What makes a man—a respected and admired Toronto real estate developer—suddenly buy a farm and raise a herd of cattle? Love.
Lunch at the new Paradise Farms Café: we savour a clean-tasting, mouthwateringly robust Angus steak sandwich, and the most out-of-this-world, light and crunchy, guilt-free onion rings. From another table, I hear a diner acknowledge, “I knew this would be great—it’s Shane Baghai.”
The first question we all want to ask is: how does one go from building homes to raising cattle? It’s not an easy or common thing to do, but in the answer, lies also the reason for the high quality of the product.
Renown for his luxury developments, green initiatives and philanthropy, Shane Baghai grew up on a farm. His mother was a dairy farmer. She succumbed to cancer. Years later, his wife, too, would contract cancer. In their determination to maintain good health, Mr. and Mrs. Baghai, together, sought a nutritionist who told them to eliminate beef and any produce with artificial hormones from their diet.
In a time when it is so often too difficult to truly know our own food sources, Baghai then determined to build his own farm, and provide for his wife and family from his own sources. It would be there that he would begin what would become the most important venture of his life: providing high quality, healthy, organic food. Now it makes sense: high quality living has, sometimes, a lot more to do with what we eat than where we live. And when he first brought Mrs. Baghai to his new acreage in Caledon, Ont., she looked out over the fields and rolling hills, breathed it in and smiled at him with love, and affirmed, “This is paradise.”
Understanding our own limitations is essential, and knowing whom to hire is integral to the success of any business. When Baghai met Rob Hassen, a third generation Angus breeder, he knew he’d found the right man. Of course the learning curve was steep, and Baghai embraced it with passionate motivation. “The farming industry is the most misunderstood community,” he says. Indeed, the knowledge and skill required is vast, highly technical and arduous. With a clear goal, and unflappable focus, he opened Paradise Farms in 2008 with five Angus cattle to become, within four years, the number one Aberdeen Angus breeder in all of North America, according to the American Angus Hall of Fame. “It amazes me that every time I go to a sale or a function in the United States, everybody knows Paradise Farms,” says Baghai.
In order to be certified “Angus,” cattle need only actually be 51 percent true Angus. The Paradise Farms Angus beef is 98 to 100 percent pure Aberdeen Angus. We taste the difference. When Baghai tells me he also has “Kobe” beef, my initial thought is, “no, you don’t,” until he informs me that, just as we can have Angus outside Scotland, he can have “Kobe” outside Japan, and this is Ontario Kobe. “Why import it,” he asserts, “when we can breed them right here, and promote Canadian beef.” While they are not purebred Kobe—the cattle are Canadian— they are still 65 to 75 percent Japanese by origin. To anyone skeptical of its unmistakably tender quality: our personal experience tells us there’s no debate.
Baghai also raises neglected breeds like the rare Italian Chianina—the oldest breed known to man. These great big white cattle can grow to eight feet tall and 14 feet long! A tour of the farm also reveals another revered breed of cattle, the lean, longhaired, horned Scottish Highland. Here, they roam freely through the woods, showing off their distinct beauty.
High quality beef in responsible quantities is an essential part of any protein diet. All the meat from Paradise Farms is grass–fed and grain finished. There are no chemicals in the feed. The grains are a combination of organic barley, oats, hops, corn, soybeans and flax seeds. The café was an idea to bring the farm taste to the urban communities Baghai has built. The farm, itself, located in Caledon, one of the greenest towns near the GTA, has a zero carbon footprint, and uses bio, wind and solar energies.
Baghai believes that for the health of our environment and of our families, “we should all stop consuming artificial ingredients.” His sentiment is genuine and he’s made a believer out of me. – Adam Waxman
For more information on Paradise Farms go to: Paradise Farms.