Raymond Loo, innovative organic farmer, dies

Nigel Armstrong NArmstrong@TheGuardian.pe.ca
Published on September 16, 2013

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.

©Guardian photo by Jim Day

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.