News & Updates
No Man is an Island #2: Outpourings of Action for Faraz
By Baba Brinkman
By all accounts, Faraz Khodabandeh was a remarkable person, both a larger-than-life character and a respected up-and-coming leader in the Brinkman community. He thought deeply and cared deeply about the tree-planting experience and what it meant for the people involved, and he faithfully shared those thoughts with his friends and fellow planters, earning himself a reputation as a wilderness philosopher and modern Renaissance man. When Faraz’s life was tragically and prematurely cut short by a road accident two years ago this day, on November 10th, 2013, the collective response was grief, but also action. Something about Faraz compelled his friends and family to take steps to preserve a lasting legacy for him.
A fund was set up with the Cumberland Community Forest Society in Faraz’s name, which his family and friends contributed to in his memory. Last season his friend and Brinkman Project Manager Jeremy Cameron organized a Faraz Memorial Plant Day, a chance for planters to donate trees and wages to the memorial fund.
“We had a crew with lots of greeners” said Jeremy, “only seven or eight people on my crew actually knew Faraz personally at that point, but they had all heard the Faraz stories; those stories have become legend.” In the end, every single planter chose to make a donation and many, including the cooks, contributed their entire day’s wages, adding up to $4,563, which was topped up with a $1,000 contribution from the Brinkman head office, equaling a donation of $5563 in one day. As of the Spring, donations to the Faraz Khodabandeh Memorial Fund amount to $26,786 and (that's not including the 2nd annual Faraz Memorial Plant Jeremy's crew hosted in June 2015) counting, preserving a vibrant community forest from future logging in an area that Faraz found as his home away from home, which is populated by many of his friends.
Now another kind of legacy is being established for Faraz, in another part of the country. Faraz’s mother Flora Nadafi was understandably more than devastated by the loss of her son. After Faraz’s passing, she quit her job and spent several months in a state of near-shock in their home city of Toronto. But in February of 2014 she had an inspiration: she would honour Faraz’s memory by contributing in the way that meant the most to him, by growing trees. Flora is an engineer by training, with a specialty in safety systems at nuclear power plants, so the intricacies of seeds and soil were far from familiar, but the idea had taken hold of her and couldn’t be ignored. She began phoning local nurseries and asking if she could visit and tour and learn how they were run. And she was told: “Lady, it’s February. All you’re going to see around here are piles of snow.”
So she waited, and once the snow had melted she visited several container nurseries, eventually striking up a friendship with the people at Not So Hollow Farm, where she volunteered her time for several weeks, learning about the native Ontario species they grow and the process from seed to sale. Then, in July of 2014, Flora made the move, selling her condo in the city to buy a small house with a half-acre backyard in the town of Mulmur, ON, about 90 minutes’ drive northwest of Toronto.
She spent the summer and fall completing the move, purchasing the soil and container infrastructure, setting up a website, and going through the process of registering her business and applying for a permit from the township. A new container grown nursery business has just been launched in Mulmur, ON, registered under the name “For Faraz”.
When asked what it was about her son that inspired such an outpouring from his friends and family, not just an outpouring of emotion but also of action, Flora thinks for a moment and says: “Honesty. Faraz was honest and sincere and generous, but honesty is the highest virtue, and Faraz was a rare person for his honesty. And he loved planting trees. He expressed it in his emails and the speeches he gave. Every mother thinks her son is special, but the response from all the planters tells me that Faraz really was.”
And her hope for the business, five years from now, or ten? Flora says she just wants to see it thriving and enduring, growing beautiful native trees with “much love” (Faraz’s favourite way to end emails) and showing people that those trees matter. She still keeps all of Faraz’s things and revisits them often, his notes and letters and books, and she sees the nursery as just one more way of remaining connected to her son and his memory.
Flora’s son was a man of letters, and of passionate eloquence. Jeremy recounts how one day on the block Faraz surprised him by discussing the history of Russian Ballet, which he had never mentioned before. This was a polymath, a tree-planter and a scholar. An online poem elegizing Faraz expresses a common sentiment, echoed by Jeremy: “I only wish I wrote down more of what he said.”
Jeremy's crew hosted the second annual Faraz Memorial Plant Day in June of this year, and by then the first new shoots at the For Faraz nursery had broken the soil. Now, as we remember Faraz, Flora and Jeremy and all the planters who hold Faraz’s legacy sacred are in the same boat, resting safe and thankful after another season of creating forests for life.