One of the delights of eating locally grown food is that you have an opportunity to get to know the people who raise the food you eat.
Abigail and Tobias Hatfield, of Full Circle Bison Ranch, are already familiar faces to anyone who frequents growers markets in Southern Oregon. They raise 100% grass-fed bison on their 120-acre ranch in Williams, Oregon. This past weekend, they gave some of their customers a chance to get even better acquainted with them – by hosting their 7th Annual Bison BBQ and Ranch Tour.
The day started with a visit to some new residents of the ranch: about 45 pasture-raised heirloom pigs. Tobias explained that the pigs raised at most commercial hog farms are (literally) a pale substitute for these robust little creatures. Commercially raised pigs have pink skin that sunburns easily, precious little common sense about how to live on pasture, and their leaner meat is bland and flavorless in comparison to the pigs raised at Full Circle. These animals are lively, inquisitive creatures who abandoned their cool wallow at the far end of the pasture to come and greet us.
Tobias and his crew will begin harvesting some of the pigs when they reach about 6 months of age. They’ll weigh about 120 pounds at the time, making them the perfect size for roasting. A few of the pigs will be left to grow larger – tipping the scales at around 200 pounds when they are harvested in late August. These animals will be sold as “locker pigs,” Tobias explains. Customers can buy either half or whole pigs and have them custom butchered to their specifications.
The star attractions of the ranch, though, are Full Circle’s bison. In one field are the 2-year olds, some of whom already are weighing in at almost 900 pounds. In an adjacent pasture are this year’s calves, still sticking close to their mothers’ sides. Full Circle’s bison are raised on organically certified pasture, and live out their entire lives in this lovely green valley, the sound of Williams Creek always nearby. It’s clear from listening to Tobias talk that the crew at Full Circle is absolutely committed to not only raising their livestock sustainably, but harvesting them respectfully and humanely, as well.
With the “tour” part of the day out of the way, it was time for the BBQ: slow-roasted pork (moist, tender and rich), three types of buffalo sausage (Polish, Andouille and Louisiana Hot), coleslaw and fresh berry cobbler, washed down with icy cold lavender lemonade. Conversation around the tables focused heavily on local foods, and the Full Circle meat store did a brisk business.
If you’re a dedicated omnivore like me, make a point this summer of getting to know a few of the growing number of folks in Southern Oregon who raise pastured, grass-fed animals, and see if you can tour their operations. It’s an informative – and often delicious – experience!
Have you toured any of your local farms?