Danny Renaud’s Little Haiti Haven
Since his breakout part in Habitat’s video ‘Mosaic’ in 2003, Danny Renaud garnered quite the fan base. His mix of technical skating and a ‘no-shits-given’ swagger made him an instant favourite among many pimple faced pre-teens and grown ass skateboarders alike, myself included. Personally, I followed Danny’s career as it evolved over the years. finding myself revisiting old footage and longing for more during his down time due to a catastrophic injury, then praising the skate gods when he recovered and found himself back in the pro ranks over at Politic.
Thanks to social media, it’s easier now, more than ever, to keep tabs on our favourite skaters; we get thirty second windows into their regular lives outside of video parts and photos in magazines. For the most part, we see the classic party and tour photos and them with their significant others.But when I would check out Danny’s page it was entirely different; a video of a pig eating watermelon, a goat chewing on his shirt. I wanted to know more of the story than could be told in a short video.
Photography: Ian Patrick O'Connor
Joel Watamaniuk: Why don’t you start by telling us what The Little Farmhouse is. How did it start and what’s your role there?
Danny Renaud: My girlfriend Gabby always wanted to do an animal rescue. The plan was to find a warehouse that we could outfit to be a shelter for the animals, but the gentrification in Miami's been pretty crazy and warehouse space or anything like that was so expensive. Eventually we found the farmhouse and it was actually the perfect spot. Here they can just run around and be outside; there's grass, the river and a barn we keep everyone in. It was way cheaper than anything else we could find and it's gorgeous. It’s like a jungle, it's got tons of vegetation.
The previous owner also rented the place out as a film and photo location, so we do that here as well. Photographers and filmmakers already knew it as a location, so it was easy to keep that going. To this day that's that's our bread and butter. That's how we make our living and can afford to take care of the animals.
I also built a marble bench here. I’m not sure if you've seen that or not, but it's up on my Instagram.
JW: Yeah I've seen that. It looks perfect.
DR: I know. I'm looking at it right now, it's torturing me. I’ve been injured for a while and haven’t been able to skate. It’s also like it's my zen garden. I sweep and maintain it, just being on it clears my mind. Like one of those Japanese rock gardens where they rake the path through the pebbles; just cleaning it makes me happy.
JW: That’s really cool. How many animals do you have at the farm currently?
DR: I don't know exactly how many. We’ve got a pony, a goat, a pig, 15 chickens, two dogs, six or seven cats and a baby raccoon right now too. A lady reached out and brought it to us. I was out of town and came home to my girlfriend taking care of this tiny raccoon. It was young enough that we had to bottle feed it. But lately its been going outside and running around. It’s cool to see an animal grow and learn like that.
JW: You partially answered my next question. How do the animals end up at The Little Farm House and do you try to find permanent homes for them?
DR: It depends how deeply in love we fall with the animal. Normally it's one in, one out. We mostly get dogs. Typically we rescue them from a shelter or someone brings them to us. They always contact us over Instagram and ask if they can bring an animal in. Sometimes they just ask how they can help us. There is a vet that we take them to, we get each one checked out and cleaned up. Then we put them up for adoption and try to find them a home. Over the past 3 years 40 to 50 dogs have come through here.
JW: What's the daily routine like over there with that many animals to take care of?
DR: Well, I have seven dogs at home myself. I'll get up early to feed them and let them out, then I'll rush over to the farm. Gabby and I don’t actually live at the farm, we have a house in South Beach. I get to the farm early and feed the pig, the horse and the goat and then let them out of the barn so they can run around for a while. Then I’ll stroll around the farm and see if anything needs attention. It's an acre of property with eight structures on it so there's constantly maintenance to do. I don't do it all myself. I've got a carpenter friend, James, who's our go-to guy. He does pretty much anything and everything here. Once I’ve done all that, I’ll skate a little bit.
JW: What's the long-term vision for The Little Farm House?
DR: I'd like to be living here eventually.
JW: Is the main house there livable?
DR: The main house is in the center of the whole property. There are six cottages on the one side of the property, there's a boathouse on the river, a barn and a mini ramp in the corner. The main house is in livable condition,I just have to work on it and trick it out a little bit, you know? Do a few things to actually make it feel like my home. It's pretty bare minimum in there right now.
JW: The setting sounds pretty idyllic to call home long-term.
DR: The Bos brothers(Josh, Jake and Adam) loved the place. I wish they would have hit me up and let me know before they came because they totally could have stayed out here. We've had a couple skate teams stay here. A couple years ago the Chocolate team stayed here and last year the Palace team stayed at the farm. The Palace team were all super cool. It was rad having them here.
JW: Can you explain the transition from your days riding for Habitat in your youth to where you're at now with running the farm?
DR: I mean, that’s exactly it. When I was riding for Habitat I was just a young kid. Now I’m 34, it’s just maturing and growing up.
JW: What pushes you these days and do you have any projects in the works?
DR: I just love skating, man. All I do is think about skating all the time; in the shower at 7 in the morning I’m thinking about skating. I'm just a total skate rat. I'm always looking for and fixing spots just like the Bos brothers do. I just eat and breathe that shit.
And as for projects, I've been trying to film a video part but I was hurt all last year and I had surgery on my ankle. I started filming in November and I've been saving footage since then towards the full part that I hope to have out at the end of this year.
See more of The Little Farm House at miamifarmhouse.com