Farm to table is a phrase that is becoming increasingly important and popular as chefs look to cook with the freshest, locally produced ingredients. But these chefs took it one step further and took their food production into their own hands.
Ray and Nancy Nolan from Vulcan Alta are professional chefs by trade, cooking at high-end establishments like the Dorchester Hotel in London, England and the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Calgary. However, the two decided it was time to step away from the kitchen and embark on a new journey. Ray and Nancy both came from farming families and returned to Nancy’s childhood family farm, taking on the daunting task of starting over in agriculture and launching Lambtastic Farms in Vulcan Alta.
Ray and Nancy transitioned into sheep and lambs to stay involved in the culinary world; however, they quickly realized that running a kitchen and running lambs were very different. While most factors can be controlled in the kitchen, farming has many issues such as weather that create unexpected challenges.
They began their farm journey with 50 sheep, navigating the changes and working with a completely new animal. The operation continued to grow when the Calgary Hyatt Hotel asked if they would be interested in supplying the hotel with lamb. Ray and Nancy quickly realized that chefs were becoming increasingly geared to finding local food and that Lambtastic farms had the lamb connection that many were looking for.
As the journey continued and the number of lambs increased, the team agreed that there was a pretty steep learning curve going from the kitchen to the pens. However, Ray and Nancy have pushed forward and now have a herd of over 300 sheep. Lambtastic farms follow sound management and ethical practices providing lamb to Alberta’s high-end restaurants and grocery stores.
Lambtastic farms are also involved in the Calgary Stampede, showcasing and building awareness about lamb meat, different ways to prepare it and even sharing the cooking process on certain pieces of meat. To show that there are more meat options than just beef, they aim to share that lamb isn’t just special occasion meat and that it too can be versatile. Additionally, they share the process of raising their animals – from growing their grain to haying their own feed. The Nolans are transparent in sharing their practices that deliver the best lamb across Alberta.
Moving forward in their lamb journey, the couple is working to adapt and grow the business realizing the increased shift in people wanting to support locals and buy directly from farms. So that they too can get their meals from the farm to enjoy at their table.