Did you know that 98% of farms in BC are family owned and operated? In honour of Family Day, we connected with Niklaus Forstbauer of Forstbauer Family Natural Food Farm, a certified organic farm in Chilliwack, British Columbia. Niklaus' parents Hans and Mary Forstbauer began organic farming in the early 1970's. Today, multiple generations of Forstbauers live and work on the farm, including 10 grandchildren! We talked to Niklaus about his family pride in growing healthy food for the community.
We Heart Local BC: Can you tell us how the Forstbauer Farm got started?
NF: In the early 70’s, my parents Hans and Mary Forstbauer bought a little bit of land and started farming. From 1971 until almost 1990 my dad worked full-time in construction and would come home at the end of the day and help work on the farm. He did that until the farm grew enough so that it was possible to support the family from farming alone. They farmed in a few different locations, until settling in Chilliwack where the farm is today - it’s now about 110 acres. My parents were always passionate about organic farming, and they pioneered the organic farming movement in the province. They had a big role in starting the BC Association for Regenerative Agriculture (BCARA), and also the Certified Organic Association of BC (COABC). My parents had 12 children. All of us grew up working on the farm, helping out, doing various tasks.
WHL: How many members of your family are involved in running the farm today?
NF: My mom passed away in 2015 but my dad is still on the farm, doing what he loves. My immediate family lives and works full-time here (Lindsey and I have seven children aged 5 through 17). My younger brother Travis and his wife Katrina live on the farm as well with their three children. Travis and I run the day-to-day operations of the farm and my sister Rosanna also works on the farm during the summers, when she is on holiday from her job as a teacher. I also have three siblings who have their own active organic farms and one who is just starting an organic farm.
WHL: Does your whole family help on the farm?
NF: Yep! Part of growing up on the farm is that we have lots to do - whether it is working in the blueberry field, weeding a field of carrots, or harvesting. Our kids are always eager to help out where they can. Especially during the summer months - when we start bunching the beets, for example, we have to pull off the bad leaves, so the kids will help with that. It’s kind of fun, because we all just sit together while we’re working and chat.
WHL: What are you producing and growing on the farm this year?
NF: Our main crops are carrots, potatoes, beets and blueberries. We are a market garden farm and sell almost all our products directly to consumers, mostly at farmers’ markets. We’re a mixed farm as well, so we have some animals - cows, laying hens and horses. We strive to have a lot of diversity on our farm.
WHL: What's important for British Columbians to know about family owned-and-operated farms like yours?
NF: To support local farms is to help the resiliency of our food system - you get fresher food, you get better food, and the more local it is, the more resilient it can be. I think it’s definitely better for your health if you are eating local. We encourage people to plant gardens and to grow some of their own food, and to support other businesses and other farms as well. We need to support our family farms now more than ever!
To find out more about the Forstbauer Natural Food Farm, you can visit them on their website or at local farmer's markets in the Lower Mainland. To hear more stories of local farms, or to learn about local food, join our communities on Facebook and Instagram !