The Island has lost one of its most devoted and staunch supporters of farming, Colin Springford.
Springford, who with wife Diane turned a hobby into a 225-acre ethical farm business, Springford Farm, died on Jan. 17 at the age of 75.
“Always a farmer at heart, he passed away this afternoon exactly where he wanted to be, at home on the farm with his dog by his side,” read a statement released by Springford Farm on its Facebook page, which was filled with hundreds of messages of condolence.
“He will be deeply missed, always loved and never forgotten.”
Springford was born in 1945 in Sidney, where his parents operated a small hand-milk dairy farm and where he developed his passion for farming and gardening. At age eight, he talked his father into plowing up some land so he could have his own vegetable garden. He nurtured his love of flowers when he worked at Butchart Gardens for six summers as a student.
From 1948 to 1961, the family ran The Maples, a small country grocery store in Brentwood where Springford also learned about customer service. After completing school, he worked in a bank and then in construction before starting farming with his wife as a hobby on their 10-acre property on Blower Road in Parksville in 1979.
The hobby got “out of hand” and eventually it grew into the beautiful, thriving family farm now operating on Northwest Bay Road in Nanoose Bay. It is well-known as a mixed farm operation with dairy and beef cattle, broiler chickens, turkeys and free-range egg production.
Springford built a reputation as a big supporter of food production and agriculture in the region. He was involved with the Coombs Farmers Institute as its past president and was also a member of the Arrowsmith Agricultural Association.
Janet Thony took over Springford’s position as president eight years ago and described him as a very determined and driven person you could always count on.
“One of the hardest-working people,” said Thony. “Always ready to help out. Very dependable when it came to some of the events that we hold every year. You could always count on Colin to be at the planning meetings and actual work days. You don’t have to worry about it if the job gets done right.”
Thony said Springford also supported people entering agriculture and was a strong advocate of local food production.
“The Springford family is probably one of the well-known examples here in our region of well-done local agriculture,” said Thony.
Leon Cake credited Springford for helping him build his business, Four Star Waterworks. He rented a property from Springford, who Cake said went out of his way to open the land for them to start their business. They were friends for more than 35 years.
“I have known him since I was 20. I am 65 years old now. He was my landlord,” said Cake. “He always treated me like a son in some ways. We had that relationship. He was a strong businessman, he was fair and precise. He was one of those people when you meet him, you know right away he is a gentleman. When he put out his hand and shook it, that was the deal.”
Louise Tyler, who owns the Parksville Bottle Depot, said Springford played a key role 25 years ago in helping her develop her current business.
“I was just a single mother with four children,” said Tyler. “I started my bottle depot in a small trailer. He liked my idea and he helped me out. He built this building and leased it to me. He was a wonderful friend, gentleman with a kind heart. I will surely miss him.”
Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville and District and Qualicum Beach Chambers of Commerce, knew Springford not only through the chamber but also other business and community endeavours.
“He is another great community person who has now left us,” said Burden. “He was real. You know exactly where you stood with Colin all the time. If he had a problem he’d come and talk to you about it. No politics. He was straight up. What you see is what you get. And I really love that.”