Lazy Plum Farm is a place unlike anywhere else in Saskatchewan.
Situated at the end of a dirt road that winds through the boreal forest, the farm is home to a rare group of heritage breed animals.
Tyler Rendek and Dianne Manegre raise Icelandic sheep, Tamworth pigs, a herd of Norwegian Fjord horses and Tibetan yaks.
Turns out, Saskatchewan’s weather — especially our winters — means yaks can thrive here. The same goes for Icelandic sheep and Tamworth pigs, which are direct descendants of European wild pigs and first brought to Canada in the 19th Century.
“They’re just so winter hardy and suited to this climate,” said Rendek.
In the couple’s travelling days, they hiked in the Himalayas, marvelling at yaks’ versatility.
Rendek and Manegre started raising yaks six years ago and sell the mild-flavoured, lean meat through their farmgate store.
They’d like to see more people raise yaks in Saskatchewan. Their dense, wooly coat means they don’t lose body heat as easily as cattle in the winter and they’re feed-efficient.
The Icelandic sheep, with their furry round bodies, inquisitive faces and elaborate curved horns, make delightful farm animals.
The couple started out with Suffolk sheep, but Manegre said they were “miserable.
“They always had difficulty lambing. These (Icelandic sheep) are tiny little babies. They’re vigorous. They’re just full of life. I’ve never had to bottle feed; they’re excellent moms.”
And don’t forget the Tamworth pigs. Another hardy heritage breed, Tamworths are the only pig listed on Slow Food Canada’s Ark of Taste.
Slow Food is a worldwide organization founded in Italy to promote local food and traditional cooking. The Ark of Taste is an international catalogue designed to preserve at-risk foods that are sustainably produced, unique in taste and part of a distinct region.
When the couple began raising Tamworths in 2005, they were an endangered species in Canada and they couldn’t find anyone breeding them in Saskatchewan. That was likely because Tamworths take 50 per cent longer than commercial pigs to reach market weight. And the pigs do not do well in large-scale confinement operations.
However, their meat is quite different than commercial pork – nutty and sweet, with a depth of flavour uncommon today.
That flavour profile is thanks to the pigs’ efficient foraging and rooting abilities. In other words, when allowed to do what pigs do best, the taste is outstanding.
There’s a direct connection between raising heritage animals and Slow Food.
“The breeds that we’re raising now in the barns (are) all driven by economics and not necessarily by considerations (about) the quality of the meat or the appropriateness of the animal to its environment,” explained Manegre.
Lazy Plum Farm’s products, from grassfed yak, beef, lamb and pork to heritage chicken and eggs, can be ordered online.
There are discounts for bulk purchases and first-time customers. They work with a provincially-inspected butcher close to the farm and make monthly deliveries to Saskatoon.
Or you can pick-up your order in person and take the family on a tour of the farm near Shell Lake.
—Jenn Sharp is a freelance writer in Saskatoon. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @flatoutfoodsk