Welcome to our frontier! My name is Tara Klager and recently, I was part of an interview with The Rural Collective, an online community of rural women entrepreneurs. I want you to know who I am - and I want to get to know you, too! Here is the interview we did - take a look, see what you think and let me know what resonates with you!! (this interview has been edited for length.)
In 2020, we were so pleased to open our farm to the public for Open Farm Days - you can read about it!
Who are you (personal and business roles) and what do you do? Where do you live? Do you have a family? Married? Fur babies? Paint us a picture of your life!
“Hey there. I’m Tara Klager – wife, mom of two grown sons, writer and regenerative farmer! I’m a born-and-raised Rust Belt refugee. Originally from a small town near Kitchener, Ontario, we homestead northwest of Cochrane, Alberta with a focus on fibre and permaculture. Welcome to our frontier!”
What is your business – product, services or experiences?
“Providence Lane Homestead uses the framework of permaculture to build resilient and regenerative systems that will leave our little corner of the world better than we found it. We don’t do it alone – we have lots of help. As part of our process, we use our small flock of heritage breed sheep and alpacas to build biodiversity, improve soil health, restore damaged landscapes and – of course – grow the kind of fibre my grandmother would have recognized. We sell sheep breeding stock (both crosses and purebred/registered), raw fleece, rovings, hand-turned crochet hooks, pure alpaca fibre pressing pads for quilters and drop spindles for those who are interested in getting hands-on with their own fibre adventures. We also host workshops about sheep health/husbandry and partner with the Calgary Friendship Centre as often as we can in meaningful engagement and community building.”
How did you end up where you are?
“I was a writer for years for both newspapers and corporations but I’ve always been looking for a special place to call home. When my husband’s work moved us from Ontario to Alberta, we lived in Calgary for about five years and life seemed to have settled into a predictable routine. . .
Well, we can’t have THAT, now can we?
Five years ago we left all that behind and moved out to a heritage property northwest of Cochrane. I was eager to get started but the best piece of advice I ever got was “girl, slow down.” So we’ve taken it slow and easy, done a lot of research, made somewhat fewer mistakes and here we are – inching along on our own very unique ag journey.”
What inspires what you do?
“The tagline for our homestead is “People. Place. Permaculture.” and we mean it. People come first – community building is a key part of our decision-making process. We have intentionally prioritized relationships with Indigenous community members and look for ways to build friendships and meaningful experiences on farm for our guests. Place is key – and this place is special. With a constant system of assessment and re-assessment, we work with conservation groups like MULTISAR to determine our biodiversity baseline and then work hard to make improvements that will grow the ecological web here on the homestead. Finally, Permaculture. Permaculture is a hybrid word, a combination of “permanent” and “agriculture.” We use permaculture as our framework to do the work of both the People and Place portions of our tagline. Permaculture cherishes three foundational ethics – good for people, good for the earth and fair share. With our goals of diversity, inclusion, reconciliation and restoration, relationships and resilience, permaculture is a natural fit, a great way to check our process against our stated goals.”
What is your business vision for the future?
“Providence Lane Homestead, as a sheep enterprise, is contending with the same issues that sheep producers around the world face – the devaluation of wool. We have chosen to focus on heritage breed sheep that are currently considered to be endangered in Canada and as such, that insulates us somewhat from the depressing state of the wool market. However, we feel strongly that wool is a rich and ecologically responsible resource that is simply not recognized for its value or potential. If we can shift this mentality through constructive policy change and growing our fibre-processing infrastructure for all sheep producers, we will be well satisfied.”
What is it about your rural lifestyle that you are most grateful for?
“Have you ever seen the flash of red under the wings of a Flicker? Do you know how much the Swift Fox loves to sleep in the sun on a field round bale? Do you stand outside on a frigid February night and stare upwards at the swinging constellations as they dance across the sky? When the silence roars in your ears, do you feel your body slow and sway to the music only you can hear?
Yeah. Me too.”
What is your approach to running your rural business?
“Providence Lane Homestead is never going to be a big operation. We are intentionally small. Our goals aren’t just measured by the bank balance but are also in what I call “the relationship bank.” Are the relationships with our community getting stronger? Are we finding more ways to interact with our Blackfoot friends and neighbours? Are the natural relationships that exist between the elements and the land working to their maximum benefit?
Yes, we need to cover the bills but we believe that our approach also pays off. It does mean we compromise – we have off-farm jobs that take us away from the joys of our homestead. But when all is said and done, what we’re building can’t be measured in money and, in all likelihood, it won’t be measured by us. It’ll be in the voices of generations that came after us – I hope we’ll do right by them.”
What is your deepest intention for the impact you want your rural business to have?
“If you were to ask me what mankind’s greatest invention ever – and I do mean EVER – was, I would tell you. . .
Yes. String. Think about it, without the ability to twist fibres into a continuous length, to ply those lengths into something strong and lasting and then to weave those threads into textiles, we’d all be wearing leather in August. I don’t think that sounds like a good time.
No string means no textiles of any kind. No plumb lines. No way to build true. No way for my Irish ancestors to flee exploitation and starvation. No industry. String is the tie that binds, the thing that brought possibility and potential to generations before us. It has been a tool as foundational as the lever or the wedge.
Our homestead is a string. It’s our attempt to take the past and envision a future where the damage that has been part of our history can be restitched into something that lives and evolves with the community around it. We want to foster discussion, foster healing for both land and people and sometimes between land and people. We want our products to find their way into hands that will build beautiful, useful things. We want the unbroken line from choice to consequence to be a living story that our people – whether they be customers or friends or a bit of both – feel is their own, that empowers them and builds resilience and helps to lay a foundation for the world we want.”
What is the one thing we would be shocked or surprised to learn about you?
I can’t knit!! I know! A shepherd with sheep and alpacas and a total knitting FAILURE. So embarrassing.
What do you obsess about or what is your biggest motivator?
I utterly obstress over balance. Am I making the right choices in the right order at the right time to achieve maximum harmony? If I commit to this decision, can I foresee the consequence to the balance of my environment?