For 28 years Peter Smit had a mink farm in Canada. He began to sell his skins at Kopenhagen Fur’s auctions in 2008. Today he lives on the Spanish island Ibiza and works as a skin collector for Kopenhagen Fur in North America.
At the age of 22, Peter Smit crossed the ocean. He travelled from his safe homeland Holland to a Canadian fox farm located on Prince Edwards Island with his girlfriend and 300 female brown mink.
- It was very tough. The winter was terrible, and the first couple of years we would have gone home to Holland if it had not been for the Atlantic Ocean, says Peter Smit.
He had previously worked six years at a mink farm in Holland and took the chance to go Canada, when he saw that a Canadian fox farm was looking for someone to run it. He had no money, so he brought his mink. Moreover, he had to marry Maja, his girlfriend; otherwise, she would not have been allowed in the country.
- It was not very romantic, because we just had to do it. It was primarily business, but we were young and did not mind the challenge. My wife has been there all along and she has really been the backbone of the farm, says Peter Smit.
First Canadian mink in Copenhagen
Peter and Maja Smit overcame the many challenges and stayed in Canada. Their children are born and raised at the mink farm, and in 1993 Peter bought out his Canadian partner and became sole owner of the farm. At that time they had stopped breeding og foxes and focused entirely on mink. In 2008, Peter Smit started selling his skins at Kopenhagen Fur’s auctions.
- When you have a mink farm, you quickly learn how auction houses are run, and I visited the different auction houses. There was no doubt that I wanted to sell my skins at Kopenhagen Fur, because I liked the ways they were handling things, says Peter Smit.
Only four years later, Peter Smit got an offer he could not refuse. Because of the good times in the fur industry and his farm with 6.500 females being worth a lot, he put it up for sale.
- The farm was sold in five days. I only did it, because the time was right. I could easily have worked on the farm for 10 more years, so it is not about disliking the industry. I have not lost the interest and I still like to be involved. Now it is just at another level as a skin collector, says Peter Smit.
Not afraid at all
He has now been working as a skin collector for Kopenhagen Fur in North America for a couple of months. He and his wife are now living on the island Ibiza so there is a long way to travel when visiting mink farmers. Not only in distance – also in the way of thinking.
- I know how the Canadian farmers think. Everything is very different in Canada, but I know the industry there. That is a good thing about this job; I am not afraid at all, says Peter Smit.
According to Peter Smit, he is not only going there to collect skins. He wants to help the farmers and give them good advice.
- There is a huge change in Canadian breeding at the moment, because the farmers are going from black to brown mink. That has never happened before. But the black mink are weak, and consequently it is necessary to change to brown mink. It is quite different to breed brown mink though, and therefore the farmers ask us a lot of questions, says Peter Smit.
Having always bred brown mink himself, there is much advice to give. Furthermore, Peter Smit has sold his mink at Kopenhagen Fur’s auctions, which gives him even more credibility with the Canadian farmers. Even though Peter Smit has only been in the job for a couple of months, he feels very confident.
- I feel at home at Kopenhagen Fur. I like the people and the management there. I am positive that everything will go well, says Peter Smit.
Trapping to save a culture: How the fur trade funds a camp that connects Canadian youth to tradition and nature