Getting a leg up in the lamb industry.
Long before memes of jolly lambs and goats jumping around in onesies took over the Internet, before urban farming became a novelty and people started raising backyard chickens in the suburbs, Patrick and Sue de Rosemond chose sheep farming as a way of life.
While most people value convenience and urban living, the couple prefer a more natural and healthy lifestyle for themselves and their children. So upon moving to Canada from South Africa in 1977 and settling just outside of Carstairs, the two learned how to farm at Olds College and started PaSu Farm with 300 sheep, which Pat now admits was a poor decision due to their inexperience.
They chose sheep over other animals for their gentle temperament and the range of what they provide: milk, skin and wool – and also because Sue had a fear of cows. Today, there are around 50 purebred North Country Cheviot ewes for breeding; a breed the de Rosemonds chose over others, like the Suffolk, for its relative independence in birthing and mothering abilities.
Another lesson the couple learned is to delay the lambing season so that it adapts to Alberta’s climate – delay it by a couple of months so that the lambs are born later in spring when it’s more temperate.
What began as a small farm eventually opened up to the public for tours and grew to include a restaurant and a gift shop, all with a focus on lamb and sheep products, as well as other natural products. The restaurant uses organic ingredients where possible, no MSG, and serves dishes that are a combination of French, South African and Mauritian in style.
The roughly 100-seat PaSu Farm restaurant, decorated with African art and overlooking the Rocky Mountains, is open for weekday lunches, Sunday afternoon buffet and tea (which features scones and desserts), in addition to private events and special occasion dinners like its Celtic Feast in March and its famous South African braai in the summertime.
Every Saturday evening in the summer, the de Rosemonds host a buffet-style barbecue with a plethora of grilled meats (sausages, fish, steaks, lamb ribs), South African specialities, salads and side dishes. Want to take a piece of the experience home? Guest can also purchase take-home frozen soups, meat pies and desserts.
The gift shop is anything but the overpriced and irrelevant stores that you would expect from museums. The PaSu Farm boutique started with products made from sheepskin and wool from the farm itself.
Today, the shop carries a wide selection of wool and sheepskin apparel and accessories from rugs and blankets, to hats, mittens and moccasins, plus other clothing that are all made with natural fibres.
Jams and jellies are all made from scratch at the farm, using produce right from their own garden. You can also find teas, seasonal gifts, as well as PaSu’s own handmade lotions and creams (created with lanolin) at the boutique, all reflecting the de Rosemond’s values of living naturally.
While the business has evolved to include many different offerings, Pat and Sue are still just as passionate about the animals today as day one, with Pat often choosing to bottle-feed orphaned lambs when other ewes are unable to take them in. Bottle-feeding male lambs can create attachment, so Pat avoids that, but will try to pair up an orphaned lamb with an ewe that has lost her lamb.
Through all the changes and expansion of the business, one thing remains constant: Pat and Sue’s dedication to living and promoting a healthy and natural lifestyle.
If you can’t make it out to Carstairs, you can stay in the city and visit PaSu’s booth at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, where you can find a selection of wool and sheepskin clothing, moccasins, quilts and blankets.