I met Geoff Anderson many years ago as a result of his involvement in the 4-H Dog Club. However, as with many people that I know, I didn’t know how fascinating he really was until this interview.
Until he was 21, Geoff lived in Clydebank, a community just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. He enjoyed a great childhood and at the age of six he became heavily involved in the Scout movement. “I started off in Clubs, then Scouts and then Venture Scouts. I became a club leader but eventually left at the age of 24 when I married my Ranger Guide sweetheart, Lesley,” he said.
His father was a ventilation engineer and one of his most notable projects was working on the QE2, a ship that was built and launched in Clydebank.
“Mom was a stay-at-home mom but she did do some part-time work as a seamstress, altering wedding dresses,” he explained.
The outdoors has always played an important part in Geoff’s life. He enjoys kayaking and built his own 17 foot sea worthy kayak and sailed around Scotland on it. He also taught many scouts to rock climb as well as to ice climb in the Scottish mountains. He spent three years as a volunteer member of the Glenshee Ski Rescue team and was awarded the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award which he received from Prince Philip at Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. The award was founded by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956 and deals with various levels of personal development including volunteering as well as a physical, skills and expedition components. “In order to receive a gold award there is also a residential component that you need to achieve. This aspect involves working away from home doing a shared activity,” he noted.
Geoff decided that he wanted to work for the Forestry Commission, an offshoot of the Department of Agriculture, before leaving what is the equivalent of high school in Canada. “I was in a catch 22 situation, though. I couldn’t get into forestry until I had completed my first year in Forestry College but I couldn’t get into Forestry College until I had a minimum of one year field experience. Instead, I started in Horticulture with the idea of specializing in Arboriculture (tree surgery) at the end of my horticulture apprenticeship. I enjoyed the nursery work so much that I stayed with it,” he explained.
His career began with the City of Glasgow Parks Department as an apprentice gardener. “After completing a four-year apprenticeship I left to attend the West of Scotland Agriculture College studying for an Ordinary National Diploma in Amenity Horticulture which covers landscaping and design, trees and shrubs,” he said. He married the love of his life and the couple moved to Elgin, in the north of Scotland, where Geoff took on a job with the Moray District Council. “In Elgin, I ran the nursery for them, growing trees and shrubs and up to 500,000 bedding plants each year. I was there for nine years and during that time we won many awards including ‘Britain and Bloom’ as well as winning awards for sculpture and floral arrangements at many flower and horticultural shows. I even grew flowers and arranged them for a Royal visit when the queen came to Elgin,” he enthused. He eventually left Elgin to work for a commercial nursery in the small fishing village of Cullen. “This is where I felt that I had reached as high as I could go without owning my own nursery and I was always looking for a challenge.”
It just so happened that British Columbia was advertising in a horticulture magazine for qualified nurserymen. “At this time, there were no training programs for this industry and Kwantlen College was barely a foundation. Lesley and I came over to BC in January 1992 for 10 days to see if we would like to live here. We instantly fell in love with Chilliwack and Brian Minter offered me a position with Country Garden. By that May we had everything in place and we immigrated to Canada on May 19, 1992.
Today, this proud father of three is heavily involved with the 4H program. Before coming to Canada, he had never heard of this child development program. “We first saw it in action in August during the Chilliwack Fair and our eldest daughter expressed an interest in joining. When January came along, she joined and I sat and watched as an interested parent. At the end of the year, the project leader announced that the program would need another dog trainer. Another parent said that he would keep the club going if I could assist him with the program. That’s how it started 15 years ago and I am still training the children to train their dogs,” he chuckled.
Currently, Geoff works for Cannor Nurseries in their wholesale division. “I have been with them for 18 years and I cover sales in B.C., the Pacific Northwest and the Maritimes,” he said. He laughs at the suggestion that he could possibly have any free time given that he and Lesley own a lovely, 2.5 acre hobby farm. “For the last four years we have been learning about sheep breeding. We also have llamas, lots of cats and dogs and even more critters,” he said.
As if it was any surprise, Geoff does enjoy gardening and he also puts together flower arrangements for very special occasions. “I have recently taken up golf and I’m looking for more time to spend on the course. My goal is to retire sane and to have a great golfing handicap,” he laughed.