas bring to the table.
“Sport, team and training experiences prepare you very much for many things in life. As much as it seems very different from agriculture, there are a lot of correlations,” Candice says.
“One good parallel is that it takes a lot of time to have success. You’re going to have more failures along the way and with the failures, people can quit, or they can see them as opportunities to learn and grow.”
The couple currently lease buildings and land from John’s parents and look forward to fulfilling the 31 kilograms of quota offered through the NEP. For now, they are absorbing as much knowledge as possible.
Throughout the application and interview process, the couple have toured multiple farms and asked a lot of questions.
Overall, the family is excited to get going on this new endeavour.
“I think Canada’s history of generational farms is so amazing and I think we are losing it really quickly,” Candice says. “The possibilities of my children being able to take over or grow, expand, diversify, whatever they want to do, is super important to us.”
The other two finalists also bring family experience in the dairy industry to their plans.
Douglas Groenendjik, a third-generation farmer from Chemainus, looks forward to starting an operation in the Cowichan Valley.
“I’m quite excited to give it my best go. I learned a lot from my parents, and my parents are great dairy farmers themselves, but I want to see what I can do by myself with their mentorship and other people in the industry’s mentorship,” Groenendjik says.
Michael and Gina Haambuckers look to turn their dream into a reality in the Fraser Valley. Michael has worked in the genetics industry for the last decade and Gina works as a herdsperson on her parent’s 65-head dairy in Agassiz.
The couple are most looking forward to “going through the process of building something for ourselves,” Michael says.
The new entrants have until December 31, 2023, to start production, qualify for the program and receive incentive quota from the board.