Farming Rural 18

Colin Walter Springford

April 10, 1945 ~ January 17, 2021 (age 75)


Colin Walter Springford

April 10, 1945 – January 17, 2021

Colin passed away at home on his farm in Nanoose Bay, BC, at the age of 75. He will be deeply missed by his wife, Diane (née Doney); daughter Clarice Springford (Peter van Dongen) and son Ross Springford (Erin), both of Nanoose Bay, BC; grandchildren Janel and Troy van Dongen and Parker and Landon Springford; sister Sylvia Clark of Ajax, ON; nephews Rob Clark (Connie) and Randy Clark (Roslyn); and great nephews and nieces Cory, Christopher, Jonathan, Katie and Faith.

Colin was predeceased by his parents Bond and Allyne Springford, who immigrated from England to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as infants. The couple moved to Vancouver Island in 1941 and operated a small hand-milk dairy farm in Sidney, where Colin was born in 1945. From 1948 to 1961, the family ran “The Maples”, a corner grocery store in Brentwood. This gave Colin his first taste of customer service, which served him well throughout his life in business. It didn’t take long for Colin’s lifelong passion for gardening and farming to take root. At just eight years old, he talked his father into plowing some land for his own vegetable garden. He also worked at Butchart Gardens for six summers during high school, where he developed a love of growing flowers.

Nor did it take long for Colin to meet another lifelong love. When she was just nine years old, Diane Doney saw 15-year-old Colin riding his horse along the fence line at the Saanich Fair and declared, “That’s my cowboy.” Fast forward nine years and Diane, then 18, was working at CIBC in Cordova Bay. She saw Colin walk past the bank one day and stated definitively to a co-worker, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” The co-worker questioned, “Colin Springford?” To which Diane replied, “I don’t know his name but I’m going to marry him.”

It would take a few more years, but Diane eventually roped her cowboy. After working and traveling in Australia for more than three years, Colin returned home to the Island. Never one to dillydally in going after what he wanted, he promptly quit smoking (he thought Diane was too much of a puritan to consider dating a smoker), tracked down Diane and asked her out on their first date. It was January 16, 1970. A few years later, in 1975, Colin asked Diane to move in with him. “If I’m good enough to live with, I’m good enough to marry,” she told him matter-of-factly. Nine days later, on July 12, 1975, they were married in Saanichton. This began an incredible partnership that would last 45 years and yield two children: daughter Clarice in 1977 and son Ross four years later in 1981.

At the time of their marriage, Colin was working for Chew Excavating in Victoria. When the company offered him the chance to manage their Parksville operation, he and Diane moved up Island. A few years later Colin purchased some equipment from Chew and started Town & Country Construction Parksville Ltd., which he and Diane operated together for more than 30 years, along with other businesses including Quality Gravel and Havelock Storage, which was co-owned with long time friend Dave Webber. Colin earned a reputation for being a fair and honest businessman who could be trusted to get the job done and get it done right. He helped build many notable infrastructure projects in the area such as four laning the Island Highway through Parksville, Springwood Park and the Inland Island Highway.

With the move up Island, Colin began actively pursuing his dream of farming. The family started out on a nine-acre hobby farm in Parksville, then in 1989 moved to a 30-acre farm in the Dawson Valley. By 1998, it was clear that this property, too, was not big enough, and Colin jumped at the chance to purchase their current 225-acre property—the former Thomas Wall Farm—in Nanoose Bay.

While still running his businesses full time, Colin poured his heart and soul into the farm on evenings and weekends, slowly but surely improving the farm and expanding the beef herd. One of Colin’s driving values was to think long term and leave everything in life better than he found it. He took great pride in being a good steward of his land and livestock, working in concert with nature to protect and improve the environment. He was an early participant in the B.C. Environmental Farm Plan program and was later recognized for his stewardship efforts by the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

By the time Ross came home to farm in 2008, Colin had retired from the construction business to focus on farming full time. This sparked an important mindset shift from “farming as a hobby” to “farming as a multi-generational family business.” Over the next 12 years, father, son and family worked together to grow the farm, most notably diversifying into commercial egg production and building a thriving retail farm market. During this time, many loyal customers referred to Colin as “their” farmer. All the while he continued to grow a bountiful vegetable garden and quietly tend his flowers.

Never one to hold back on speaking his mind, Colin was a respected and passionate advocate for agriculture in the region. He gave generously of his time and knowledge, always eager to lend a hand or offer advice to other farmers. He served as president of the Coombs Farmers’ Institute for 10 years, during which he successfully petitioned the Regional District of Nanaimo to establish an Agricultural Advisory Committee. He was also active in many other farm organizations including the Arrowsmith Agricultural Association, BC Hereford Association and West Coast Hereford Club.

Colin always held a special place in his heart for children and youth. The idea that no child should go without was a consistent theme throughout his life. At Town and Country, he offered free sand to anyone building a sandbox. While his children were growing up, he donated his time and expertise as a 4-H Leader and an adult advisor for the Canadian Junior Hereford Association. At the Coombs Farmers’ Institute, Colin made it his mission to build up their student scholarship program. And he was a long-time supporter of the Nanoose Community Services food bank and Christmas Elf Program.

In his later years, as Colin began to step back from the day-to-day demands of the farm, he directed much of his attention toward his family, notably his four grandchildren. He loved to spend time with them, listen to their stories, and share his knowledge and life experience. He and Diane also enjoyed many trips, but Colin always loved returning home to the farm. It was his happy place.

The day before Colin passed away, he and Diane enjoyed a wonderful day together, driving to Duncan to visit with her mother and sister. It was January 16, 2021, exactly 51 years since their first date. Colin passed away exactly how he wished he would go, at home on his farm with his dog Rex by his side.

Colin was a Husband, Father, Papa, Brother, Uncle and Farmer, a friend to many, and a pillar in the community. He will be deeply missed, always loved and never forgotten.

A small family service will be held on Sunday, January 24, with a celebration of Colin’s life scheduled at a later date. In his memory, donations may be made to a children’s charity of your choice.


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