Welcome to The Land Show, our weekly podcast where we discuss anything and everything related to land and investing in land. From farming to hunting, fun seasonal events to wild game recipes, we have a little something for everyone.
The first segment of this week’s edition is transcribed below, or click here to listen to the entire show online or subscribe to the podcast.
Announcer: It’s time for a new edition of The Land Show with Dave and Johnny. On the show today with the guys, DJ and Mischa White from Boundary Line Bison Ranch. Captain Dave Hare with Alex City Guide Service, William Lyon with Southeastern Estates, Randall Upchurch with your Farm Land Report, Brian Watts with your Timber Talk segment, and of course the wild man himself, Tim Baker. So sit on back, relax and enjoy a new edition of The Land Show with Dave and Johnny.
Jonathan Goode: Hey everybody, thanks for tuning in. Welcome to The Land Show with Dave and Johnny. Actually, Dave is out today. I got my good friend Rick Bourne in the studio with us. Rick, how are you this morning?
Rick Bourne: I’m doing good, doing good. Had to fill in for the big guy today.
Jonathan Goode: That’s right. Well, I got a phone call this morning while I was driving into the studio that Kelly, Dave’s wife, called me and said that he’s a little under the weather and couldn’t be here today. I said, “well, that’s fine. When are you gonna be there Kelly?” For our longtime listeners of the show, back in the day, Dave and Kelly used to ride around the state and find these little neat spots and get out and do an interview, and all that kind of stuff. So Kelly has been on the show, but I really appreciate you coming on in and doing it with me today.
Rick Bourne: Well, I’ll certainly do my best to fill in, in Dave’s shoes.
DJ and Mischa White of Boundary Line Bison Ranch
Jonathan Goode: Well, they are big shoes, more so probably big pants, but we’ll miss Dave. We wish him a speedy get well soon. Man, I’m excited that you’re in. We’re gonna talk to some folks in North Alabama about something we don’t see very often in our state. You know, Rick I’m excited. Right now, we’re gonna go up to North East Alabama in Piedmont, Alabama, and we’re gonna talk to DJ and Misha White. They are the owners of Boundary Line Bison Ranch up there. Not something that we talk about all the time on the Land Show. Whites, how are y’all today?
DJ White: We’re good.
Mischa White: Great.
Jonathan Goode: Well thank you so much for being on the show. I was introduced to y’all. My wife attended an event last week at Mt. Cheaha that I think y’all helped cater. She came home talking about the great bison she ate while she was there, brought us a few samples, Rick and I and Joey, ate a few samples this morning. But she was telling me that y’all were located there. I didn’t know we had a bison farm in northeast Alabama. How did that come about?
DJ White: It started probably back in the ’60s with me. I grew up with my grandmother for the first few years. My parents and I, my parents finally bought a house and we got out, but I spent a lot time with her watching TV. Some of the native history, I guess. They just … In the ’60s, a lot of them were on TV and it was just really a neat animal.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s not something that you see everyday in Alabama. So what actually moved y’all into bringing bison to the farm?
DJ White: Well, my dad had cattle for several years and he got to where he just couldn’t do everything that was going on so he let that go. The pastures were growing up. I had always wanted to get buffalo. I started trying to research where to get them and how to and finally figured that part out. It was just one of those things that finally happened. Actually got the first animals on the ground in 1998.
Jonathan Goode: Okay, so 1998. Well that’s a logical progression to me. When the pastures start growing up, you just find some buffalo to put out there. I like that. Like the sound of that. Well, that is not something that you see everyday, but when I lived in Troy, there was a family down in Pike County that had a buffalo farm and so I was familiar with that just a little bit. We’ve used the term bison and buffalo here, is that the same animal?
Mischa White: Scientifically, they’re bison bison. Really the only distinction is made in the native community. They call them buffalo if they are given honor and they are grass fed and allowed to roam. They call them bison if they are white man food, light green finished.
Jonathan Goode: Oh wow.
Mischa White: We have buffalo. Ours are pretty pampered. They love grass, but they also love squash and some other vegetables. Pumpkins they really love. So it’s kind of treat for them. We get pumpkins from the pumpkin patches when Halloween’s over and they will do just about anything for pumpkin.
Jonathan Goode: That’s funny.
Mischa White: So it’s from Auburn up, from the vet school, and that’s the one thing they had from a takeaway. They learned that pumpkins are golden to buffalo. They’ll do anything for them.
Jonathan Goode: That is funny. That’s unusual. My wife and I, a few years ago, we went to Jackson, Wyoming. We were up there riding around and in that part of Wyoming, and in Yellowstone, you will see them on the side of the road. I don’t know if this happens at your farm, but every time somebody would see a herd of buffalo, they would pull over to the side of the road and take pictures. It’s just something to stare at. Does that happen at your farm?
Mischa White: We have a lot of stalkers. It’s fun to watch people slow down and look and then if we’re out we’ll wave ’em down and say “Come on, come see ’em.” And they’re just so surprised, “You mean we can look at them?” “I suppose, sure.” We had a group yesterday that came and the kids love to be able to feed the bison and of course, it’s across the fence. But they’ll eat privet heads and things like that right out of your hand.
Jonathan Goode: Oh wow, so tell us about your farm, how many acres is your farm and then how many head of buffalo are you running there?
DJ White: Well we’re landlocked so we only have about 35 acres. We have about 22 or so acres in true pasture and then we have a little bit that has grass in wooded areas. But we try to stay less than 20. Right now we have roughly 15, 16. We’ve been looking for other property and just have a hard time finding it because we’re competing with all the row crop people and the cattle people and it’s property pretty hard to come by nowadays.
Jonathan Goode: Well you’re in luck ’cause you’re talking to a few guys here that specialize in helping folks buy and sell land. So I’m sure we can keep our eyes out for you. So the farm that you got there, are you able to use standard barbwire or do you have to have high fence around it or how does that work?
DJ White: Well, our fence is actually all different kinds. Some are barbwire, some are the old hog wire field fencing. We’ve got what I call a training area that I’ve actually got seven foot fences. But the biggest thing is electric fence. Electric fence keeps your animals off the fence so they don’t get into it and with bison when they start to shed their hair they look for things to scratch on and of course, barbwire works real good for that. So they will stretch the wire just leaning into it to scratch. So if you use electric fences they’ll go find a tree somewhere.
Jonathan Goode: Oh that makes sense.
Rick Bourne: DJ what does one of these animals typically weigh?
DJ White: Well, they’re basically like cattle. They can get up to 2000, 23, 2400 pounds. And up north where animals are typically bigger I’ve heard of them getting higher than that.
Jonathan Goode: Wow. That is big. So the bison that you’re raising, I guess we’ve all seen images of what people did with them in the old days using them for food and for fur and hides, what are you primarily doing with the ones you’re raising there?
DJ White: Well, primarily we’re raising them to have some to help other people get started. Of course you have to keep it economically feasible. So that’s where the meat and so fourth comes in, but we have hides, we have the skulls and such that some of the native communities use. So we try to use as much of it as we can.
Jonathan Goode: Sure. Well, now just like this jerky we had this morning, I mean bison meat tastes so good. To me the flavor is amazing. Is that one of the reasons why y’all are growing it is the flavor and the health benefits?
Mischa White: We do that personally for our health benefits and we also pretty much insist if we take meat to a restaurant or a market, for the restaurants if they want mixed fat or semi broth, we have that to give them. We do not want them mixing court with our bison. That would negate the whole purpose of going with a higher priced, more nutritional animal. We have our nutritional charts that we give to our customers and basically it reflects that bison’s even more beneficial to you than salmon.
Jonathan Goode: Oh wow.
Rick Bourne: Wow.
Mischa White: So it’s a really good choice. We have heart patients, we have people who have had Lyme’s disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We finally had a person the other day that tried our meat and he said that he can’t eat beef, but he can still eat bison.
Jonathan Goode: Wow.
Mischa White: There’s a sugar that you lose, or that’s introduced when you have a tick bite, and it keeps you from digesting some meats. Evidently, bison is not one of those.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, well I know that to me that the flavor is good but it’s a little bit more lean, especially if you’re doing yours as grass fed. It’s just a good, rich, lean flavor, isn’t it?
Mischa White: Right. If you go to the grocery store and get bison, they’ll have it at Publix grocer sometimes, it’s gonna be about 90 percent fat-free. And that means it’s grain fed. If you get a grass-fed, it’s generally gonna be about 98 percent fat-free. So you can kind of tell the difference in just the label.
Jonathan Goode: Right. Well, one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten in my life was a bison ribeye and it just fantastic. I mean the flavor and it’s not something you can get around here a lot, but man it sure is good. Where do you do your processing, who does that for you?
Mischa White: Right now we’re using a processor in North Carolina because we partner with quite a few different people. We’ve got a partner ranch in North Carolina and we just do it there ’cause it’s easier. But we have used processors in this area. It’s a little bit different, they’re not a main able animal. So when you take them to a processor, it’s basically one animal at a time and it basically disrupts their flow. So when we had the drought a few years ago and the cattle got dumped on the industry, they decided they didn’t want to mess with our bison anymore ’cause it was too time consuming. And they were having a lot of cattle come through and that was just more profitable. So we had to go to other places and we have tried several different processors and the one we have now we’re very pleased with. They do a great job, our packaging looks wonderful, and we can get pretty much any cut we want.
Jonathan Goode: Oh wow.
Mischa White: Any cut you can get with beef you can get with the bison.
Jonathan Goode: So do you sell that, do you retail some of that out there, do people order it from you, or how does that work?
Mischa White: We do it both ways. We have some restaurants that we provide for on a pretty regular basis and a couple of markets and then we have people that come here to actually buy wholesale to the market and then retail here. And we also are partnering with someone in Sylacauga were we can actually do mail order. So we can do it pretty much anyway people need it right now.
Jonathan Goode: Oh that’s very cool. So the restaurants and stuff, are any of those that you can tell us who you supply?
Mischa White: Shell’s downtown here in Piedmont is one of our restaurants.
Jonathan Goode: Okay.
Mischa White: We have some in the Florence area. We have had them in the past, they kind of come and go, it just depends on their … in fact, the Marriott 360 carried our meat and now their chief is down in Gulf Shores. So …
Jonathan Goode: Oh okay, okay.
Mischa White: So but we have a couple places in Chattanooga. Nutrition World in Chattanooga carries our meat. Apple A Day in Gasden and we’re always looking for some partners, people who are wanting to. Effina’s in Anniston and Jacksonville have carried our meat at times and it’s one of those things when we have the time to promote it then it usually is available locally. So we kind of constantly look for people who are more fond to table and look at those areas, ’cause that’s kind of the quality that we want and we don’t want things mixed with our meat.
Jonathan Goode: Sure well I can tell just from listening to you talk that you’re passionate about your animals and your product there. I mean you’ve mentioned several times you don’t want anything being added to compromise the quality and tell us about what does having the farm mean to you? Has it been something, if you’ve been doing it this long, you’ve obviously enjoyed about 20 years. So tell us about what keeps you going doing that?
DJ White: Well, I just enjoy it myself. They’re different animals, it’s a lot of fun really just to go out and sit down with them and watch ’em, and watch the way they do things. They’re considered grazers so they do a lot of walking to do a little bit of eating. It’s just kind of interesting to look at where they pick to eat and some of those sort of things. They’re also playful, they’ll play, they run around, they’ll jump up and down and we have a couple that likes to find stuff that they can throw up in the air and stuff like that. And sometimes that’s a feed trough, sometimes it’s a tree.
Jonathan Goode: Right.
DJ White: But it’s just a lot more interesting, they’re a lot more interesting animals than a cow and one thing I do want to mention, one of the issues that is starting to make the news is people need to be sure when they buy some meat or american buffalo that they are getting what they think they are. And the reason I say that, there is a lot of water buffalo meat that’s starting to show up in the US and it’s only labeled buffalo. It doesn’t say “water buffalo.” So in our last issue from the National Bison Association they spent extensive pages to discuss this and describe what’s going on and it’s kind of like the people from India and Austria, I believe it is, that has so many of the water buffalo are almost trying to take advantage of the market that the bison and the American buffalo has started making little grounds with. And it’s just another one of those buyer bewares, we sure you’re getting what you think you are.
Jonathan Goode: Well that’s some good word because in Alabama it’s such a big deal. Our catfish farmers face that all the time with the country of origin labeling, making sure that you’re getting Alabama raised, US raised catfish as opposed to Vietnamese or Chinese catfish and so similar thing. That is a good word for folks that are thinking about purchasing some buffalo or bison, making sure that you’re paying attention to that country of origin labeling and DJ, Mischa is somebody wants to get information about how to get your products or follow you guys on Facebook, how do they do that?
Mischa White: We’re listed under Boundary Line Bison on Facebook, and we have a lot of links to other places if we have restaurants that come up we will list those. So that would be a really good avenue and then our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Goode: Alright, well you guys haven’t seen us but Rick and I pretty large guys, and we love a good steak. So we’ll have to get with you on how we can get a hold of some of those bison steaks.
Mischa White: That sounds good. We generally carry filet, ribeye, new york strip, sirloin steaks and we have roasts and ground and we sometimes keep jerky meat and things like that. So we keep a pretty good assortment for anyone’s taste, we don’t personally get to eat filet that much because they’re all sold to some restaurants in Atlanta. Once in a while when the vacuum packaging doesn’t work we get to try one and we love them.
Jonathan Goode: Well, that sounds good. We can’t be there for, it may be two hours from Montgomery, two and a half hours, but we’ll look forward to getting some of that from you. Well DJ and Mischa, thank y’all so much for being on The Land Show today. Y’all please go to Boundary Line Bison Ranch on Facebook and check that out, thank y’all for being our guests today.
Mischa White: Thank you for having us.
DJ White: Thank you.
Jonathan Goode: Rick, that’s fascinating, that’s not one we run into every day.
Rick Bourne: It sure isn’t. I tell you I can’t get out of my head that bison out there playing with a pumpkin. That’s pretty neat to think about.
Jonathan Goode: I’d like to see and I’m sure my kids would like to see that too. But as much as we like to eat steak, I would love to try some of their bison meat. That sounds good, so y’all do go to Facebook, check out Boundary Line Bison Ranch. They sound like great folks, they obviously are passionate about their farm and their products. So check that out and y’all stay with us. We’re gonna take a quick break, we’ll be back for more of The Land Show.