Give me a home where the buffalo roam

deb cirpps buffalo-2013

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.

Flying through a foot of oozing, stinking, coal-black mud is Ken Farkash’s idea of a good day at work.

And riding ATVs, with the wind in my face and the sweet musky smell of wild sage, tall grasses, weeds, and wildflowers, I know why. The prairie is intoxicating.

We are heading out to Grizzly Bear Coulee – a series of rolling hills straddling the river-bed flats on the Farkash family farm that is located in Vermilion, Alberta. You don’t have to be a professional tracker to determine what kind of life roams here. Tufts of soft, brown fur float through the air and large droppings litter the ground.

As we approach the valley basin, we spot his grazing herd of 240 buffalo cows and their baby calves. Immediately sensing our presence, the herd tighten their stance and move closer together.

Even in their shaggy spring coats of shedding fur, these majestic animals are a sight to behold.

buffalo deb cripps theloveoffood 2013

“On the farm there is always the opportunity to accomplish a dream. It’s a great life! As a kid, I grew up in a really small farmhouse that was almost like a wooden granary. It wasn’t insulated, and when the wind blew, the curtains moved!” he laughs.

“Most people who raise buffalo fall in love with them. You don’t herd buffalo like you do cows – you attract them with oats. They are gentle, wild creatures. I’ve had buffaloes eat right out of my hand!

“I talk to them in a calm voice and try to entice them. And you know, I’ve never had an animal chase me.”

buffalo2 carl hiebert the love of food

In a sprint or marathon, Ken wouldn’t be much of a match. Buffalo are three times as fast as a cow and his only hope to out run them would be on one of his high-powered quads.

The natural lifespan for a buffalo cow is about 35 years. They use visual and auditory signals and have a highly developed sense of smell. With a gestation period of nine months, they’ll average about 25 calves in a lifetime. Bison are vegetation grazers and weigh in around 430 kg. Their brownish black fur actually contains a down which makes it surprisingly soft.

Historical accounts suggest there were 60 million bison in 1800. One hundred years later, there were fewer than 1,000 remaining. But with the reintroduction of bison to the plains by ranchers, farmers, and conservation agencies, that number increased to an estimated 500,000 in North America by 2005.

buffalo2 deb cripps the love of food

 

Along with raising buffalo, Ken and his wife Mavis also grow wheat and canola and like most farmers, they have seen their share of tough times and know what it is to be dependent on variables—like weather and economic conditions beyond their control.

Ken remains intentional about focusing on the positive and his eyes sparkle with delight when he tells me, “Character isn’t shaped by rose-garden experiences, and Deb: if I had one message to give to the public, it’s this. People need to realize that farmers are producing high quality food at a low price—and that is a good thing for everybody.”

buffalo carl hiebert the love of food

 

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.  By Deb Cripps

As a regional Canadian Food – “Where the Buffalo Roam” depicts the passion of an Alberta farmer and his love of the land and animals.  This “Canadian Food Experience Project” is as unique as the majestic buffalo that still roam this glorious country.

http://www.acanadianfoodie.com/2013/07/16/the-canadian-food-experience-project-round-up-two-2/

 

 

“I’ll trade you my recording company for your manure spreader”

debcripps Lorenz2

From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people

deb cripps Lorenz the love of food

Life is unpredictable. Several decades ago, Lorenz Eppinger lived in Toronto and operated his own recording company, AMOK.  It was a successful small record label that produced fifteen albums annually with world-wide distribution.

record deb crippsLorenz was a one-man operation, who was either on the road chasing new business or organizing music tours. On occasion, he would meet with his buddy Hugo Rampen, a farmer from Fergus, and the pair often spent their time together talking about their lives, family and the challenges of their work. Hugo was intrigued by the music industry and the opportunity Lorenz had connecting with artists. It was an exciting world that couldn’t compare to his days of sitting on a tractor making nice straight rows.

Ironically, the opposite was also true. Lorenz envied Hugo’s lifestyle and days he spent outdoors in the sun with hands in the soil. This work seemed to offer a peacefulness that was missing from Lorenz’s life.    

On one afternoon during their visit, Lorenz took fate into his own hands and brazenly offered Hugo a deal that changed the course of both of their lives. [Read more...]