|Co-owner Lori Smith|
It was one beautiful day! The sun was shining, and it was gloriously warm, not too warm, just right. We loaded up the kids and Grace's friend Taylor and headed out to see the farms that were taking place in this week-end's "Get To Know Your Farmer", sponsored by Harvest Hastings. The drive to the Stirling area was beautiful. The tips of the leaves are beginning to turn those beautiful fall shades. The kids were all in the back of the van happily chatting. The world was a good place to be in!
Back in June we attended the Great Canadian Cheese Festival. The festival was AMAZING! There was a children's area. At the children's area was penned water buffalo and a baby or two. I discovered that the water buffalo farm was in Stirling. I wanted to visit this farm. This desire to visit the water buffalo farm became more intense when I drove past the farm and saw a school bus in their driveway. This told me they gave tours. You can well imagine how excited I was when I saw them listed on Harvest Hastings "Get To Know Your Farmer".
|Riley found a new friend|
We pulled up the driveway and saw this lady riding on her lawn mower, wearing a big smile, and giving us a friendly wave. We poured out of the van, unsure how much we would have time to see. The "Get To Know Your Farmer" listed the tours for this farm from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. We arrived at 11:45 (why you may ask if you really wanted to visit this farm would you leave your house at 11:00? The answer to that question is easy, Grace and Taylor. Two tween girls were up until the wee hours, giggling and watching movies. These same tween girls were reluctant to wake up in the morning. After they had awoken and eaten, they really needed to primp. After much yelling and threatening I got all 5 kids loaded into the van). Shortly after we all spilled out of the van, the friendly lady came up to us and told us that we were not too late, she would give us a tour. That friendly, and now I know, really nice lady was Lori Smith. Lori reassured us that it was alright that we were late, she would still give us a tour... yeah!
Lori took us into the barn and showed us the babies. One of the babies was only three days old, and HUGE. I expected this wobbly little creature, and saw this sturdy big creature. We asked if we could pat the babies (it's always important to ask). She said that we could, and within a heartbeat we descended upon the babies. I was expecting them to feel like velvet, but they didn't. Their coat felt more wiry. I was also surprised how docile the babies were. The little one really was leaning into Lori wanting loved. It was really neat to see. In the barn also was this adorable little kitten. Riley (our animal person) fell in love. After being given permission by Lori, Riley clutched that baby into her, cooing at it. "I sure wish that I could have a baby kitten like this one" she begged. I assured her that that would not be happening, so she could keep her wish.
After we had seen the babies, Lori took us out to see the Mamas, a.k.a the milkers, a.k.a. their bread and butter . The adult water buffalo look like exotic cows. They also make a funny honk noise. It was almost like a ventriloquist show, where I was expecting a "moo", but was taken aback by the honk. Lori and her partner, Martin Littkemann have 200 head of water buffalo (I think you would call water buffalo "head"). They ship their milk to Toronto where the Bella Casara label make it into mozzarella cheese.
Water Buffalo are native to South Asia. It seems funny to discover that Water Buffalo mozzarella is much prized in Italy, and that the best milk producing water buffalo have been specifically bred in Italy. So how was an animal from South Asia, introduced to Italy? My first thoughts were the nature of the Romans. The Roman's took plunder in the form of treasure, animals and people, from all of the places that they conquered, and there were a lot of places that they conquered. There is a legend that claims the water buffalo were brought to Italy by Hannibal (who lived in 249 - 219 BCE). Some say that Cleopatra introduced Marc Anthony to water buffalo mozzarella, and he in turn wanting to impress his friend Caesar sent both water buffalo and the recipe for the cheese to Rome. What we do know is that there are recorded writings of Italians eating water buffalo mozzarella in the 12 the century. However they made their way to Italy, the fact is that the Italians LOVE their water buffalo mozzarella, and the Italian bred water buffalo are the prized breed. There are actually, and this surprised me over 30 different types of water buffalo, who knew? The Italian water buffalo yields the most milk over all other types, but not as much as a Holstein cow.
Martin and Lori are the first Water Buffalo farm in Ontario. There are a few in the U.S. and in British Columbia. Their animals looked well loved and well cared for, which is a nice thing to see. What was neat was the site of a few of the water buffalo bathing in a big water hole. When Lori caught my gaze she laughingly told me that that watering hole was not there before the water buffalo. The water buffalo dug the hole themselves. I told her that she could have made a real killing this summer if she had rented them out to other farmers (this year in our part of Ontario we had a drought).
Just before we left, Lori asked what the kids names were. We told her, and she told us that they had a "Taylor", and a "Grace" and a "Chris" and an "Elisha" water buffalo. This tickled all of our funny bones. Before we left we went and got a picture with Elisha the 3 year old girl and Elisha the 3 week old water buffalo. Elly thought it was pretty neat, as you can see by her face.
We had a great time at The Ontario Water Buffalo Company. Lori could not have been nicer if she'd tried. Before we left we purchased some water buffalo beef jerky, some water buffalo pepperettes, and some water buffalo smoked cheddar cheese. Lori cut of some of the regular water buffalo cheddar cheese and the smoked cheddar for us to try. Both were delicious! The cheddar did not taste like your traditional cheddar cheese. It was different, and yet so tasty. It was by unanimous decision that we purchase some of the smoked cheddar. Christopher said that to him the smoked cheddar tasted like a cheese that had been wrapped in beef jerky, a delicious combination! Thank you Lori for taking the time to show us around, we REALLY enjoyed it.
If you want to find out more about The Ontario Water Buffalo Company click the link below.