Muskoka, Ontario: Dan Kretschmar on Farming

Posted by Sara Dent on July 02, 2014 3 Comments

IMG_0584

Dan Kretschmar is a young farmer and member of the National Farmers Union. Dan attended the Young Agrarians Vancouver Island Mixer in March 2014. Dan is organizing the first Young Agrarians Mixer in Ontario October 18-19th! The mixer will feature a day-long workshop with rockstar, six-figure, small-lot farmer Jean-Martin Fortier.

Muskoka Save The Date

Name: Dan Kretschmar

Age: 29

Farm name: Grenville Farms

IMG_0292 - Copy

Location: Severn Bridge (Muskoka), Ontario

What do you produce? Organic Vegetables

Size of farm? 190 Acres

Number of years farming?  15 years give or take a few

Farming background? I spent the first 18 years of my life on my family farm. I grew up around sheep and cows, as well as growing vegetables. My mother was one of the first people to go back to the traditional organic ways of growing vegetables. She introduced me to Elliot Coleman’s books at a young age. I started working out in the fields when I was about 8 years old. I spent the majority of my teenage years reluctantly working on the farm. I always thought that I was losing time with friends because I had to work on the farm. Needless to say, that did not make me a happy camper. When I graduated highschool I left the farm as soon as I could to go to college and university. I spent 8 seasons away from the farm. After finally finishing institutional education and working at remedial jobs, never getting a full time position in any job of choice (which was teaching), I began to realize that it may never happen.

IMG_0191

There were a lot of emotionally charged changes in my life in 2012 one of which was my experience at the NFU annual convention in Saskatoon. All the hype about 2012 being the end of the world was true in a sense to me. It was the end of one world (life) for me and a complete transformation back to the family farm. The last 2 years have been very exciting and difficult at the same time. Change is always difficult, but the benefits outweighed the negatives in this situation for me.

I have big plans for the farm now that I have a vested interest in it. I want to continue along the same lines, but new youthful ideas need to be incorporated into the farm. The dinosaur models need to be tweaked in some areas. I also have plans to have an education center/farm school on the farm in the future.

IMG_0367 - Copy

How do you market your product? The market for the product has been established and growing as fast as the demand for local food for 35 years. My parents bought the farm all those years ago because they did not like what they saw happening to the food system. Currently the produce is all direct marketed to resorts, restaurants, private chefs, retailers and one farmers market per week.  I want to continue with this but move into a CSA model as well which I plan on starting next season.

How’d you come up with your farm name? The farm is named “Grenville” because both of my parents are geologists by trade. The farm is located on the Grenville province/region of the Canadian Shield.

DSCN1370

What do you want your farm/farming career to look like in 20 years? Only time will tell but current plans for the future involve starting a farm school/education center. I will still be farming in 20 years and becoming ever more self sufficient and enjoying my farming freedom.

Who are your farming mentors?
Jean Martin Fortier, Eliot Coleman, Joel Salatin, Dianne Kretschmar

What book changed your world?  John Taylor Gatto – “Dumbing us Down” – I read this book in the fall of 2012 shortly after returning to supply teaching for the school board. The book had a profound and life changing impact on me. It was reading this book that started the chain of events that lead me to where I am today. The book was actually an 18th birthday present… figures it took me 10 years to appreciate it.

What song are you loving right now?  St. Louis Blues by Big Bill Broonzy – only because it is what is on Randy Bachman’s Guitarchives (CBC Music)  as I got to this question and its rocking in my head.

Favourite farm tool? My fast hands and feet because without them jobs would take a lot longer to complete. You would also not be able to make fast use of the half moon hoe.  You need fast moving hands to be successful at market gardening and the ability to move fast. Since the weather controls your most every move on the farm, when its crunch time you better move fast or you will be squashed.

DSCN1614

For this upcoming season, what are you most excited about? I am planning a joint NFU/Young Agrarians fall mixer at my farm for the weekend of October 18-19. There is going to be a variety of presentations from UPOV 91 and Seed Sovereignty to traditional Mohawk farming methods to a presentation about ecologically produced coffee and cacao beans that are shade grown in the southern Mexico rainforest by Mayan farmers. There will also be local food, beer and music on Saturday (18th) evening. The weekend will be headlined by Jean Martin Fortier (The Market Gardener) who will give a 6 hour workshop on Sunday (19th).

Why did you join the National Farmers Union? I have been a member of the NFU for longer than I can remember. I was always part of the family membership growing up, but as I did not want anything to do with farming as a teenager I really paid no attention to the NFU. It was not until 2012 that I paid any attention to the NFU. About a month after I had read my life changing book I was given the opportunity to represent local 333 (Northern Ontario) as a youth delegate at the annual convention in Saskatoon. Knowing that changes were taking place in my life I decided to give it a shot. I thought at the very least I would get a fun trip to bitterly cold Saskatoon in November. I took a bus 2500km from Ontario to Saskatoon. I really had no idea what to expect. What can I say, it was the life changing experience that was a long time coming when I look back at it now. Now I can’t get enough of the NFU and am passionate and dedicated to fighting the issues faced by farmers across Canada.

13786596365_0e8047fdf8_o

Dream dinner: what’s on your plate? Who’s sitting around the table with you? For food I would have the best of what the NFU young farmers have to offer. Harder beans from Manitoba, a salad with radishes from Broadfork Farm in Nova Scotia, lettuce from my farm, carrots from the Veggie patch in Alberta, some baked asparagus from Steel Pony Farm, any kind of meat that Prairie Gold Pastured Meats has to offer and a strawberry shortcake from Wind Whipped Farm on Vancouver Island. Now this is not ideal because in no way would this be considered local, but I would wish to showcase all the young farming talent the NFU has to offer.

My guests would include the cast of the NFU youth, Jean Martin Fortier, close friends and family, a wine maker, a cheese maker, and a guitar player.

What issue is most on your radar right now that will challenge your farming dreams? UPOV ’91, CETA, C-18

Farm fashion: What’s hot on your farm?  Tilley Hats 

What advice do you have for aspiring farmers? TRY IT! And learn from your mistakes. Farming takes a lot of work and commitment. If you are not dedicated to the cause and passionate about it, you better get passionate because that is half the battle. Also read up, and read more! Jean Martin Fortier – The Market Gardener, anything by Eliot Coleman, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. This reading list could go on and on.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Pizza

13786988354_8043cd55a2_o

 

3 thoughts on “Muskoka, Ontario: Dan Kretschmar on Farming

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *