Posts Tagged ‘Lanark Local Flavour’

Tiraislin Farm’s Rosemary Kralik: An ambassador for food and animals

Friday, June 6th, 2014
Tiraislin Farm's Rosemary Kralik with some of her Tibetan yaks and Highland Cattle. Photo by V. Ward

Tiraislin Farm’s Rosemary Kralik with some of her Tibetan yaks and Highland cattle.
(Photos by V. Ward)

Among the things I’ve learned in writing Earthward: Ottawa Seed to Table is that producers of sustainable food in this region are extraordinary people – energetic, creative and resilient, with a deep sense of responsibility to others and to the natural world. Organic livestock farmer Rosemary Kralik is no exception.

A trim, vigorous woman in her late sixties, she raises, single-handed, about 100 Tibetan yaks, as well as Highland cattle, sheep and goats at Tiraislin Farm, her 722-acre operation in the craggy Lanark Highlands near Perth. She sells meat from her animals at the farm gate and  the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, and also supports local food through memberships in Savour Ottawa and Lanark Local Flavour.

Articulate, forthright and wryly funny, Rosemary is a self-described ambassador for food and animals. “If we have to eat meat, there’s no reason to disrespect the animals who die to feed us,” she says. “We must feed them well, make them happy and minimize the horror of their deaths.”

To supplement her income from the farm, she draws, paints and sculpts, specializing in portraits and studies of animals and people. Art and farming go hand-in-hand, she says. “Agriculture is the mother of all art.”

Born in Cairo and raised in England and Ottawa, Rosemary began farming in the 1990s, after a career in the public and private sectors that encompassed everything from scientific illustration and photography to graphics and fashion design, systems analysis and management consulting. Farming harnesses her skills and knowledge, she says, and satisfies her love of variety.

I spoke with Rosemary at Tiraislin Farm on a rainy, wind-whipped day in late April. After a long chat at her kitchen table, she took me to meet some of her beloved yaks and Highland cattle who were foraging in pastures near the house. Here are highlights from our conversation.

What do animals need to live a happy life?

As much as possible, they need to live as they wish. For my animals, that means being able to roam over much of the property at different times of the year instead of living in confinement. It also means foraging freely on buds, bark and leaves rather than being fed corn and soy which are hard for them to digest. It’s a life that seems to suit them. My animals are never ill and have never been given antibiotics.

When it’s time for an animal to die, I go with him to the local abattoir. I make sure he’s lying comfortably in a bed of hay and that there are no loud noises to frighten him. I stroke him and talk to him. When the end comes, there’s no trauma: it’s quick and painless.

What are the benefits of eating meat from happy, humanely raised animals such as yours?

The meat tastes better: it has a sweetness to it and people tell me they feel so good after they’ve eaten it. The meat is more digestible, too, at a molecular level. The less you cook it, the better.

Yaks and other grass-fed ancient breeds tend to be very lean and high in omega 3 fats which help reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation. They’re also high in conjugated linoleic acid which is said to protect against cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

I believe the benefits go further. We’re all bags of chemicals, so if we’re constantly eating the meat of stressed, unhappy animals, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of depression in our society.

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Running a livestock farm single-handedly would scare a lot of people off. What keeps you so committed?

It’s always fascinating. Farming spans biology, zoology, medicine, engineering, chemistry and many other disciplines. You continuously have to build and fix things, to solve problems on the spot and learn as you go.

There’s also great freedom that come with knowing you can feed yourself. That’s something we’re losing as our society becomes more urban. We’ve increasingly dependent on bosses of different kinds and rely less on ourselves. When you’re farming, you’re a slave to nature, but I don’t mind that slavery. In fact, I often find myself smiling as I shovel the shit.

If you could change one thing about the current food system, what would it be?

Stop preventing people from producing their own food! Open up more small abattoirs, let people grow food and trade it. No one ever died from eating a carrot their neighbour gave them and the more people who grow two bags of carrots, the better. Economies of scale may be fine for cars or widgets but they don’t work for living things. Having many more small farmers is the only food security we have.

Learn more about Rosemary’s organic meat at the Tiraislin Farm booth at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. Check out her art at A Brush with Immortality.