By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
A farm outside of Halkirk is a multi-generational family affair to which the public was invited during the 2019 Alberta Open Farm Days on the weekend of Aug. 17th and 18th.
Five generations have worked the land at Lazy T Farm north of Halkirk just off Hwy. 855. The land began as a homestead in 1904 and has grown to become a nearly self-sufficient 2,500-acre ranch with around 400 head of cattle.
In addition to the cattle, around 1,000 chickens a year are raised on the farm along with all the feed required for the cattle.
“Something unique about the farm is it has always been passed down through a female in the family,” said Brett Hauck, who operates the farm with his wife Jenna and his in-laws, Tony and Clara Nibourg.
The Haucks returned to Jenna’s family home three years ago and have begun the process of taking over operations of the ranch, carrying on the holistic methods started over a decade ago by her parents.
“We are much more labour intensive than factory farms,” said Brett, speaking about the pasture feeding practices of the cattle and chickens they raise.
The cattle on the ranch are pasture fed for the majority of the year, and bale fed in the fields during the winter months.
The cattle are also moved regularly so as to not over-stress the grass in any particular pasture area, and the natural fertilizer the cattle leave behind helps the grass re-grow healthy and strong to be used as feed in another season.
Raising the 1,000 chickens is no less intensive.
The birds are raised in one of four mobile chicken pens. The chickens are able to forage in the grass under their enclosure.
The enclosure is moved regularly to prevent any one patch of grass becoming over-stressed. The frequent movement combined with the fertilizer the chickens leave behind results in lush green grass growing again, ready for next season’s chickens.
In addition to the forage, the chickens are also raised on supplements and anti-biotic free seed-grade grains supplied by a neighbour.
Lazy T Farm has also partnered with Red Tail Farms and Lady’s Hat Farm to create the Prairie Farm Project, a group of like-minded farmers with the goal of bringing the best quality and ethically-raised food to people.
The group has to date hosted three farm-to-table dinners, as well as catered some private functions. The third of the dinners, and first at Lazy T Farm, was on Aug. 17th in conjunction with Alberta Open Farm Days.
“We try to offer as much prairie food as we can out here,” said Brett.
“Our goal is to serve and prepare our own food.”
The sold-out Aug. 17th dinner was prepared by Chef Jason Barton-Browne, formerly of the Hayloft restaurant in Airdrie and currently an instructor at SAIT in Calgary.
All of the food prepared for the supper by Barton-Browne came from the region, with Barton-Browne going so far as churning his own butter out of locally-sourced dairy to use in the baking of bread out of locally-grown wheat.
In total 120 guests participated in the evening which also featured entertainment by local musician Jaron Rovensky.