Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 18, 2024
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Loss of a Legend

Clifford Foster, a giant figure in Prince Edward County agriculture, dies at age 93

A legendary figure in Prince Edward County agriculture has died.

Clifford Foster, of East Lake Road’s Fosterholm Farms, passed away at his home on Monday, June 3. He was 93.

Clifford and his late wife Margaret Foster, who passed away in 2002, were well known in the local farming community as hard working and diversified innovators, embracing equally both hard work and technology. They built an agriculture business that stretched over several sectors, including dairy, grain and corn, canning crops, market garden produce, and, of course, maple syrup.

Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith said he was saddened to hear of Mr. Foster’s passing. He called the long-time pioneer of the County’s maple syrup industry its chief historian and one of its biggest promoters. 

“He was always willing to champion local agriculture and discuss the issues facing Bay of Quinte farmers. I’ll miss visiting with him,” MPP Smith said.

Mr. Foster built up a business his father Harold started in 1924. He continued to work beside son Dean and grandson Rylan in the maple syrup industry, and remained the County’s largest syrup producer by volume for decades. 

Even just this past spring, “Mr. Clifford” was front and centre at the annual Maple in the County syrup festival, shaking hands with hundreds of visitors to the Fosterholm Farms Sap House.

Being a titan in Ontario’s maple syrup industry was almost like a springtime hobby for Mr. Foster, who farmed several hundred acres around East Lake near Sandbanks. He maintained a herd of dairy cows up until a decade or so ago.

Fosterholm Farms was one of the leading producers of canning tomatoes for Baxter’s of Bloomfield. Mr. Foster was one of the first local vegetable producers to employ a mechanized tomato-picking machine.

Once the local canning industry closed out in the early 1990s, Fosterholm Farms became a leader in market gardening, producing strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, and potatoes for purchase at their road side stand adjacent to Sandbanks and at the Belleville Farmer’s Market on market days.

A former Athol Township farming neighbour called Mr. Foster “one of the hardest working farmers I ever met. I loaded and unloaded tomatoes with him late into the night many times. He would give you the shirt off his back if you were in need.”

Past President of the Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture, John Thompson, recalled Mr. Foster’s success selling fresh maple syrup at the Belleville Farmer’s Market in the 1960s.

“Clifford had a positive attitude and a gregarious and outgoing personality, always greeting people with a smile and an opportunity to chat. Over the years he continued to sell at the Market. He was a real County gentleman who cared about everyone and had helpful suggestions whenever possible, especially for the young people who he was glad to help on their road to success,” Mr. Thompson said.

Long time friend Cheryl Markland noted on social media that Mr. Foster was a big piece of the heart of Prince Edward County, part of the core that made this County so beautiful. “He worked hard and always with a gentle smile.”

Hundreds of local people worked for Fosterholm Farms over the three-quarters of a century that Mr. Foster was in charge.

“For men, women and young people, he never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. He always had friendly handshake. May he rest in peace,” she said.

A Celebration of Mr. Foster’s life will be held to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of Fosterholm Farms in September.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 24 edition of The Picton Gazette
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