Manitoba’s pork industry has had many champions over the years, but few as dynamic as Bill Vaags, who passed away last week at the age of 82, leaving a hole in numerous lives and a deep legacy for the pork industry.
Bill’s career as a pork producer began in the early 1960s, and with his family he built a progressive, sustainable hog operation that at one time was one of the largest in Manitoba. Always active in the industry, he was a director at Manitoba Pork for 37 years, 11 of those as chairman, and president of the Canadian Pork Council for five. He was heavily involved in the global pork trade, president of Canada Pork International for six years, and an active participant in the creation of NAFTA. To honour and acknowledge Bill's contributions to agriculture, in 2006, he was inducted into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame, and in 2010, Manitoba Pork presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
To say that everyone in the Canadian pork industry knew Bill Vaags may be an exaggeration, but not by much. He had a way about him that drew people in and made them feel that their opinions mattered.

To me, Bill was a colleague and friend, and most importantly, a mentor. He taught me that in our sometimes maligned industry, diplomacy is essential and that it is crucial that producers always present themselves well and with pride. He also taught me the value of consensus. Manitoba Pork’s board of directors is the most diverse group of its type in the country, and Bill knew that a united front was necessary to get an effective message out to governments and the public.
With Bill’s passing, the Manitoba and Canadian pork industries lost a very good friend, and I am sure many producers would say one of their best.
George M. Matheson
Chair, Manitoba Pork