She was the undisputed matriarch and passionate founder of the organic farming world in Chilliwack — and across B.C.
Mary Forstbauer, passed away Friday night at CGH after a prolonged illness.
She was 66.
The well-loved farmer, wife and mother of 12 children and many grandchildren, is being remembered with tremendous appreciation and affection from family, friends, and the organic community for her kind ways and dedication to fresh organic food for decades.
“People want to know where their food is coming from and how it is grown,” Forstbauer told The Progress in 2012.
The tributes are already pouring in.
“The organic food movement in B.C. has just lost one of its most important and long standing founders,” wrote Kate Sutherland. “Mary Forstbauer has been at the beginning of key organizations like the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and COABC.
“She has been wise, smart, tireless, creative, passionate and effective in her efforts. She has also been generous and kind, and by turn forceful and persistent.”
Mary and Hans Forstbauer started farming naturally in 1977 with a seven-acre farm on the Matsqui Prairies before establishing the family farm in Chilliwack in 1989, to grow blueberries, zucchini, kale, chard, carrots, potatoes, pickling cukes, and more, at Prairie Central and Gibson Roads.
She fought and advocated for the growth of the certified organic sector, as well as bringing the community together, and getting organic produce into the hands of the people across the region.
“So many people have been touched by your love, and we will all miss you so so much,” posted Elyas Forstbauer on social media.
Her Facebook page has become a touching memorial to her love and leadership.
“We would like to thank everyone for reaching out in thoughts and prayers over the last six weeks,” wrote her daughter Natalie Forstbauer. “The outpouring of compassion, love, and support was a testament of the life she lived. We are proud of her accomplishments, and the love of life that she shared with everyone.”
When she started, there were no organics standards in place, just a group of committed pioneers. One of the accomplishments she was recognized with is a 2015 award from the Canadian Health Food Association that she was sadly unable to receive in person recently.
It was a National Organics Achievement award, said her daughter, that she was meant to be presented four days after she was hospitalized.
“It is one of, if not the top award in the organic industry on a national level. Thankfully we got to share the video with her a four days before she passed,” she said.
They were going to present her with the award at the CHFA EXPO West in March when she never made it to Toronto for the presentation.
Her legacy is the large number of young people who started farming organically.
“My biggest message is to teach children to love the land; to love the food they eat, and they will become great people in the circle of life,” Mary was quoted on video, at www.chfa.ca, as a CHFA East 2015 recipient of the national organics award.
Even in the end she thought of others.
“I am the twinkle in the skies,” she assured the family as they gathered together to “love her up” in her final days.
The family is setting up a memorial fund to mark her incredible legacy, advocating for the labelling of GMO foods.
Celebration of Life for Mary Forstbauer will be Monday, Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. in Chilliwack Alliance Church on Young Road, with tea/reception to follow. All are welcome.