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Rockcliffe Farm, where ‘everything has to be the best’

August 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Less is more when quality is the main objective, says Alix Bezak, co-owner of Mono’s Rockcliffe Farm.

“This just our second year here and I enjoy it a lot. The people who come to our shop here have a similar mind-set to ours.”

Ms. Bezak shares ownership of the “family farm” at 388114 Mono Centre Road with her husband George.

A brown riding horse and a pinto pony graze in the front field. Otherwise, in various well-fenced paddocks, rich in good grass, are cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys. These are a full range of livestock raised for the excellent food they will deliver. Rockcliffe Farm is a working farm, geared primarily for the sake of producing good and safe food to eat and to offer for sale the same quality to those with “the same mind-set.”     

Ms. Bezak has been a horse person, a country person all her life, having been raised on a horse farm in King City, boarding thoroughbreds for owners in the racing industry in Ontario and elsewhere.

“I have three younger brothers,” she commented about her family. “We had 60 stalls in the barns.”

When her parents decided to sell the farm and move to something smaller, there was, admittedly, a degree of heartbreak. She is more philosophical about it now.

“King is hardly country any more,” she commented. “They moved here and my husband and I started looking to buy a place in the same area.”

It was a process: once they rented; then, they purchased a property on Mono’s 25th Sideroad, which presented many problems with how rocky the land was. However, over the two years they were there, they had begun their plans of having a small mixed farm, growing and raising everything organically and as clean as possible.

When they found the farm they now own, “it was exactly the property we wanted,” Ms Bezak said happily. “But moving was a big job because we had chickens, cows, sheep and so on and they all had to be moved.”

This house and property were in reasonable shape: the kitchen needed to be renovated and they required fencing for their 60 acres. Twelve pastures were created, well-fenced with boards and security.

“It was very reassuring having it done by professionals,” was her sentiment.

“That first little while here with the fencers and the kitchen, it was pretty craziness but fun,” she said, “and I had had the two children.” Like many good things, the renovations and the fencing came to a successful end, then, the settling in and growth could begin again, in earnest.

Her determination to raise and grow food that is the best she can has come, in large part, from a tortuous learning curve about how farmers, dealers and the industry deal with the processing of the meat on our tables. She told us stories about young animals being dragged to abattoirs, already deathly ill or lambs, barely weeks old.

“The more research I do, the more appalled I become. Some of the inside things of mistreated animals makes me feel good about how we treat ours.”

Looking over the green fields of the farm through the dining room window, “I’ve always only wanted to live in the country. I did veterinarian technician at Seneca College – for horses. When I had the kids, I became a stay-at-home mom.”

The cows on the property have been beef cattle but, now, the Bezaks are bringing in milk cows too. It has been more learning: about the care and handling  of milk cows. Ms. Bezak began by trying unsuccessfully to milk a young cow that also had  no experience. Finally, she found the right equipment, a mobile milker that does all the work efficiently and comfortably for  the  animal; it is all part of developing her knowledge and the skills she needs, while understanding that it best to learn with an animal who knows what it’s all about.

She has been learning about her pigs too. Some of her information has come from other farmers whose methods of farming are different from the Rockcliffe philosophy of letting their animals free range (within fenced boundaries) on grass, including their pigs.

Ms. Bezak had been told that she needed to assist a pig farrowing (giving birth), lest the pig roll on a newborn and squash it. She discovered, to the contrary, that her pig was perfectly able to deliver her own piglets, with no problem and without rolling on them.

“Just let Nature take her course,” she declared emphatically. “She knows best.”

Because of her mind being set to do the best for her family, the store was a natural extension of the farm. Said she, “If I’m going to be doing this for myself, I might as well do it as a business.”

In response to a discussion about enlarging her vegetable production by hiring seasonal staff to help with a large garden, she shook her head. The volume of vegetables is sufficient for the house and to add some stock to the shop. Primarily, the business of the farm is meat.

“I really have to see to it all myself,” she explained. “No employee will ever care as much about a business as the owner and with animals, everything has to be right.”

Her little son asked her to come and put on his favourite film. When she returned, she had thought it over.

“We don’t have to be a big business,” she remarked. “We just have to produce the best we can. Sometimes, it’s better to stay smaller and keep control on the quality.”

         

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