Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In remembrance of John Wilcox

“Our imperative now lies not in how to grow this or how to market that. What’s critical is a rebirth of BC farm Leadership. In BC, only one half of one percent of the province still farms, and our provincial government spending on agriculture, by percentage of GDP, is the lowest in Canada. We need new mortgage systems to enable investment in farmland. Using the Agricultural Land Reserve to grow our own food will never happen without such enabled investment – and such investment requires leadership.”
John Wilcox, Salt Spring Island farmer, farm leader and farm writer
     The farm community lost a prominent voice, strong leader, good friend and mentor when John Wilcox passed away on June 15th at age 72. John was a sixth- generation farmer/agronomist and agriculture school graduate who owned and operated Duck Creek Farm on Salt Spring Island with his life partner Sue Earle. Over the past twenty years, since moving the family farm from Ontario to BC, John was an active member and served on the boards of directors of several farm and conservation organizations.
      Active is perhaps an understatement. In a notice to all District "A" Farmers’ Institute members, Jenny McLeod, Secretary of District A said “He WAS District "A" Farmers’ Institute and our resident historian. He gave his all for farmers and farming and gave a voice to small scale farmers throughout BC. He was a founder of FARM Community Council and a real contributor to agriculture in BC.”
      John also had interests beyond our borders and was at the forefront of many initiatives. As a new graduate in 1961, he went to rural India as an agricultural volunteer and became a founding member of Canadian Volunteers Overseas, now Canadian University Students Overseas (CUSO). His current positions included membership in BC Farm Writers Association, Island Natural Growers and Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce. John was also a Conservation Partner with The Land Conservancy of BC. In 2007 John received a Life Time Achievement Award for Dedicated Service to Community Agriculture and District “A” Farmers Institute for his many years serving on boards for Islands Farmers Institute, Island Natural Growers, District "A" Farmers’ Institute, BC Federation of Agriculture, FARM Community Council, Investment Agriculture and the BC Agriculture Council.
      His crowning achievement was Duck Creek Farm, an organic market garden and biodiverse conservation area. He had to work hard, for many years, to earn the money to buy and develop the land into a viable, productive farm and home. His success as a farmer was recognized by the business community, as he was awarded the first ever Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce Home Based Business Award in 2006, and the Agricultural/Farm Business of the Year Award in 2011.
     For years John Wilcox wrote pearls of wisdom in his “Barn Side” column, prominently featured with his infectious smile on the editorial pages of the widely-read farm paper, Country Life in BC. His columns dissected government policies and actions, presented opinions and ideas, in essence not just thinking out loud but talking (or shouting) out loud to anyone who would listen. His style was all his own. The farmer-activist, who used his pen as his weapon, or tool, was vital in communicating to policy makers, other farmers and the public. His personal frustrations with the ever-growing counterproductive bureaucracies became the catalyst for his activism and his actions. His early working life included government positions in both Ontario and BC in the golden years of extension services for farmers, so he had a good idea of what farmers needed, and what government could provide.
       John was also known as “Johnny Canuck”, for his anti-Free Trade mission in 1988 highlighted by a cross-Canada round trip in a 1941 maple leaf-painted Chevy. It is so appropriate that his life will be celebrated on Canada Day, July 1st, at Fulford Hall, starting at 3 pm.
      John is survived by his brother, Jim Wilcox, daughter Lisa Wilcox, first wife Judith Stuart, daughters Samantha Wilcox and Emma Rubatscher (Jon), second wife Lynda Wilcox, stepson Dan Brooke (Erica), granddaughter Megan Brooke, partner Sue Earle, stepson Eland Bronstein and daughter Ella Bronstein.


  1. Thanks for writing this Barbara. I will see you on Salt Spring Island on Canada Day.

  2. I met John after meeting his daughter Lisa while travelling in Australia in 1996. He was a true force and has left his mark with me. A generous and honest man.

  3. I met John after meeting his daughter Lisa while travelling in Australia in 1996. He was a true force and has left his mark with me. A generous and honest man.