Farming has been a way of life for generations of Abbotsford families, and some of the region’s best young farmers are being singled out for their contributions to the industry.
Kerry Froese is a second-generation farmer, currently operating a 148,000-strong chicken flock on Harris Road with his wife Anita and their children. Anmol Mahil, 24, grew up on his parents’ blueberry farm and has followed in their footsteps and is now running the operation.
The Froeses and Mahil were two of four finalists for the B.C. and Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer Award, which judged nominees on conservation practices, production history, financial and management practices, and community contributions.
Both are passionate about the industry and enjoy the challenges and benefits of their chosen profession.
For Froese, there’s no better way to provide for his family.
“It’s in my blood,” said Froese, who began managing farm operations in 1995. “I love the lifestyle and I want to pass it on to my kids.”
Froese and his wife Anita have four children under the age of eight, and said “being able to drive ATVs and work with [my children] outside” resonates strongly with him.
In addition to the personal satisfaction of his work, he has worked hard to help others.
In 2008 he helped found the B.C. Young Farmers, which informs, educates and networks young farmers with one another.
In 2010, Froese was elected to the board of the Canadian Young Farmers Forum, where he has served as president for the past two years. This role has also made him the voice of young agriculture to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. In 2013, Froese was elected to the B.C. Chicken Marketing Board, and spent eight years (two as president) with the B.C. Chicken Growers Association.
Technologically, Froese has moved his farm forward with the installation of remote-operated cameras which enable him to watch his flocks and make certain adjustments, such as barn temperature, from anywhere.
Modernizing farming can result in a more efficient operation and save money, something Mahil has been working towards on his family’s blueberry farm, which was established in 1986.
Mahil was also raised on his family’s farm, and originally went to school for business, but felt drawn to farming and switched to the agriculture technology program at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he is still enrolled.
Once he took over as operations manager at Mahil Packers, he transformed the farm’s methods of production, marketing and customer base. His duties include developing and maintaining branding, managing the entire production and packing process, and marketing the berries.
Mahil, 24, speaks highly of UFV and its recent work to help promote agriculture and increase the public’s interest in the industry.
Judges for the Outstanding Young Farmer Program were in Abbotsford Jan. 16 to judge Froese’s and Mahil’s efforts.
The winner was announced later that day and presented with the award during a ceremony in Abbotsford. The title went to Lydia Ryall of Cropthorne Farm in Delta. She will now represent B.C. at the national Outstanding Young Farmers competition this fall.
The other finalist was Chilliwack’s Jacqueline and Richard Boer.