Posts Tagged ‘Tiraislin Farm’

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.

Kralik 1 IMG_0092

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.

Seasonal eats: Yak mincemeat pie

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Chef Susan Jessup’s yak mincemeat pie

‘Tis the season for mincemeat pies. Although the mincemeat we’re most familiar with is a mix of fruit, spices and liquor, until fairly recently it also contained meat, usually beef, which — in an era before factory farming — was at its best in fall and winter.

In this version of the classic seasonal recipe, Ottawa chef Susan Jessup uses locally raised yak meat, although beef can be substituted.  Susan is one of a growing number of yak devotees, who prize the red meat’s sweet, delicate taste, lean texture, high protein and low cholesterol levels.

A Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Susan is owner and general manager at 42 Crichton Street Fine Foods in New Edinburgh, where her menus showcase local, seasonal foods.  A self-described “die-hard defender of the farmer” and Food for All advocate, she has been appointed to the Ottawa Food Policy Council, and belongs to Savour Ottawa‘s advisory committee, the advisory board for Ottawa street food and Just Food.

Susan buys yak meat from Rosemary Kralik, who raises yak, cattle, goats and sheep sustainably and humanely at Tiraislin Farm west of Ottawa, in the Lanark Highlands.

Yak Mincemeat Pie

(recipe makes 2 pies)


1 lb ground yak (or lean ground beef)

1 can Muskoka Dark Ale

8 oz  smashed walnuts

4 oz each raisins, dried cranberries and currants

1 large onion, medium dice

2 large apples, grated

¼  tsp ground clove

¼ tsp ground allspice

2 tsp ground ginger

½  tsp freshly grated nutmeg

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 branch fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

3 oz heavy cream

½ fresh baguette, grated (yup)

enough butter to prevent the pies from sticking to the baking pans

your favourite pastry recipe for 2 double crust, 8-inch pies

1 beaten egg for the pastry egg wash


Open the beer, drink some, warm the rest (you choose how much to add/drink) and pour over the dried fruit and walnuts in a large mixing bowl.

Preheat a fry pan to medium and add the duck fat or butter. When the fat has melted and begins to bubble, toss in the onions and sauté until golden-brown. Add grated apple and spices and spoon the whole mixture, along with the onions, into the bowl containing beer, fruit and nuts.

Brown the meat using the same sauté/fry pan. Then add it, with the cream and grated baguette, to the big bowl and combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and allow to cool while you prep the pastry.

Lightly butter the grooves of two pie plates — or unwrap purchased pastry. (Hint: Many fine local bakeries are preparing pastry in foil pans for busy home chefs.) Roll out your pastry (top and bottom crusts). Line the pie plates, leaving some extra to hang over the sides. Beat the egg for the eggwash.

Divide meat filling between the pie plates. Drop the pastry tops* on and brush them with egg wash; flip the draped lower-crust pastry over the edges of the pastry tops and egg wash those. Cut steam vents into the tops and place the pies in a 350ºF oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325ºF and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the bottom crust is cooked and the pasty is golden. (Set the timer in case your oven runs hotter than most).

Cool the pie for a few moments before slicing or prepare ahead of time and reheat at a lower temperature. Serve with onion jam or cranberry compote.

* If the pastry tops are too much fuss, use mashed sweet potatoes instead. Mash 2 egg yolks, salt, pepper, and a little butter into the baked, or boiled and drained, sweet potatoes. Delicious!