Written by: Danielle Kelliher
Forstbauer Family Natural Food Farm was one of Coquitlam Farmers Market’s first vendors. The farm was started in 1977 by Mary and Hans Forstbauer on the Matsqui Flats, near Abbotsford. In 1988 Mary and Hans moved their family to Chilliwack, where it is now run by their children and grandchildren, who collectively attend eight markets at the height of the season. Mary Forstbauer is remembered by many as a legendary organic farming pioneer, having an extraordinary impact on “not only the local food scene, the provincial organic industry, but also the national health food community.” (Chilliwack Times) Read more about the farm’s history here.
Niklaus and Lindsey Forstbauer attend the Sunday Coquitlam Farmers Market with their seven children. It’s a long day that starts at 5:00am, when much of the food is picked that morning, if not the day before.
Farmers markets are a way of life for the Forstbauers and many other small farmers who could not earn a living without them. Almost 95% of what is grown on the Forstbauer farm is sold at the markets, sustaining the business and allowing the family to work and live on the organic farm.
Niklaus says, “Before the market we used to have to sell to the wholesaler. Markets give us a chance to have a relationship with the people we sell to. It also helps make it so we can survive as a farm, financially.”
Niklaus has attended farmers markets since he was a child and has seen first-hand how they’ve changed over the years. “In the beginning there were only a couple farmers and our mom was one of the first. Now there’s so many people. It took a long time for the markets to become what they are now.”
While the markets provide essential income for vendors, they also provide an important service to community, connecting people with the food they eat and the people who grow it.
Says Niklaus, “My mom made sure that we were a big part of not only the farm at home but also a part of selling the food and interacting with the customers.”
“These days there are a lot of backyard gardeners, especially in Coquitlam. They come to us for advice or questions, like why their zucchini isn’t growing, so I talk to them about how to pollinate a zucchini.”
Niklaus remembers one of his mom’s favourite market stories:
“One year we got a new flock of chickens. They were pullets [young hens], so when they started laying, the eggs were small. As pullets lay more eggs, they get bigger. We were selling the eggs at the market for less, because of their small size. A few people came by the stand and were asking my mom why the eggs were so small. She told them it was because we just got new chickens, that the eggs will get bigger over time. Well, two weeks later the person came back to the market and was frustrated. She said, “I left the eggs on the counter for two weeks and they’re still the same size!”
Photo Credit: Michele Mateus Photography