We Went to Lambtastic Farms to See Where Some of the Best Ethically Raised Lamb in Alberta is Raised

It’s the family farm of Ray and Nancy Nolan.

In a province where beef is king, Ray and Nancy Nolan are successfully carving out a small niche for their ethically raised lamb. Both trained chefs, both with a family background in farming, the Nolans have a level of expertise that truly covers the entire farm to table journey.

About five years ago, the couple decided to switch gears from their international cooking careers and came to the Vulcan area in Alberta to establish their farm. It was a return to the family business for both, really. Nancy’s parents’ farmland is adjacent to Lambtastic. Ray is the sixth generation in his family to raise lamb and the first in Canada. The previous five generations farmed in Ray’s home country of Ireland.

In addition to caring for their 350 or so ewes and 500 or so lambs, the Nolans cultivate much of what the flock eats. The sheep move from grassy pasture to grassy pasture and also enjoy the harvest from some 1,300 acres of hay, canola, wheat, barley and peas under the Nolans’ care.

Lambtastic products can be ordered directly from the farm or you can shop at Spraggs, Planet Organic, Spud.ca, and the Calgary Farmer’s Market. If you’d rather let someone else do the cooking, the Nolans supply lamb to the chefs at Hotel Arts, The Guild, and the Hyatt Regency. Lambtastic regularly participates in Slow Food Calgary events, watch for upcoming farm visits and other special events (there are rumours of a harvest dinner being planned for September).

Photograph by julya hajnoczky

The Nolans have both Suffolk (the ones with black faces and white coats) and Cheviot sheep (white faces and white coats) in their flock. These are both traditionally bred for meat, rather than wool (though they all have to be shorn nonetheless, Ray says).

PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYA HAJNOCZKY

New lambs stick close to their mother for the first while. They have access to the outdoor pasture, as well as the large barn, in case the weather outdoors isn’t to their liking.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYA HAJNOCZKY

There are several dogs always keeping a watchful eye on the flock. Besides the dogs, sheep, and a thousand or so gophers, the farm is also home to Lloyd the llama. “He came with the land,” Ray explains. “He earns his keep though.” Llamas, it turns out, are very good coyote deterrents, and help keep the flock safe.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYA HAJNOCZKY

The ewes and lambs can wander into the 12,500-square-foot barn anytime they please, whether to stay warm in the winter or cool off in the summer.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYA HAJNOCZKY

The peas are Ray’s favourite crop to grow. He likes the way they all hang together and hold each other up as they grow, he says. And, fresh peas are one crop the human residents of the farm can enjoy as well.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYA HAJNOCZKY

The Nolans make a range of products with their lamb. Look for lamb chops, lamb ravioli, or ground lamb for burgers or meatballs (or may we suggest Shepherd’s pie?), as well as combo packs like The Braising Pot (lamb shank, ribs, and shoulder) or The Roasting Pan (leg of lamb, rack of lamb, and loin chops).

For more information on Lambtastic Farms, including where to buy it and recipes, visit lambtasticfarms.com

Get a weekly serving of suggestions for how to experience Calgary's restaurants, bars and markets by signing up for Avenue’s Food & Drink Newsletter.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Privacy Policy

Privacy & Cookies Policy