Will Raap Obituary – Will Raap, a beloved husband, father, friend, and entrepreneur, died abruptly on December 12, 2022. He made progress and laid the stage for more. Will is… Wit, pragmatism, elegance, and ease. He loves nature. His lack of pretension and “legacy” focus. Multiplying words He believed in everyone’s inherent merit. He thought the community and individual can change the world. Will was just as comfortable appealing with politicians at conferences and with his family and coworkers while packing boxes, pushing weeds, and cleaning up pigeon droppings. Will redefined and modeled what a leader should be.
He was ambitious, charismatic, and competitive. Mutual respect, emotional honesty, compassion, and empathy built this. Will was an encouraging mentor to many. Will, a native Californian, spent much of his life in Vermont and was always worldly. After graduating from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, he worked in planning in the Central Valley. Will imagined a future focused on local commerce and agriculture after seeing the effects of large-scale agriculture and the absurdity of destroying our ecosystem to ship a hard, tasteless tomato across the country or around the world.
His “traditional” professional path wasn’t fulfilling, so he moved to Scotland to join the spiritual, ecological, and cooperative Findhorn community. Will’s life was changed by taking responsibility and appreciating the value of collaboration. There, he met Lynette, his future wife and spiritual guide for 45 years. Will joined Lyman Wood at Garden Way once he and Lynette returned to the U.S. Lyman envisioned a firm with shared ownership and teamwork that contributed to society. A business coup caused layoffs. Will worked for Gardens for All, which published National Gardening magazine. Will started selling stuff in the magazine to increase revenue. In 1983, Will spun off this operation into Gardener’s Supply.
This was a time when expert cataloging was in its infancy, and the increasing tide lifted many boats, including Gardener’s Supply. Gardener’s Supply wasn’t founded for catalog sales. Will created Gardener’s Supply because he believed business should be a force for good in society and that gardening might transform the world. Socially conscious business rarely existed when he had this concept. Will wanted a new organizational structure that rewarded not only monetary investment but also work and contributions. After four years, he appreciated each employee’s contributions at Gardener’s Supply.
Will led the company to employee ownership by implementing an ESOP. Will could have sold the business for a premium, but he kept it in Vermont. Gardener’s Supply became employee-owned in 2009. Gardener’s Supply has $100 million in annual revenue and 300 workers. Will discovered the Intervale in the early 1980s while reclaiming his stolen and abandoned automobile. Will observed the fertile soils’ untapped agricultural potential. The Intervale had Burlington’s last dairy farm, acres of cow corn, and abandoned tires.
Will moved Gardener’s Supply there in 1986 to drive away crime. He created Intervale Farm and Garden, which became the nonprofit Intervale Center, to incubate new farms and farmers, reimagine post-dairy Vermont agriculture, and grow 10% of Burlington’s fresh food. Today, Intervale is revolutionizing agriculture nationwide. Will never stopped initiating things.
He formed several more businesses, from greenhouse sales to wood products production (Serac Corporation in Georgia, Vt.) to ecological wastewater treatment, some successful, others not. When he left Gardener’s Supply, he helped his kids develop Green State Gardener and Upstate Elevator Supply Co. He recently helped launch Steep Hill Labs, a Vermont cannabis testing facility. At 72, he bought the former Nordic Farm in Charlotte to create a dynamic ecosystem of agricultural businesses, a living demonstration project for Vermont’s speciality agriculture future.
Vision continues as Earthkeep Farmcommon. Will’s influence was far-reaching. Will replicated for-profit and nonprofit activities to boost ecological business in Costa Rica. He took the same approach to global commercial collaborations, developing links and responsible sourcing across Europe, India, and Asia. Will was most relaxed in Costa Rica, where he and Lynette shared the country’s beauty with others. Will grew people and ideas. Dylan, Kelsy, and Addison are Will and Lynette’s realistic, persistent, and independent children.
Will would be a mentor to many. He believed everyone had potential. Will was generous with his time and thoughts and showed modest confidence. Never asked someone to do something he wouldn’t do himself, he modeled “servant leadership.” He treated his personnel like friends, with care and empathy. Will’s confidence and selflessness enabled him to notice a problem and create a model that others might follow. True. Courage and persistence are needed. Will was risk-taking.
Will was eager to prove “You can” the more you said “You can’t.” He occasionally held on to ideas, businesses, and relationships too long. Every setback brought learning and a better route. His family is grateful for the love he showed them and encouraged them to cultivate as care for others: that every problem has a win-win solution and how to improve conditions on our common home, planet Earth. His absence is heartbreaking, but they’re grateful for the support and know his impact will last. As long as we remember him, he’ll live on in those he touched. Will is survived by his wife, children, and two sisters, Linda Kramer and Sherrie Crumpler.