Raymond Loo, innovative organic farmer, dies

Nigel
Nigel Armstrong
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Raymond Loo and his daughter Bridget gather some eggs from their free-range birds on the Springwillow Farm in Springfield in this 2011 file photo.

An inspiring leader of environment protection and organic farming on P.E.I. has died of cancer.

Raymond Loo (pronounced 'low') spent the spring and summer this year marvelling at the arrival, nesting and hunting of a kestrel on his family farm, said his wife Karen. He loved observing nature, sharing stories, and sharing his love of organic farming, she said.

He was also battling a rare cancer that begins in the adrenal glands above the kidneys. He had been diagnosed in early January this year.

Loo, 51, died Monday with his family beside him at the palliative care centre in Charlottetown.

Loo devoted his life to carrying on the farming legacy of the Haslam family that began in 1818 when the family settled and named the area of Springfield near Pleasant Valley.

His father Gerrit Loo came to Canada from the Netherlands in 1951 and married Joyce Haslam. Together they established Springwillow Farm which under Raymond and his family became a certified organic mixed farming operation that included potatoes, free range poultry, black currents, pigs, beef, grains and more.

Raymond was the fifth generation to farm the Haslam lands and his son Blake is working on details of how he will carry on with Springwillow farm as the sixth generation.

Loo took leading roles in organic agriculture and marketing. In 2007 he developed an export market to Japan using what was known as the value-chain business model, joining organic farmers with a processor and a buyer in Japan in a business called Anne's PEI Farm.

"A simple farmer, is what he always called himself," said Karen. "He wanted to show that you could be a simple farmer and still do business in other countries, just to show that you are only limited by how far you can dream.

"He liked new ideas. He liked challenges."

Raymond was a founder and president of the P.E.I. Organic Producers Co-Operative, a member of the  Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network, known as ACORN, and the Island representative on the Canadian Organic Regulatory Committee.

He also worked with the P.E.I. Environmental Network

In 2011 he was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, using it to study marketing agriculture products from islands.

Springwillow is a family business that sells its produce at the Summerside, Kensington and Charlottetown farmers markets where Loo developed a devoted customer base.

In 2012 Loo used the Internet-based crowd funding site Indiegogo to successfully expand the farm's herd of grass-fed beef. He aimed to obtain a certification for box sale of the organic beef.

Loo's wake will be Wednesday at the Davison Funeral Home, with funeral Thursday in the funeral home chapel.

He is survived by his wife Karen, and children Blake, Adam, and Bridget.

NArmstrong@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/NigelPEI

Organizations: Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network, Canadian Standards Association, PEI Farm P.E.I. Organic Producers Co Canadian Organic Regulatory Committee P.E.I. Environmental Network

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Japan, Springfield Pleasant Valley Canada Netherlands Kensington

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Recent comments

  • willy mertens
    September 20, 2013 - 16:33

    had the luck to spend some time on Raymonds farm in 2009 best wishes to the family

  • Travis
    September 20, 2013 - 12:45

    Sorry to have lost a former neighbour. I had actually just heard about it and was pretty shocked. My best wishes to the family

  • Cogsdale
    September 18, 2013 - 08:22

    Tribute

  • Lynne Douglas
    September 18, 2013 - 05:26

    We lost Raymond too soon. He was an inspiring leader and a lovely man. My sympathies to the wonderful Loo family.

  • Cathy Ryan
    September 17, 2013 - 12:22

    Raymond was nothing short of remarkable. I met him through a groundwater project in which he was quick to offer a wealth of information, sampling access, and a positive, hopeful attitude. Sending our thoughts and empathy to the extended Loo family from the University of Calgary and beyond.

  • Cynthia Barnes
    September 17, 2013 - 11:33

    Raymond was instrumental in getting the Summerside Farmers' Market started. He was wonderful to work with My condolences go to Karen, Adam, Blake and his daughter. He will be missed.

  • Scott Brown
    September 17, 2013 - 08:58

    Raymond was a great friend to me in PEI, taught me a lot about farming ,humility, faith and innovation. He was farming organically long before it was valued and appreciated. I have many fond and funny memories. I feel lucky to have known him.

  • Nancy Murphy
    September 17, 2013 - 08:13

    We have lost a generous, wise leader. Raymond was such an inspiration. My prayers are with you.

  • Watts, Weeks, Burgoyne family
    September 17, 2013 - 07:32

    Adam we send heartfelt sympathy to you and your family at this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you !

  • intobed
    September 16, 2013 - 21:48

    PEI has lost one of our great farmers, the kind the Island needs. Raymond was passionate about organic farming, and about PEI. I will miss our conversations Raymond. My sincere condolences to all of Raymond's family and friends.