Forstbauer Family Natural Food Farm is a Certified Organic and Biodynamic farm established in 1971 by Hans and Mary Forstbauer. Located in Chilliwack, B.C. the Forstbauer’s steward over 100 acres of farmland where children play, cattle graze, chickens scratch, and vegetables and fruit flourish. The Forstbauer family has always been passionate about organic farming, and they pioneered the organic farming movement in the province. They had a big role in starting the British Columbia Association for Regenerative Agriculture (BCARA), and also the Certified Organic Association of BC (COABC).
These days there are three generations living and working on the farm. They maintain the core principles taught by past generations, employing regenerative practices to foster soil health and passing that knowledge on to future Canadian farmers.
Read our interview with Niklaus Forstbauer to learn about their approach to caring for the environment, and their passion for growing healthy food in healthy soil.
How many members of your family are involved in running the farm today?
NF: My mom (Mary) passed away in 2015 but my dad (Hans) is still on the farm, doing what he loves. They raised 12 children together on this farm, and their love of farming has been passed down through the generations. My immediate family lives and works full-time here. My wife 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.
Your farm motto is Growing Healthy Food in Healthy Soil. What does that mean to you?
We believe that to grow high quality food, it is essential to ensure that the environment in which the food is grown is healthy and in balance. Healthy, safe, top quality nutrient dense food is very important for our own family’s health and for the people who eat the food we produce. We want everyone to have access to local, fresh produce.
We live our motto everyday by purposefully caring for the microorganisms in the soil, maintaining diversity on our farm, and working closely with nature. Animals are an important component of our farm ecosystem. Our cattle, laying hens and horses are all pastured and tended to throughout the year. They help promote diversity on the farm and provide manure for compost.
Can you tell us about what it means to be an organic farm? What principles do you follow and what kind of records do you have to keep to be certified organic?
As far as record-keeping goes, for certified organic farming, everything is recorded and available for a yearly audit and a farm visit from an organic farm verification officer. It’s quite the process, but it helps you become organized.
Organic farming does not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, so we spend a lot of time looking at the science behind how the soil works. For example, you can look at soil micro-organisms under a microscope and then see how many bacteria or fungi there are and adjust what materials we put in our compost. There is a philosophy behind organic farming but also the integrity to make sure that everyone is following best practices. You have to make sure that everyone keeps good records and are doing all they can to protect the consumer.
What is your favourite thing about farming?
NF: I have several! Our main way of selling our products is at farmers’ markets, so we interact with the public a lot. It’s really nice because we can get feedback from them and we can also connect with the people who really appreciate what we do as local farmers. On the farm, my favourite thing is working with the land, and with the earth. It is amazing to witness the miracle of putting a seed in the ground and watching it come to life and become a beautiful plant.