Bison help to draw in crowds for Readington River Buffalo Farm
READINGTON TOWNSHIP — Where the buffalo roam is, surprisingly, Hunterdon County.
Actually, about 150 American bison roam on the 240-acre Readington River Buffalo Farm.
The farm also raises cattle, pigs and field crops.
The bison were not doing much roaming on Saturday, June 9, for the 20th annual Buffalo Watch.
They were mostly sleeping in the shade, out of the heat on their Readington Township, Hunterdon County farm.
Farm owners, Gerry and Scarlet Doyle and their son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Kristen, turn the farm over to the White House Rescue Squad each year for its biggest fundraiser.
The elder Doyles bought the already preserved property as a retirement project and brought their son in to manage it.
The weather was perfect this year, after a postponement from the rainy spring, but summer-y weather made viewing the bison less exciting for the visitors. The bison-viewing part of the fund raiser is a hayride guided by volunteers from the squad.
The guides read from a script, describing the 1,500, 6-foot telephone poles that hold the electric fence. Bulls, who weigh up to 2,000 pound can nonetheless jump up to 5 feet, hence the fence height. Three electric strands are for bulls, cows and calves.
Bison are herbivores, but are intimidating to anyone getting “up close and personal,” the guides emphasized.
The farm’s website points out bison are technically still wild animals.
They spend most of their time grazing, but the last couple of months are offered a choice of corn or hay to eat to get rid of the gamey taste to the meat.
The hayrides are not the only aspect of the Buffalo Watch fundraiser. The squad collects fees from the vendors who range from the commercial such as Origami Owl, and Touchstone Crystals, to the ever-popular crafters.
Judy Morgan works in textiles, Jennifer Kaltenbach sells her herbal potions, Teresa Smith and Lu Ann Gorine make gourmet pet treats. Food vendors range from the pretzel wagon to the farm’s buffalo burgers to the Italian ice truck. A section of tables make for convenient lunching.
Keith Steege came up with the idea for the fund raiser. He said it takes 20 to 25 volunteers to pull it off, from the hayride guides to ticket sellers and parking attendants. The squad collects $5 for parking and $2 for the rides.
Additional funds came in when the Doyle’s let the squad borrow a barn to create the Red River Saloon, Steege said.
Volunteers crafted a bar with a mirror back in the mold of the 1880s. A one-day license allows them to sell local beers and wines.
The squad benefits financially, but the publicity for the farm lasts all year from the 8,000 to 10,000 visitors that come through.
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