VALK; Mattheus (Matt)
passed away peacefully at the Leacock Care Centre, Orillia, in his 96th year on November 20, 2021. Matt's wife of 65 years, Jane (nee Williams) passed away in April, 2019. Matt is survived by his younger brother Cornelis of Holland, and his daughters Juliana (David Hawke) of Oro-Medonte Township and Christine (David Taylor) of Winnipeg. Matt's grandchildren are Erin (Anthony Cirino) and Shannon Hawke; Matthew and Nicholas Taylor; and his great-grandson Toby Smit. Matt is predeceased by his parents and brothers Nicolaas and Robbart.
Mattheus was born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands on September 15, 1926 to parents Robbart and Pieternella Valk. The family were market gardeners, operating a large acreage of greenhouses growing mainly lettuce and tomatoes.
The war years in Holland were very difficult; Matt was in his teens during WWII and when he came of age he had to hide from German soldiers who were searching for young men to work in their labour camps. Times were bleak in post-war Holland but Matt was able to attend Agricultural School for two years.
Intrigued by newspaper ads about farming opportunities in Canada he decided to emigrate in June 1947, arriving in Montreal aboard the converted troop ship “The Waterman”.
Matt first worked in the fields of the Holland Marsh weeding crops in the summer and working in the vegetable packing plants in winter. He then found work on a large grain farm in Kindersley, Saskatchewan.
Encouraged to enroll to the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) in Guelph, Matt came back to Ontario in the fall of 1949. Summers were spent working for the College at their
“Experiment Station for Organic Soils” on the Holland Marsh (now operated by the provincial government and called the Muck Crops Research Station).
It was here that he met his future wife, Jane Williams, who was a McGill University student studying insect pests on the Marsh.
After graduating with a degree in Horticulture in 1952 he was a lecturer at OAC, an assistant to the director of the Experiment Station, and then a production manager at a packing plant in Bradford. Matt and Jane were married in 1954 and they had two daughters, Juliana and Christine, named after members of the Dutch royal family.
During his career the family moved to several locations as Matt was hired to improve vegetable production in Ontario, Quebec, Florida and England. He eventually became the Muck Crops Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and in 1973 was appointed head of the Muck Crops Research Station (an interesting full circle of careers).
Matt was proud of his personal connections with the Marsh farmers and loved to organize conferences and educational tours for the growers to see vegetable production areas around the world. Immediately after his retirement from OMAF in 1989 he became an independent consultant as well as a vegetable seed sales representative for Seedway, continuing to share his vast knowledge of carrot and onion production with his customers. He received much recognition and numerous awards for his dedication to his work over the years.
Matt was a tireless promoter of horticultural crops and was very involved with the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, spending countless hours each year educating the public about vegetable production; he was appointed an Honorary Governor in 2010. After retiring from Seedway (at age 80!) Matt nurtured an interest in forestry, planting the home property in Oro-Medonte Township with thousands of pine, oak, walnut and cherry trees. He received the White Pine Award from the Huronia Woodland Owners for his meticulous tending of these trees, an award he was immensely proud of. Always a traveler with a sense for adventure, he and Jane vacationed to many locations in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Europe and Australia.
The family would like to express a heartfelt thank you to the wonderful staff at the Leacock Care Centre (HA5) in Orillia for their kindness and care over the past three years. Matthew’s ashes will be spread on his beloved “Valk Valley Farm” in Oro-Medonte Township.
A joint Celebration of Lives for Matt and Jane will be held on the family farm in the summer of 2022. In the spirit of Matt’s long time interest in promoting agriculture, we encourage everyone to support your local farmer and eat more vegetables! Messages of condolence may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.