Ted Zettel grew up on a mixed farm in the southern part of the province of Ontario. For 29 years, he and his wife Christine made a living milking cows and raised six children, who are the 5th generation of Zettels on this piece of land. In 1983, already deeply involved in farm politics, Ted became a pioneer in the emerging practice of organic farming. He quickly rose to prominence as a leader in this field and traveled extensively, lecturing and teaching and organizing groups of farmers. He served as Public Relations Director for The Ecological Farmers of Ontario and wrote much of the popular course “An Introduction to Ecological Agriculture”, which laid the foundation for the expansion of organic farming across Canada. In 1989 he became the first President of Ontar-Bio Organic Farmers Cooperative, a small grain cooperative which grew into the largest organic farmers cooperative in Canada, with the leading national brand of dairy products, “Organic Meadow”. He played a key role in organizing farmers and developing market links for the birth of “Field Gate Organics”, and served as Chair of the Board of Directors for several years.
Mr. Zettel’s leadership in this very successful model for cooperative enterprise has made him a popular speaker at national and international conferences.
In 1997 Ted was contracted by the University of Guelph to direct an international conference involving 13 nations in Southern Africa. He is the co-editor of a book that summarizes the presentations at this historic event ; “Ecological solutions for Smallholders in Southern Africa”.
Ted and Christine retired from active dairy farming in 2006 so that Ted could pursue a full-time career consulting in the areas of organic production, agricultural policy, regulation of the organic food industry, and cooperative development. Christine completed her university education and went on to a career in social work.
In 2009, Ted was appointed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to chair the national Standards Interpretation Committee. He also served as President of the Organic Federation of Canada, the industry group which represents organic farmers, processors and consumers across Canada. He has held many positions within Organic Meadow Cooperative, including leading the management team up to February of 2012.
In 2015 the assets of farm partnership “Jervic Farms”, owned by Ted and Christine were transferred to “Zettel Family Farms”, a new partnership involving their two sons Samuel and Mark. Ted is once again heavily involved in day to day farming, helping to build an Organic Grass-Fed meat business, in the hope that future generations of Zettels will be able to continue the farming tradition.
Sam is the oldest of Ted’s children, and he and his wife Michelle have five sons. In 2015 he and his family moved home to the farm house where so many Zettels have lived since 1860. He is employed as Youth Minister at Holy Family Parish in Hanover and Sacred Heart Parish in Walkerton, and contributes to the farm mainly by repairing equipment, keeping the books and helping out in his spare time. Sam left home in 1999 and didn’t plan on ever returning; still, as he puts it, “the land was calling” and when the opportunity arose to return he welcomed it. He loves learning and talking to people about organic food, farm tourism, aquaponics, and sustainability.
Mark Zettel is the youngest of the children of Ted and Christine Zettel. He lives on one of the farm properties with his wife Emily.
Mark’s interest in animals began at a young age when we was fascinated by catching frogs and insects in the creek near the farmhouse. As he got older he began doing more chores on the farm, taking over the meat chicken business in his teens and milking the cows with Grandpa Zettel in the mornings.
After completing a degree in philosophy at the University of Western Ontario, Mark returned to the farm and built a small home on a property one concession south of the home farm. In October of 2015 he married his wife Emily, whose education in horticulture has proven an asset to the farm business.
Mark takes care of the daily chores of looking after chickens, turkeys, cattle, and pigs while working away from home as a land surveyor. He and Emily also manage the farm’s summer vegetable CSA, which began in 2016. They look forward to the expansion of this enterprise in years to come and hope to one day make their living solely by farming.