If you haven’t heard, the 22nd Piedmont Farm Tour is coming back to the area on April 22nd and 23rd! For $30 per car, you can tour 35 farms out in Alamance, Chatham, Orange and Person Counties 45 minutes west of Chapel Hill and Durham. It all sounds really cool to connect with the NC food system here and really understand how your local food and meats are produced. And as a preview of the Piedmont Farm Tour, I made an early visit to one of the farms on the tour that caught my eye: Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm where I met its owner, Jack Pleasant. So off I go, headed out on a beautiful Saturday morning to go see some buffalo and get a feel for all the work that goes into caring for these beautiful animals.
As I pull into Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm (70 minutes from Raleigh) and find a parking space, I scan the scenery at this beautiful farm. Majestic white ranch house on a hill to the left, pavilion on a pond in front of me and then a equipment area and delivery van to my right. Jack pulls up shortly in a green tractor, pulling a tour trailer behind him. After exchanging hellos, we chat a bit about his background and how he got into bison farming! As a retired healthcare services executive (and Tarheel), Jack had a part of the farm passed on to him from his family. And over the years, he purchased other parcels of land to create the 250+ acres that make up Sunset Ridge farm today. As a healthcare professional he appreciated the the nutritious and healthy profile of buffalo meat as a protein which got him interested in raising buffalo meat for the local population. Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm is also an event venue for wedding, parties and other special occasions!
Fast forward to 2017 and the farm has two herds of buffalo totaling about a 100 animals. It’s the second largest buffalo farm in NC and he sells the buffalo meat locally at the Durham and Carrboro Farmers Market! Or you can visit the lovely farm and purchase the meat onsite. After chatting a bit, we jump into a utility vehicle and head over to the first herd. And up on a hill near a worn building I see them, buffalo! They are majestic animals with that signature, thick brown pelt. Jack tells me that since they’re only semi-domesticated, they can be a bit unpredictable so a bit of caution is recommended. And given that there are so few buffalo in the area, Jack has had to learn all the husbandry, care and knowledge to raise these animals. It’s really amazing to seem them in these herds with their calves, adults range from 900 to 1,100 lbs so they are solid beasties! And they definitely don’t exhibit that languid, soft feeling that domesticated cows give off.
Jack feeds all his buffalo hay along with the natural grass and estimates that only 10% to 15% of buffalo meat is truly grass-fed which I’m sure, gives it a unique taste profile. We head off to the second herd on the lower pasture to do a quick interview. This herd seems to be a bit bigger and are pretty excited when they hear the Polaris Ranger come around the corner. All the buffalo have their ears tagged which gives them a cute, cartoonish face, they look like hipster buffalo! We hop out, get the camera set up for some Q&A and thankfully, the buffalo are really chill while we video. There’s more good info about the farm for you in the video, check it out. For the Piedmont Farm Tour, Jack will be doing 30 minute tours of the farm and herds. Afterward, you can head on out to the pavilion where he’ll have a chef preparing all sorts of buffalo goodies for you: burgers, sliders, bratwurst, jerky and more.
Q&A with Jack Pleasant of Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm in Roxboro
And part of you may be thinking, how can you eat that buffalo meat after seeing these majestic animals? And I’ll be honest with you, as an avowed meatatarian, I was concerned about meeting these beautiful animals face to face. But it’s good to know that these buffalo are leading a good quality life and are being taken care of properly by dedicated farmers like Jack Pleasant. And if anything, I’ve grown an appreciation for all the work and passion it takes to bring these animals to market. Jack may be retired but he is definitely not resting, that is for sure!
So if checking out the 2nd largest buffalo and bison farm in North Carolina sounds intriguing, come on out to the Piedmont Farm Tour on April 22nd and 23rd! Details are here and if you can’t make it, you can always try to arrange a personal group tour (12 or more people) of Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm with Jack. Overall I can tell you that it was an impressive visit with these beautiful bison. And I also went home with some buffalo meat which I’ll try out this weekend. I can truly say I have a new-found appreciation of the meat I consume and getting a better understanding of the NC food system has been enlightening for this foodie. And I’m pretty sure the Piedmont Farm Tour will be one of the best chances you have to get an up close feel for the farmers in the area. Bring the kids, bring the family and prepare to experience life as it used to be and could be!
465 Yarborough Rd,
Roxboro, NC 27574