I like to think that Clark got his start in organic agriculture as an activist during the civil rights movement. Where else did he learn that belief could be organized and put into practice? Clark lived for organization, process, accountability and a cause. What Clark did for racial equality in Washington, DC, he did again for Canadian organics at Whaelghinbran Farm.
Clark inspired generations of farmers since he settled in New Brunswick during the 70’s. He lived as an example, proving what hard work and principle could achieve. Many people that knew Clark have told the same stories and the people that knew him are not few. I’ve heard endless tales about eating dinner after midnight around Clark’s kitchen table – he never rushed a process as sacred as cooking. I’ve heard of the silence he used while negotiating, holding his opponent prisoner as he stroked his long beard. Those that knew him remember his bright blue eyes and a laugh so complete and full it made you smile to hear it. Clark was strong, wise and brave. He worked in his own way to change farming, forestry and environmentalism in the Maritimes and the whole of Canada is better for it.
I met Clark a few years ago, when the organization I founded, Community Forests International agreed to try and succeed his work at Whaelghinbran Farm. At that time, Clark and his lifelong partner, Susan Tyler, were no longer able to work the land and the future of their property was at stake. We agreed to try and raise the funds to purchase the farm, even thought the amount required was 10 times our annual budget. We agreed to try to save the farm because we couldn’t believe in a world where people like Clark and Sue could spend their entire lives restoring a property only to see it clear-cut and farmed conventionally in their retirement. On May 31st, 2012, a few weeks before Clark’s passing, we completed the purchase of the farm. The funds came from hundreds of individual donors, signaling that we weren’t alone in our belief – Clark and Sue’s work must go on.
Clark was involved with dozens of committees, boards and organizations and I’m positive that anyone that has ever worked with him has asked, in his absence, what would Clark do? I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve learned to never budge on my beliefs, to listen to my instincts and to hold people to what they say. I’ve learned to be clear and demand clarity. I’ve learned to find the foundation of human understanding and to build upon it through mutual agreement. I cannot believe how important Clark Phillips had become to me over a few short years. He was a friend, mentor and an inspiration. I’m honoured to have been a part of his life and I’m honoured to carry on his work. I will work to carry on his legacy at Whaelghinbran Farm so Clark can continue to inspire others as he inspired me.
It will take an organization to continue what Clark Phillips achieved at Whaelghinbran Farm. It will take hundreds of farmers and woodlot owners to fill his void. Clark was a true pioneer and was loved by many. May we all carry on his legacy and live our beliefs on the land. We owe it to Clark and we owe it to the world we believe in.
Clark passed away June 27, 2012.