One of Salt Spring’s finest passed from this life to another on Friday after a brief struggle with respiratory issues. John Wilcox, long time organic farmer, local food advocate and injustice-battler extraordinaire, will leave a big hole in our community.
I only knew John for a few years but, even when I disagreed with him, I admired his ability to use historical evidence from decades past to show the evolution of certain issues to give a broad context to complicated issues. I often wondered how John could spare what must have been countless hours fighting bureaucrats and politicians on issues that may not have even affected him directly.
The last email I got from John, just one day prior to his hospital trip, was regarding the ongoing proposed Riparian Area Regulations implementation that would treat multi-million dollar farms and our own very small local farms the same way, but creating potential catastrophic financial burdens for only the latter group. While many of the rest of us small farmers were busy sticking to our own knitting, John was writing letters and talking to politicians for all of our benefit. If the final outcome of this is benign, it will be just a part of John’s legacy.
I will always have gratitude to John and a few others for ‘going rogue’ in the fall of 2010 by having the temerity to sell vegetables on public property, thus bringing the Tuesday Market in Centennial Park issue to a head. The Tuesday Market is now a thriving event on Salt Spring thanks to those efforts. The Tuesday Market is also where I last saw John, two weeks ago, when he stopped by to ask my opinion of his dealings with the Islands Trust regarding the RAR issue.
Despite battling any number of frustrating issues, John managed to keep a sense of humour and to appreciate the good things in life: friends, music and good times. When Pauline and I were new to Salt Spring, John and Sue made an effort to make us feel very welcome, as farmers and as friends.
We will miss him.