Every year, the Gerrit Loo Memorial Achievement Award is given to an outstanding organic advocate and / or farmer who has contributed significantly to the organic industry in Atlantic Canada.
The winning nominee will be presented with the award at the Celebratory Banquet.
The Gerrit Loo Memorial Achievement Award is handed out annually at the ACORN Conference to the person who has contributed significantly to the organic industry in Atlantic Canada. NOTE: current ACORN directors and past recipients are not eligible.
Gerrit Loo (January 28 1928 – January 19 2001)
Gerrit was born on a farm in Waggingen Netherlands. After surviving World War II he was drafted in the Dutch army and sent to Indonesia to fight in their war of independence. In 1951 he immigrated to Canada and settled in Prince Edward Island, where he bought a farm and, with his wife, Joyce raised seven children.
Gerrit had an abiding love of living things. He was especially interested in heirloom varieties of vegetables and farm animals. Although he had no formal training in plant genetics he understood the principles of plant breeding and collected his own seed, always carefully selecting for superior characteristics. In the 1970s he and his twin Evert began to experiment with potato breeding and became interested in breeding for disease resistance. Eventually they developed Island Sunshine and after a long process of field trials it was registered as a new variety in 1995. This was a very proud moment for him. Island Sunshine has several characteristics that make it a good organic cultivar.
Gerrit and Evert continued the plant breeding program until both became ill. Evert passed away in April 1999. Like many farmers, Gerrit also worked off the farm at various times during his life. Experience with production of frozen foods lead him to be hired by Seaspray Farms Organic Cooperative in the early 1990s to assist in the development of a line of frozen vegetables. He believed in the principles that Seaspray represents and eventually sought organic certification for his farm and remained a member of Seaspray until his death.
Tim and Kirsten Livingstone, NB
Both had gardened with their families growing up, and in particular, Tim enjoyed raising watermelons in high school and Kirsten enjoyed the challenge of growing sweet potatoes (because she was told it could not be done this far north). They both took soil biology training in 2004 and ran a Soil Foodweb lab until 2008. This gave Tim and Kirsten the tools to realize that chemicals were not necessary for growing good crops, and they were able to see the damage done by chemical agriculture at a microscopic level.
Tim and Kirsten both worked for Jolly Farmer from around 1985 to 2005 working with all aspects of bedding plant production, growing, and sales. From 2001 to 2011 they also worked with growing organic vegetables in the greenhouse, starting commercial outdoor production and a successful CSA venture in 2009. In 2011 Tim and Kirsten finally bought their own farm in Pembroke, New Brunswick, which they call Strawberry Hill Farm. They did not start small, as they ended up purchasing the over 235-share CSA operation from Jolly Farmer, and have since been successful supplying retailers across their province with fresh, organic vegetables, meat and eggs––all in just two years. And it’s not just any small farm, Strawberry Hill Farm has 108 acres, with approximately 60 acres that are farmable. They currently produce mostly organic vegetables and 2 acres of berries on approximately 12 acres. They also have a small cow herd (16 head) and 199 organic laying hens and organic pastured broiler chickens. They are also finishing their first batch of pigs this year.
And if that wasn’t impressive enough, Tim is also on the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada advisory board, and is the NB member of the Organic Federation of Canada as well as being an active member on the Atlantic Certified Organic board of directors. Tim also does consulting for compost and compost tea production and to top it all off, Tim and Kirsten are also raising 3 children––Elton (16), Nollie (14) and Bruce (5).
Beth McMahon, ON
The 2012 conference awarded this honour to Beth McMahon, current Vice President of Government and Public Relations of the Canadian Vintners Association, member of the board with Canadian Organic Growers (COG) and voluntary editor of TCOG. Beth is the past Executive Director of COG and worked with ACORN from 2005 – 2012. Beth’s dedication to increasing the visibility and dynamics of the organic sector in Atlantic Canada brought ACORN to a whole new level during her time as ED. She currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband Matthew Holmes and their two beautiful girls.
Judy Lien, NL
The Gerrit Loo Award honours the vision, persistence and tenacity of Jon and Judy Lien, a family who sustained the path for Organic Farming in Newfoundland and Labrador for almost forty years.
Jon and Judy moved to Newfoundland in 1968, when Jon accepted a position at Memorial University (MUN). After a few years, they moved to their farm in Portugal Bay. It was very hard work to get growing, but they learned as they went and were resourceful and committed.
In the late 80’s, the Organic Farm and the Lien Farm combined their efforts to offer the first CSA to 30 students on the MUN campus. Judy and Mike Rabinowitz spent a great deal of time planning their crops and identifying reliable sources for untreated or organic seeds suitable for our short season climate. The concept of the Veggie Coop spread, stretching the capacity each year. When the numbers reached over a hundred and a waiting list, they decided to offer a choice of days and bag sizes, with each farm taking care of its own membership. Judy and Mike also contacted other farmers interested in Organic Certification, resulting in the their farms being the first two vegetable farms to be certified in the province.
Judy helped form NOON (Newfoundland Organic Opportunities Network), which was active for several years, paving the way for ACORN-NL, a provincial affiliate of ACORN. Judy also agreed to represent the province as its first representative on the ACORN Board of Directors, a position she held for several years.
When Judy stepped back from the day to day operation to provide support for Jon through the later stages of his illness, she offered the several fields of fine, carefully-nurtured soil to others who would protect the integrity of their small farm. The past two years, Seed To Spoon, a collective of young farmers have used the gardens to grow vegetables for the local Farmers Market. Their son OJ is also involved in raising livestock on the farm.
Judy is in the process of exploring how to set up the land trust to realize Jon`s wishes to protect their land in perpetuity, as a green space and for organic farming. The Gerrit Loo Award will acknowledge Jon and Judy`s understanding of the sacred trust, we have as human beings to pass along our land, as well as our knowledge and heritage to generations which follow.
Dr. Ralph Martin, NS
Through his dedication to furthering the science and practice of agriculture, Dr. Ralph Martin has been an inspiration and leader in organic agricultural research in the Maritimes and across Canada.
Through his initiative, and perseverance he established the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada in 2001 at the NSAC. This science-based organization has established much needed credibility to organic production research across Canada and has brought attention to the
organic sector in the Maritimes.
Establishment of the OACC has facilitated the development of Maritime
organic research and has increased the integrity of organic at the NSAC
and beyond. Research conducted in the Maritimes since 2001 has included
cereal and mixed crops, oilseeds, potatoes, vegetables, small fruits, insect pest control, soil amendments, crop rotations, environmental impacts/benefits of organic production, and livestock parasite control
(with the support of various provincial, federal and private funding partners). OACC has conducted or collaborated in research on over 50 farms in the Maritimes, and has trained numerous summer students, technicians, graduate students and industry professionals.
As a result of Ralph’s leadership, we see increasing acceptance of organic as a viable production system among instructors; this is reflected in the inclusion of organic content in what otherwise were
conventional courses. Dr. Martin was responsible for acquiring funding and coordinating development of 5 organic courses offered through Distance Education at the NSAC and 4 courses offered at other institutions; NSAC now offers a certificate in organic agriculture to
students taking 4 of the organic courses.
Through Dr. Martin’s leadership, OACC has contributed to organic education and extension through the development a national research and education website, development of numerous extension bulletins, coordination of symposiums, workshops, and field days, and release of
numerous discussion papers and newspaper articles to the public.
Other accomplishments include:
– Establishment and Director of the Organic Agriculture Centre of
– Establishment and Chair of the Expert Committee on Organic
– Establishment of the National Organic Researcher Network,
– Establishing the National Organic Extension Network,
– Leadership in developing the National Organic Strategy, and
– Establishment of an Organic Science Cluster
Ted Wiggans, NB
Danny Bruce, NS
Karen Davidge, NB
Raymond Loo, PEI
Neil Van Nostrand, NS
Susan Tyler and Clark Phillips, NB
Daphne Davey, PEI
Sian Newman Smith, NS
David Cozac and Debbie Russell, NB
Stu Fleischhaker, NB