When Charlotte Wasylik was a little girl growing up on Chatsworth Farm near Vermillion, she and her two brothers named all the cows that were on their farm. She had one particular favourite named Cinnamon, and after it was time for Cinnamon to go to slaughter the Wasylik kids weren’t squeamish about the a beautiful beef dinner that soon landed on their table.
“We had dinner and we all said ‘Wow, Cinnamon tasted really good’,” Charlotte remembers. “It wasn't something we were sad about because we understood the whole process, even at that age. We saw Cinnamon as a baby. We watched him grow up into this big steer and we probably helped load him into the trailer that took him to the butcher. We unloaded him into the freezers when we got him back. And then we had him for dinner and we really appreciated and respected what he provided to us.”
That true farm-to-table experience is exactly what Charlotte and her family are trying to share with the public. Her father founded Chatsworth Farm (which is named by a little school they can see from their farmhouse) in 1993 — her dad, Rick’s, family were farming pioneers in the Vermillion area, and while he didn’t personally grow
up on a farm he always felt drawn to life on his grandparents’ mixed farm.
Charlotte’s mother, Johanna, who is originally from New York City, came to Alberta to attend a wedding and soon moved to Alberta permanently after falling in love with both the farmer and the farm. The Wasyliks set to building a mixed farm, raising cattle and sheep along with some poultry, and growing grain to feed the livestock. It’s a somewhat old-fashioned way of farming, but both the pace and the philosophy suited the Wasylik family.
“My dad really enjoys all aspects of farming and that holistic picture. When you have poultry they benefit from the cattle and the cattle benefit from the poultry as well as any of the crops that you're growing,” Charlotte says. “You have that full circle of life and nothing goes to waste.”
Rick and Johanna’s three children, Alex, Nick, and Charlotte, are all now young adults and all three have elected to stay involved in the farm. Among other things, Charlotte has helped Chatsworth give customers a taste of the same experience she had with the farm’s animals growing up through the farm’s engaging social media presence. When the pandemic hit in 2020, she started giving virtual tours so that people can follow animals from birth to harvest, much like she did with Cinnamon when she was a kid.
“I got the idea from the Cincinnati Zoo,” she says. “They were doing virtual safari. So I started doing those virtual farm tours and it was just really exciting. It was fun to see everyone tuning in from Scotland, Texas, and New York.”
As for Chatsworth’s actual products, the Wasyliks keep things simple. They calve about 220 cattle a year, and while most of them are sold to feed lots (Chatsworth is a Verified Beef Plus producer and their premium product is identified as such) because it’s just too much for a small farming family to handle, 10 to 20 are kept on the farm and finished at pasture and then sold directly to customers by the family.
They do the same with their small flock of lamb and limited number of heritage turkeys. While they have sold poultry meat in the past, these days their chickens are used for eggs, which tend to come in beautiful colours like light blue, creamy beige, and deep brown, thanks to some carefully chosen breeds. The farm also periodically sells duck and geese eggs, the latter of which are especially valued by Ukrainian pysanky decorators, who prize the large eggs for their size. Their grain also makes it to market, in the form of red fife flour, wheat berries, and wheat bran.
Chatsworth’s inventory is small, but they do monthly deliveries to Edmonton and deliver to Calgary customers as often as they can — usually every other month. The Wasyliks don’t operate a farm store, but customers can also order in advance and then come by to see the farm firsthand when they pick up their food.
“One of the best parts of farm-to-table is showing people the animals that are producing the food they enjoy,” Charlotte says. “Whether that's the eggs and we show them the chickens, or the cattle that their meat comes from, we’re really giving people a holistic view where they can follow the journey of a lot of our animals.”
For more information about Chatsworth Farm, links to its social media feeds, or to order product, visit chatsworthfarm.ca.