Fourteen years ago, when he was all of 25, Trevor Farnes learned firsthand what it is like to have way too much month at the end of the money.
Trevor and his wife, Jenna, had just invested all their savings in a “can’t miss” franchise opportunity with a cellphone service company. Within three months, the company was out of business.
Overnight, hunger was at their door. Scrambling to work whatever jobs they could find to try and save their house and satisfy their debts, putting food on the table for their young family became a constant problem. Without assistance they realized they were in serious trouble. They found their way to the Bountiful food pantry, where they received discounts on groceries. On more than one occasion, they opened their front door to find sacks of food on the porch, dropped there by anonymous neighbors.
As recipients of this largesse, Trevor and Jenna made a vow to each other that they would never forget what it felt like to not have enough food for the next meal. Then they made another vow: If they ever pulled themselves out of their dire straits, they would help feed others as others had helped feed them.
That was over 3 million meals ago.
Today, Trevor Farnes is CEO and co-founder of MTN-OPS, a nutrition company headquartered in a historic building in Fruit Heights, on the east bench above Kaysville, that used to process cherries.
In the front of the store he sells supplements that help hunters, athletes and health-conscious people lose weight, acquire more energy, more stamina and less soreness, as well as MTN-OPS-branded athletic gear and merchandise — all of it representing just the tip of the iceberg of a made-in-Utah business that services thousands of clients online and can be found in such retail stores as Scheels, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and, starting next month, Walmart.
In the back of the store, in the part where they used to process the cherries, he stores pallets of food that MTN-OPS gives away with every order that it fills.
It all circles back, as successes often do, to failure — in this case the collapse of that sure-thing cellphone franchise back in 2007.
“I went in too fast,” Trevor says with 20/20 hindsight. “I didn’t consider the risks and we lost everything.”
Next time, he promised himself, he would start out smaller.
While thinking about what the next time might entail, he was also focused on his father’s heart problems.
Gary Farnes had already had one heart operation to insert three stents. He suffered from extremely poor circulation, and the doctors told him to expect to have open heart surgery in another five years.
Trevor read a book, “No More Heart Disease,” by Dr. Louis Ignarro, that extolled the virtues of nitric oxide in keeping blood vessels open.
In the hope that he could start a business to not only help his dad but also others, he met with a chemist to develop a supplement that would help the body distribute nitric oxide.
Within three days of giving him the supplement, his father started feeling the sensation coming back into his fingers and toes. (Twelve years later, a robust Gary Farnes, 82, is yet to have another heart operation.)
With loans from his brothers, Trevor financed 300 bottles of his supplement and began marketing them to doctor’s offices. The company Fenix Nutrition was born. By 2014 he was servicing more than a thousand doctor’s offices nationwide with a wide range of supplements he’d since developed.
Hoping to market his supplements to a wider clientele, Trevor reached out to a marketing firm run by Jordan and Casey Harbertson. The Harbertsons suggested hunters would be a good demographic to target. Trevor knew next to nothing about hunting, but he trusted the Harbertson brothers, who knew pretty much everything. Relying on their vision, in July 2014, Trevor joined with Jordan, Casey and Nick Hanks, the chief operating officer of Fenix, to found their company MTN-OPS, specifically targeting the hunting community.
Turned out, the Harbertsons were right. Hunters flocked to the product. So did athletes looking to improve their energy and stamina. One thing led to another to another, until one day Trevor looked up to realize he was managing a business with dozens of employees, a fancy headquarters with heads of trophy animals lining the walls (many of them harvested by him), and a nationwide reach that keeps getting bigger.
And oh yeah, feeds the hungry.
The day MTN-OPS opened, everyone agreed that at least one meal would be donated to the hungry for every order filled. It was the same commitment made at Fenix Nutrition from day one.
Well over 3 million meals have been delivered by the two companies. MTN-OPS alone has donated 2.8 million meals to date, with an expectation to be at 3.3 million by year’s end. Last year, when the pandemic significantly increased online supplement sales, the company delivered 1 million meals.
The donated meals include “pantry packs” that are handed out every Friday during the school year to 3,500 schoolchildren in Davis County; kids living in households below the poverty line who typically face empty cupboards on the weekend.
“That was once us,” says Trevor.
“It’s a major blessing, being in a position to be able to give back,” he says. “It’s a small part of what we do but the biggest part of who we are.”
At 39, he looks back with a different perspective to those dark days he and Jenna faced in 2007.
“I think the most defining moments in our lives, those moments that become our greatest education, are when we are facing difficulties and setbacks. It was in those moments my wife and I recognized we needed God and we needed each other more than ever. The pressure that’s put on us at times in life that might feel unsurvivable, it’s a privilege because there’s opportunity for traction and growth and awareness and compassion.
“We wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t been there.”