Condolences are pouring in for Clarke Gourlay, who died in a hiking accident in Strathcona Park on June 29. The family made the announcement July 1 via the social media channels of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery, the two businesses for which Gourlay is best known.
A tireless advocate for farmers since starting Morningstar Farm in Parksville in 2001, Gourlay was also active in local politics as a director for Electoral Area G with the Regional District of Nanaimo.
The BC Milk Marketing Board’s Cottage Industry Program gave Gourlay and his wife Nancy their start in the business in 2001. The program allows farms to process a small amount of milk onsite, and as Gourlay’s knowledge grew so did the business. When the farm graduated from the program in 2016, it took steps to become the first dairy farm in Canada to offer growler fills of its milk.
The focus on innovation and diversification was matched by his concern over Canada’s new free trade deal with the US and Mexico. Concessions made to secure the deal – which has yet to be ratified – will make it more difficult for farmers like himself to stay in business.
While his success as a dairy farmer was well known, Gourlay was also an accomplished mountaineer. Together with two of his sons, he summited North America’s highest peak, Mount Denali, last year.
Regional district chair Ian Thorpe described Gourlay as a “vibrant and engaged” member of the community and local government, and lamented his loss.
Joe Stanhope, the alternate director for Gourlay’s area, will hold Gourlay’s office until an election to choose a successor.
Gourlay is survived by his wife Nancy, mother Dorothy Gourlay and sons Kevin, John and Raymond (Rebecca) Gourlay among other family members.