Dana and Adam Thatcher, Thatcher Farms
By Pat Grotenhuis
(Rockwood) – Falling in love with a farmer took Dana Thatcher, a teacher, on a path she never envisioned for herself before meeting her husband Adam.
Even though she had no farming exposure growing up, Dana fully embraced the lifestyle and had no doubts in her mind about becoming a farmer. In the years since, the farm has grown and expanded, and Dana is happy she got a chance to experience farm life.
“It’s an amazing lifestyle. It is not an easy life, but it’s fulfilled. I love what we can have on the farm,” says Dana.
Adam and Dana raise sheep as well as finish beef cattle and hogs. They also have chickens, turkeys and bees. The animals they raise are marketed through their on-farm butcher shop and store. In addition, they grow crops including hay, barley, corn, peas, oats, sweet corn and strawberries.
“The store is a great component of the farm, giving us the opportunity to educate our customers about agriculture,” says Dana.
The work they have done on expanding the family farm has gained them recognition, both as winners of the prestigious Ontario Outstanding Young Farmers Award in 2013 and as calendar models for the month of May in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by RBC Royal Bank.
In addition to their farm work, both are involved in the community. Adam sits on a local sheep producer committee while Dana is on the board of the Ontario Farm Fresh Market Association and is chairperson of the Guelph Farmers’ Market.
Having their children with them while they work is important to the couple. Dana is quick to point out that the children have already been exposed to more on the farm than she ever was growing up, and says all three of their kids enjoy working on the farm and in the store. There is a lot of work to do, but Adam feels it is all worth it with the advantages being a farmer offers.
“We work long hours, but I get to have the kids with me. They’re growing up in it and get to see everything from start to finish,” says Adam.
Environmental management is an important component of the Thatchers’ farm. They have planted many trees, use cover crops on the fields to retain topsoil, and use no-till farming practices. This means the land is not disturbed between crops, leaving stubble to further prevent erosion and add more organic matter to the soil.
They have a large amount of pasture for the animals, which is divided to allow for rotational grazing. The animals are only given access to a section of the pastureland at any given time to allow for regrowth in the remaining pastures. To make sure they are following sound environmental practices, the farm also has an Environmental Farm Plan.
“The animals take care of us if we take care of them, and we only have a small amount of topsoil on the fields, which we have to do our best to conserve. Hopefully one day our kids can take over,” says Adam.
To see an interview with Adam and Dana, visit: http://youtu.be/cf1jxhtCTR0.