Driving down a highway in central Oregon, there are certain things I expect to see. I will see cows, horses, fruit trees, maybe a vineyard, and a fossil bed or two. What I didn’t expect to see was a large herd of Asian water buffalo. I first noticed that they were the wrong color, sort of a bluish-gray dun. They were the wrong shape to be Herefords or Angus and the horns were in a strange formation. It dawned on me that these were water buffalos. I nearly wrecked the car, rubber-necking to get another view. I never realized that these buffalo could grow to be 2600 pounds. They were huge!
Once I was able to go online, I found that they were owned by the Pilot Butte Ranch, a traditional ranch run by the Breese family since 1856. They had diversified into Asian Water Buffalo. They found them well-suited to the ranch and had flourished there. The Central Oregonian published a story on them and what their experience has been with these curious animals. It’s a great read.
The next morning, which broke gray and rainy, I was off to the opening day of the Prineville Farmers Market. It was a soggy, messy, drippy, mandatory-raincoat day, which meant, sadly, that few people attended. However, those that were there, the die-hard, early season purchasers, were very intent on getting their vegies before becoming completely soaked. The farmers, under their white tents, were quite gregarious and happy to see visitors, inviting us out of the rain to sample some great cheeses, taste some fresh vegies, and smell some fragrant soaps.
I met Cythia Graves from Mini Flerd Farm and talked with her about her custom-made soaps. She will enthusiastically make them with “a scent you’d like to see in a soap” and displayed many creative combinations, such as pearberry. I added myself to her email list and later discovered that she writes directly to her customers, giving her correspondence a very personal touch. That is a pleasant change from all the canned email I get.
I then talked with Jerre Kosta and Sean Dodson from Dancing Cow Farm. They raise both vegetables and heritage livestock breeds interdependently. Most of the animals they keep are listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy List, which keeps tabs on breeds we may be in danger of losing. I really enjoyed chatting with them about the holistic and fully integrated methods they use in growing both plants and animals. Since I am unable to be vegetarian, (see my earlier posting on this subject), I am always interested in well-raised meat sources and how others view this. Sean’s blog, I found, is well written and has some interesting points to make about living and working on a farm and how that farm fits into the greater scheme of things within the universe.
It’s astounding that I only spent one night in central Oregon and yet found all these amazing farms and ranches. The drive across the state on Highway 26 is, really, beautiful. Unlike the eastern side of Washington, it is more forested, has higher rainfall, and the farms seem to be more diversified. That may just be my impression, but I found myself falling a little in love with that side of the state. I may have to plan a longer road trip to the area for my not-too-distant future.