By Chad Townsend
The death of a mother for many people including myself is a time of reflection. I write these thoughts in the hope that those who knew her will find something in the details of my Mother’s life that can inspire them in their own life. There are many things I do not know about my mother’s life. I write about my memories mostly.
My mother was born in South Porcupine Ontario. She did not move to BC until after she had trained as a nurse and was married. First she had my brother Dirk and then she became pregnant again and had my Sister and I. As I understand it, she separated from my father when I was one and my brother was four. At the time they split, they were living in Vancouver and my mother made the decision to buy a farm in Chilliwack. She moved with her three children ages 1, 1 and 4 to the farm that she had been able to purchase with a small inheritance.
There was nothing about her upbringing that I have heard that would suggest that prior to this she would become a farmer or would have the aptitude for it. I remember the early days on the farm as blissful. The farm was at the start a hobby farm with some small barns, pastures and a creek that cut the farm in two. At the back of the property was a forest. In the vague memories of my early days I know or have been told that we had an assortment of animals that ranged from chickens to ducks to a horse to goats to rabbits to cats and a dog.
It was a curious decision on her part as she was smack in the middle of a conservative Christian town as a single mother raising three kids through the 1970’s. The neighbor generously called to offer to spank the kids as she had no husband to perform this essential task. One never knows precisely where character comes from, but my mother always had lots of it. Slowly her life’s work shaped up as she joined foods co-ops, became interested in recycling, gardening and social movements. That life’s work became an organic herb farm. That became her purpose. Her three children grew into able workers on that farm and our life revolved around the farm. It was not an easy life. It was hard work. No corners have ever been cut by my mother in cultivating herbs. The farm sold at the Granville Island Market in the early days, potted plants to several nurseries and fresh herbs to top restaurants and supermarkets.
When we were teenagers, the farm was in full production. The farming life was not a life that any of her children wanted. The farm has some difficult times after we left and my mother struggled to make ends meet on the farm. The connection with that piece of land now long known as Lowland Herb Farm by that point was for her as if the land was part of her. For Boni, the money end of farming was never a focus, it was always about promoting a connection to plants and the land. This passion was clear to those customers who talked to her when in her “retirement” years she would drive to the Trout Lake Farmer’s market most Saturdays. I doubt many appreciated the depth of the commitment, but many were touched by the obvious passion.
Her vision has always been small scale farming. She could walk around the farm and point at various obscure plants and give you various accounts about the plant. Many plants existed on the farm for no reasons other than having diverse and wonderful plant species.
About a year and a half ago she was diagnosed with ALS. To the end she was talking about the farm and the plants. For the last several months I can only imagine the daily pain it was for her not to be able to walk out of her house and tend the plants and the farm.
I sometimes struggle to find the meaning that my mother saw above all else in this devotion to this piece of land. I think if she could have had her way we would all be connected to dirt, plants and nature on a minute by minute basis. I think she would have dirt under all of our fingernails and she would want all of us to be on a first name basis with the person who raised the animals or vegetables that we eat.
She leaves behind us three children and six grandchildren. She was the most stubborn person I have known. She had more integrity than anyone I know. She did not hesitate to speak her mind. I don’t know where she got these qualities. At the end she had no interest in hanging around suffering from a disease that had robbed her of her life’s work. She died in the company of her three children.
If you are reading this, it means you probably knew my mother. Take some time to appreciate nature if you wish to honour her memory. Garden. Get to know your local farmer. Thank you to those that have been my mother’s friend and found common cause in her passion.