Most of the people I have met in my life have not left an impression. Our encounters now reside in the back corners of my mind as a face or name that is disconnected from where or when we interacted. Others, for better or worse, or sheer volume of discourse, have resonated with me. And then there are a select few, for whom I’m a better person for having known.
Pete Spencer was such a man.
I first met Pete years ago when I facilitated the British Columbia Agroforestry Initiative. He had moved from ranching and logging in Vanderhoof to an acreage in Kelowna. He was planting Christmas trees and was looking for advice and connections. I soon realized that he knew a great deal more about agroforestry than his initial questions implied. And, from this first meeting onwards, I came to know Pete as someone who was humble, wise and giving.
In 2010 I joined on with the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Program as a Planning Advisor. It was my great fortune to have Pete assigned to me as a mentor and to guide me through my first EFP. Pete had been with the Program since its inception in BC in 2004. His dedication to both agriculture and conservation were deep and unshakable. Prior to my first solo, on-farm EFP we had coffee together for a final briefing session. He told me he felt like he had nothing worthwhile to teach me. But I assured him that my many years in universities would be of secondary importance to gaining his people skills. Conservation is much more of social process than technical or scientific. And in the agricultural realm, Pete Spencer was peerless in bringing people together around a common goal.
Pete was pragmatic man who could always see a solution on the ground, through the foggy, chaotic melieu that land use planning can be in British Columbia. He was a master of finding compromises and building consensus. He approached ever situation with a warm smile, a handshake and an open mind. Always ready to make the best of whatever situation he faced.
Pete listened to everyone. And he didn’t enter a room with his own agenda, other than trying to find a workable solution for all involved. Where others come to meetings to press some perceived advantage or pivot the conversation to present a sales job on their own pet project, Pete Spencer first listened and then questioned to gain understanding from all involved before offering his opinions. He was a master of collaboration.
Pete was a champion for conserving streams, rivers, riparian habitats, species-at-risk and other natural values. In so doing, he often had to convey some hard realities to growers, farmers and ranchers about their agricultural practices. But he was gifted in finding solutions that helped them both steward their land and sustain their production. Taking land out of agricultural production for a preserve or a park is easy. Pete chose to work the harder ground of promoting farming and ranching that sustains natural functions and food production alike.
From our early conversations and through many professional interactions, my respect for Pete grew with each meeting. As time passed, we would frequently exchange ideas or serve as each other’s sounding board when we encountered novel situations. Pete’s generousity with his time was seemingly boundless. He was deeply involved within and outside his community. And he was always trying to do his part to make things better.
Pete was also a man of great humour. It was a joy to be with him when he shared anecdotes and jokes over drinks. He had a remarkable gift to be able to find the lighter side of every situation, however challenging. Pete was a light-hearted, roll-with-punches kind of man. And his good humour and ever pleasant demeanor is what I will remember the most about him.
Pete, my friend, you will be dearly missed.
Twenty-one comments on “A Tribute to Pete Spencer”
Rob Dinwoodie 29 December 2021 at 9:01 pm
George that is certainly a fitting tribute to a man we all loved and shared a common desire to be good stewards of the land. Thanks for sharing your story about Pete and I like you and many others will truly miss him.
George Powell (responding to Rob Dinwoodie) 30 December 2021 at 9:43 am
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Rob. Pete truly was a stalwart of agriculture and conservation in BC, and on a personal level, he was a kind, generous man.
Jaclyn Laic 30 December 2021 at 9:00 am via LinkedIn
I’m so sorry to hear this. A lovely tribute George. What a sad loss for agriculture and for all who knew him. Walking farms with Pete was an incredible experience.
Mike Simpson 30 December 2021 at 10:00 am via LinkedIn
Sad to hear of Pete’s passing. I agree with George’s assessment of Pete, I always enjoyed my interactions with him.
Darren Brown, PhD 30 December 2021 at 10:43 am via LinkedIn
A kind man with much wisdom to share. He definitely loved the work he did in agriculture and was revered among farmers and his peers. Sorry to hear of his passing.
Nicole Pressey 30 December 2021 at 5:00 pm via LinkedIn
A well written tribute. Thank you for sharing George.
Reg Steward 1 January 2022 at 11:19 am via LinkedIn
Loss of a great advocate and friend.
Lani French 1 January 2022 at 7:17 pm
I am so sorry to hear of Petes passing. He was a man that was always eager to answer any questions, and make agriculture more respectable. Pete always had a smile and positive thoughts. Our industry will have a huge void in it without Pete. He will be missed …
George Powell (responding to Lani French) 2 January 2022 at 9:15 am
Thank you for taking time to leave a comment Lani. Pete’s tireless work and dedication to agriculture has had a positive impact on so many across the Province.
Geoff Hughes-Games 5 January 2022 at 11:27 am
George, so well written, thank-you for sharing. I first met Pete in October 2003 at one of the first Planning Advisor training sessions. I knew then that I had met a remarkable individual. Like you, I learned so much from his quiet and thoughtful demeanor. Our discussions about issues faced by farmers and ranchers were always enjoyable, although the path we might have taken to achieve a solution was often different, our goal was still the same. He will be sorely missed but will live on in my memory as an ecologist and gentleman.
George Powell (responding to Geoff Hughes-Games) 5 January 2022 at 12:34 pm
Couldn’t agree more Geoff. Part of Pete’s legacy is in the many people he has positively impacted.
Carl Withler 7 January 2022 at 10:48 am
I met Pete in 2004 when he wandered into my office in Kelowna while I was the Regional Agrologist for the Ministry of Agriculture………..didn’t take long for me to like Pete…..he had a great sense of humour, great life/farming experiences and made me comfortable in sharing our collective knowledge together…….his was always greater than mine. I will miss Pete and currently have a spruce tree in my bakyard that he gave my sons when we visited his tree farm…….it is a nice reminder of a great human.
George Powell (responding to Carl Withler) 7 January 2022 at 4:19 pm
Thanks for sharing and adding to Pete’s tribute Carl.
Duane Holder 7 January 2022 at 7:17 pm
George. That was a great tribute and I am so sorry to hear of his loss. I always felt so fortunate to have known Pete and was always thankful for his willingness to share his knowledge. He had the ability to make us all better stewards of the land and I think would define the meaning of common sense.
George Powell (responding to Duane Holder) 7 January 2022 at 10:59 pm
Thank you Duane. I sincerely think we all feel fortunate for having known Pete.
Todd Cashin 11 January 2022 at 8:44 am via LinkedIn
Fantastic tribute to a beauty of a man. Thanks George!
I first met Pete 20 years ago on an Environmental Farm Plan project on Joe Rich Creek. He was a strong voice for both the rancher and for the much-needed restoration along this little stretch of riparian area.
Years later, I was the staff liaison for the City of Kelowna’s Agricultural Advisory Committee when I came across Pete’s application for the committee. As you can imagine, Pete was a welcomed voice on that committee and subsequently provided years of great input to staff, committee members and to City Council.
Pete was a friend, colleague and mentor of mine for many years and I never thanked him for that. Thank you Pete!
Wesley Miles (responding to Todd Cashin) 11 January 2022 at 11:47 am via LinkedIn
Well said Todd. Pete was always a pleasure to work with and his calm guidance and knowledge was very much appreciated.
Alan Bates (responding to Todd Cashin) 12 January 2022 at 3:24 pm via LinkedIn
I guess I first met Pete at the same time and place as you Todd, and have worked with him many times since. He was always a pleasure to work with and get things done effectively and appropriately. He was one guy you were always happy to talk to. I am sorry to hear of his passing and I will miss working with him.
Alison Speirs 25 January 2022 at 11:53 am
Well written George! All of us from the EFP/BMP program miss Pete. He was always willing to step up and help bring on the new Planning Advisors into the program. The thing that stands out for me is Pete’s way of speaking to others, always interested, and always willing to share what he knew…. I can still hear him complaining about the new technology (i.e. Zoom presentations!!) and how his computer was not cooperating! It’s such a loss…
George Powell (responding to Alison Speirs) 8 November 2010 at 10:22 am
Thank you Alison for sharing and adding to Pete’s tribute.
Heather Carriere 28 January 2022 at 11:31 am via LinkedIn
I’m so sad to hear of his passing. He was a valued colleague and friend in the EFP program. He will be missed.
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