A day in the life of an organic farmer

Ever wonder how that super sweet carrot you bought at the farmers’ market got to your counter from the Fraser Valley? Or the delicious apples from the Okanagan?  Or the full-flavoured wine from grapes grown in the Similkameen Valley?

Farmers from throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Okanagan, Gold Country, and even the Cariboo region travel every weekend to farmers’ markets on the North Shore to bring you the freshest, locally grown produce. For example, the famous super-sweet Forstbauer carrots are brought to you weekly from Chilliwack to the Ambleside Farmers’ Market.

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“Our farm is a family farm and a lot of people help out,” Natalie said. In high season Monday through Wednesday we weed, seed and do some harvesting.

Come Thursday and Friday, you will find all hands on deck preparing for the markets; picking potatoes, cucumbers, greens, corn, squash, carrots, beets and more! The younger kids help out by gathering bunches, picking cucumbers and potatoes and playing in the dirt.

Mid week Katrina, Travis’ wife, makes her way to a farmers’ market and does a delivery to a local organic warehouse. Come Friday evening, as the sun goes down and most families are preparing dinner and sitting on the couch with a book in hand, you will find the Forstbauers loading the trucks with non-perishables, like their homemade pickles, squash and potatoes. The next morning around 4:30 a.m., all of the fresh picked bunches like chard, kale, and their famous carrots are packed into the truck by the bin full and off to market they go! Sunday is a repeat of Saturday with three markets on the go.

After an hour drive and a two-hour set up,the market begins to hustle and bustle just before the official start and Natalie joyfully helps her customers out as volunteers and her children finish set-up.

After the full market day on Sunday, an hour of take down packing up what did not sell and the long drive back you will find three Forstbauer families getting home from the markets at varying times with some of them heading out to pick the zucchinis and cucumbers before they are “too big”...while others unpack the trucks from the markets before heading for supper and a  good night's rest.  

“And then,” Natalie said, “we start all over again Monday morning with weeding and the harvest rain or shine.”

The Forstbauer family has been farming for forty years, when Hans and Mary Forstbauer founded Forstbauer Family Natural Food Farm. As pioneers of organic farming, they were one of the first farms to follow biodynamic agriculture.

Now, four decades later, the Forstbauer Farm continues to thrive under the same foundational passion to produce healthy food grown from healthy soil. They also work to build community through sharing that passion with children and adults alike at different farmers’ markets, like the Ambleside Artisan Market. After all, it was Mary, the late matriarch of her family and of the organic industry, who was a founder of Artisan Farmers’ Markets, a non-profit society that hosts three farmers’ markets throughout the Lower Mainland including Burnaby, Ambleside and Lonsdale.

With twelve children of their own, together, the Forstbauers worked on the farm. Many of them are still involved in the family farm today, regardless of full time jobs, and some have even started their own organic farms.

Natalie, the eldest is a mom with three kids; while she doesn’t work full time at the farm, you will find her at Ambleside Farmers’ Market selling and teaching about food or writing her memoir about living with a brain injury.  As for her brothers, Niklaus and Travis and her Dad Hans, they work countless hours in the fields, beginning their days at 5 or 6 am going right through until dusk...or even into the night. This same pattern of hard work and dedication to bringing you fresh produce is repeated by farming families, and all vendors, coming to our Lonsdale Quay and Ambleside markets week in and week out.

At Lonsdale Quay on Saturday mornings, be sure to meet Chris Bodnar of Close to Home Organics, who saysshopping at the farmers' market gives you the opportunity to know the people who grow your food. “Our customers tell us they are looking for food grown using sustainable practices. For us, organic certification is a very clear way of measuring our growing practices and providing a guarantee to our customers."

Also at Lonsdale, be sure to try the delicious fruit brought to you from Cawston by Snowy Mountain Organics.  You can also find organic produce grown at Stein Mountain Farm in Lytton at the Ambleside Farmers Market.

Visit the Lonsdale Market on Saturdays and the Ambleside Market on Sundays from May to October for your fresh produce, preserves, treats, and great artisan gifts! Learn more at www.artisanmarkets.caand follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

#BCBuyLocal. Supported by the Government of BC’s Buy Local Program; delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

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