Visiting Lentelus Farms, it’s not hard to imagine you’re visiting a nature reserve rather than a sustainable farming business.
The Vancouver Island spot stretches across 170 acres of vegetable fields and grazing space, where visitors are likely to hear lambs bleating happily and see chickens clucking freely around the property.
Lentelus Farms recently partnered with Meatme to help distribute its products (which include chicken, pork, and lamb cuts) to families across the province. Their sustainable and ethical practices made them a perfect fit for Meatme, which is proud to partner with local farms that truly care about their animals.
“‘Eat less meat, but eat better meat’ is a line you'll often hear from us,” says Dave Semmelink, owner of Lentelus Farms.
The acreage is home to a plethora of animals -- heritage pigs, pastured chickens, cattle, and lamb being among them. From the feed they’re given to the spaces they roam, everything is designed by Semmelink to be sustainable and contribute back to the lands his family farms.
As a prime example, the animals are only given spray-free grains grown right in the Comox Valley, as well as a non-GMO feed made from oats, barley and peas. Meanwhile, the lambs are 100% pasture-raised, meaning they live the entirety of their lives outside on the farm, just as they would in the wild.
“We strive to practice a form of agriculture that is regenerative and restorative to the lands which we farm,” Semmelink explains.
Driving by on a Saturday, Comox residents are greeted by a small farm stand, which is typically covered with a spread of eggs, free-range cuts, homemade fresh sourdough bread, wildflower honey, and vegetables grown on the farm. Think kale, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi. “We’ve got about ten acres of vegetables,” Semmelink says. All of it is composted with fertilizer from their own animals, which contributes to their full-circle farming approach.
This also differentiates Lentelus Farms from large-scale, conventional farms that tend to sterilize the production process in a way that detracts from the nutritional quality. Semmelink shares, “Here, we’re trying to capture as much of it [animal fertilizer] as we can with the soil and then convert it into vegetables -- and more feed for the animals as well.”
It’s all part of the farm’s commitment to sustainability and providing their guests with the freshest foods imaginable, even if they live in the city.
When it comes to livestock, Semmelink explains that they try to breed most of their own pigs on the farm. At the moment, the team has 12 sows on the property, each of which has around 15 piglets each year. This all adds up to approximately 200 piglets each year -- no mean feat.
“The breed of pigs that we breed, they’re a cross breed that we’ve selected to get the best of both worlds,” states Semmelink. Breeding Berkshire, Large Black, Duroc, and Wild Boar results in “a leaner pork, but with a lot of intramuscular fats and a lot of flavour.”
They’re also known for taking good care of the little ones out on the pasture, creating a happy and supportive environment for the piglets.
Chickens also lead pleasant lives at Lentelus, right from the beginning. The first two weeks of their lives are spent in a brooder, where their temperature is monitored and they have access to water and fresh feed. This prepares them for their move to the field, where they have wide open spaces to roam. During the summer, the farm produces 400 chickens per month.
Semmelink welcomed a new animal to his farm in recent years: lamb. Raising lamb has always been a passion project for him. “It reminds me of my grandfather’s farm in South Africa,” he shares.
In fact, the name “Lentelus,” which translates loosely to “joy for spring,” is a nod to his grandfather, who was a philosopher, writer, cook and farmer.
Overall, grass-fed meat tends to have lower fat content than grain-finished meat, and eating it will result in a greater intake of omega 3 fatty acids. All Lentelus Farms products are also 100% free of antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids, and GMOs.
Lamb can be an intimidating cut for those who haven’t cooked with it before, but it’s actually an incredibly versatile product. For a flavour-packed meal that can be enjoyed by your entire dinner party, consider lamb lollipops with garlic and rosemary. After carving the rack into a set of ‘lollies,’ season each side of the meat, then sear in a cast-iron pan for 5 minutes on each side. You can even finish them on the grill for a slightly charred flavour.
For a tender, fall-of-the-bone meal (perhaps for a special occasion?), try braising lamb shanks in a fragrant vegetable stock thickened with tomato paste.
You also can’t go wrong with a Greek-style lamb burger, served on a pita bun and topped with tzatziki and cucumber. It’s like a vacation on a plate.
Medium-rare lamb is served at around 125° F, and it benefits from resting for a few minutes after you’ve cooked it.
Inspired to bring the flavours of the Comox Valley to your dinner table? Visit Meatme.ca to purchase pasture-raised, grass-fed lamb as well as popular pork and poultry products from Lentelus Farms -- delivered straight to your doorstep.