By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Bison beef is the other red meat
Buffalo meat may be substituted for beef in variety of dishes
0731BISON 1
Mary Farmer, right, sells bison meat to Jill King and her son Josh, 14, at the Historic Downtown Gainesville Market on the Square on Friday afternoon. Carrie Crow, center, paints a Snoopy cartoon character on 12-year-old Amy King’s face. - photo by NAT GURLEY

FARM FRESH: This is the sixth in a series of stories about local growers who provide Hall County with fresh produce and their own recipes.

Buffalo meatloaf

2 pounds ground bison
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup hickory flavored barbecue sauce
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup minced celery
1 cup minced onion

Beat eggs and milk together, add bread crumbs and seasonings. Mix well and let stand for a few minutes.

Add the meat and vegetables, blend thoroughly.

Spread the meat mixture evenly in a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan. Spread favorite barbecue sauce over meat mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Use leftovers for:

Meatloaf patty melt panini: Make a grilled sandwich on rye bread with leftover meat, caramelized onions and swiss cheese.

Nachos: Crumble meatloaf and beans over tortilla chips, add grated cheese and bake in oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with salsa, guacamole or sour cream.

Layered shepherd’s pie: Thinly slice meatloaf, layer meatloaf, gravy and mashed potatoes and repeat layers until dish is full. Heat in oven until warmed.

Source: National Bison Association

A family road trip seven years ago to South Dakota and Nebraska resulted in an unexpected farming enterprise for Mary Farmer.

After returning home, Farmer told her husband’s father about the herds of bison they saw while vacationing. Farmer’s father-in-law replied he’d always wanted a bison to raise on his family farm in Elberton. The farm stood unused for several years except as an occasional weekend hunting retreat.

While staying at the farm one weekend, Farmer went to the feed store to pick up fertilizer for the pond.

“So I went to the feed store, got the fertilizer and there was this bulletin board,” Farmer said. “It said ‘For sale, two bison.’ So I went home and at lunch that day I said I know what we’re getting your daddy for Christmas.”

Farmer laughed and said her husband and children just stared at her for a long moment after she suggested buffalo as a Christmas present.

“We talked about it,” she said. “We talked about how it’s a farm and we need to farm something on it. The next thing you know the kids are on break for Christmas for two weeks and we were out in the rain putting up a fence. Then Christmas rolls around and we’ve got two buffaloes out there.”

She said the memory of showing her father-in-law his Christmas present that year still brings tears to her eyes because he couldn’t believe what he saw in the field.

“He was excited about it,” Farmer said. “He told everybody about his buffalo. He’d bring his friends and his buddies to come see his buffalo. Then I figured if we’re going to have two we might as well have a herd. Then it just grew from there.”

Today, Drake Farms has a herd of more than 30 bison. Farmer said she’s excited her farm is “finally coming together” after so many years.

In February, she was licensed to sell her bison meat at farmers markets by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and has found a USDA approved butcher to assist with cutting the meat.

Farmer can be found from 2:30-6:30 p.m. every Friday afternoon at the Historic Downtown Gainesville Market on the Square. She said people are always curious about her bison and she’s happy to share what she’s learned about the animals.

“People come over and want to talk about it and then they say ‘Oh, no we don’t want any. We’re vegetarian,’” Farmer said, laughing. “So I came up with the perfect reply for them. ‘So are my bison.’ They don’t get anything if it’s not plant based. Everything they eat is plant food.”

The bison are primarily grass-fed, but if needed the animals are fed hay grown on the farm. The bison also aren’t given any hormones or antibiotics.

“Part of it to me is making sure I have healthy animals,” Farmer said. “If I’m the one who is their steward — I’m in charge of them — then I need to make sure they’re healthy.”

Farmer said since her family has started substituting bison for beef, their own health has improved.

According to the National Bison Association, bison is lower in fat and calories than other meats including beef, salmon and chicken.

Because bison has such low-fat content, it must be cooked “fast and hot.” Bison is best cooked medium-rare to medium, overcooking the meat will result in a “leathery” taste, Farmer said.

Ground bison and slow-cooked bison can be cooked as beef would be.