By Connor Lynch
CARP — The single largest private investor in Homestead Organics, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year, said she’d invest in a new company if Tom Manley was at the helm.
Dr. Katherine Willow, who runs Carp Ridge EcoWellness Centre at Carp, just west of Ottawa, invested $500,000 in Homestead Organics. She doesn’t expect to recoup any of it.
Willow said she’s known Homestead Organics’ owner Tom Manley for decades, and has spoken to his employees and invited him to speak at events. “I was very impressed with his material, and how he spoke. Many people in alternative fields are very strident. He was always very calm.”
When talking about organic trade in Eastern Ontario, Homestead Organics was top of mind. Its loss was hard. “It’s devastating. It makes me want to cry,” she said. “It was such a value-driven investment for me.” Willow said she believes very strongly in the importance of organic agriculture, and believes Manley does too. “He was willing to put his life behind it. I was very inspired behind him, his willingness to take the risk, which is why I took a risk supporting him.”
She admitted that she’s lost more than she could afford to but was philosophical about her loss. “I need to not invest so much in one place, no matter how strongly I feel about it. That’s my fault,” she said.
Were he to try something similar again, “I would support him in any way I could,” Willow said. “I think he’s a jewel, a treasure.”
Willow said she’s spoken with Manley since Homestead declared bankruptcy. “I encouraged him not to see this as any kind of end. Get back in the saddle, do something with all his knowledge and experience.”
Homestead Organics owes 176 creditors a combined $4.2 million, with only $1.3 million in assets. The Eastern Ontario organic grain buyer and seed seller declared bankruptcy back in April. The two Eastern Ontario Homestead Organic properties — at Berwick and Morrisburg — are being sold to pay back creditors. A Western Ontario property has already been sold.