I love this picture of Raymond. He is at home. He has that look on his face. In his hands is what he grows. He is in his work clothes. And I weep as I see the picture because I will never see him again in the flesh.
But my feelings of sadness are tempered by my feelings of hope.
You and I can use many lessons from his life to affirm what he lived and worked for. Continuing his work can be our best tribute.
Raymond was both a revolutinary and a traditionalist. He had such pride in continuing to work the Haslam family farm. He was rooted in the place. But he saw a different way of being a farmer. This new vision was more than being an organic farmer - it was based on the totally revolutionary idea of selling what he grew directly to people. It was based on having direct, personal relationships with the people who bought his food.
THIS is at the core of the food system that will eventaully replace the impersonal and industrial system that we all endure now.
We will look back at Raymond and see that he was among the first to break away from the industrial system. He pioneered many of the processes that we will all take for granted.
He sold direct and in person. The result was that he gained an insight into what people really needed. He saw that they trusted him. So he made quality and care the core of his being. For when you look into the eye of your customer and see their trust in you, what else can you do?
He never aimed to get rich but neither was he a prisoner of the debt and external pressure that industrial farmers were. He aimed to be free!
So he had time and the energy to innovate. He, as an individual, explored new markets and new ways. He would travel on his own to places like Japan and find his own way to new markets. Industrial farmers cannot do this.
With real relationships he could make the revolutionary move of financing his new herd by asking his customers for help. He was the first farmer in Canada and maybe in the world to do this. He was on his way to be truly free.
Raymond gave all the time.
Raymond ran a farming school. He did not call it this but that is what he did. Every year he had "students" work as Woofers with him. How many people have learned how to farm and sell like this over the years? Many I am sure. What a teacher he was!
Raymond was tough. For years other farmers and officials laughed at him. He put up with their laughter and sniggering and remained always the gentleman. Raymond will have the last laugh from beyond the grave. But knowing the man, even then he will not laugh at their suffering. For that is not the man he is.
How can we honour him? We can support his family and we can build on his legacy.
Here is how I see his legacy. This is the Raymond Loo model that we can all build on.
- Direct - farmers will sell to people and have real relationships with their customers
- Vegetable and meat based - the market for row crops will diminish and the market for vegetables and meat that can be trusted will explode. More and more people will understand the health choices that they are making
- Customer Financed - With real relationships based on a common vision of health and quality, farmers will move away from bank finance.
- Small Scale - Raymond used no more than 5 acres for most of his production - other than his feed. The future of food will be small growers working in large networks.
- Constant improvement of the soil and terrain - How Raymond farmed builds soil quality. He leaves a much better capital base than he inherited.
- A better PEI - My sense is that his life will inspire more and more people to join this movement. When 15% of PEI do this, the system will tip.
When the tears stop and the hole in our hearts fills back in, as they will, then the work begins. If you grieve, then please act. Build the new system in his memory.
Here he speaks from beyond the grave: