Sounds like part of a bad joke, doesn't it? Readers of a certain vintage will remember this one.
- How do you know if you have an elephant in the fridge?
- You can see its footprints in the butter.
Substitute buffalo for elephant and it works just as well/badly. In life, how close will any of us get to either? Well, it may surprise you to learn that about 15 miles north of the garret where I pen these masterpieces, just across the River Forth, you will find over 500 of them. They are part of the fast growing empire of Steve Mitchell of The Buffalo Farm. Steve featured in the food producers section in On The Side almost exactly a year ago.
L and I were delighted to accept an invitation to the Founders' Dinner earlier this month. On my visit to Bankhead last year I was impressed by the modern set up, and loved the taste of the buffalo mozzarella and the ice cream. This year, at Boglily, I was blown away by the progress and the plans for the future.
The business began as a meat producer. Not doing too badly - over a million sausages last year, about half a million pies and burgers, plus prime cuts. But it is the rise and rise of the milking herd which is remarkable. Cheese production started almost by accident - see last year's article for more detail. It's now at the forefront of the expansion plans. If things go according to schedule, 2025 will see a threefold increase in milk production, and a quadrupling of the mozzarella output.
Such a plan requires major investment, which is where the founders come in. Yes, you have a question? Oh, I see. You want to know why he's doesn't just go to the bank, like farmers have been doing for years. Sadly that's not possible, as security would be required for finance on this scale and all of the land farmed by the business is rented, not owned. It's the same lateral thinking that got the cheese business going from scratch that's providing the financial model of the founders' scheme. A five year fixed term investment brings a ten percent return per annum payable in the form of meat, cheese and all the other goodies which they supply. There are a variety of other fringe benefits, to say nothing of the most excellent Founders' Dinner. Note that there will be no capital gain.
We feasted, nay gorged, on elegant amuse-bouches of buffalo bonbons and mini bruschette (not a typo - there was more than one), on oxtail (should that be buffalo tail?) soup, then tomato and mozzarella tartlets. Mains were buffalo brisket and, for the non buffalo eaters, roast chicken. Steve and his delightful wife Sarah who hosted the event, said that the chef was a wee bit out of his comfort zone. I can tell you that a pud of Textures of Chocolate and Caramel wouldn't have been out of place in a top London hotel. And, of course, there was the extraordinary buffalo ice cream.
Though I live in Edinburgh, I'm a proud Fifer. There are many things about my home county which delight. One of the greatest of these is to see the sixth generation of a family business branch out in such an amazing way. Already 70 jobs have been created. I'm really not sure that there are limits.
Below are some links if you would like to know more. Or contact the very lovely Sarah Carter (not to be confused with the delightful Sarah Mitchell) at email@example.com
The Saddest of News
John McLennan, one of the best friends a person could ever have, died this morning. Many of you knew him personally. Others may simply have known him via this column as The Curmudgeon. All of our love and best wishes to Diana.