After moving to the United States from Canada in an attempt to save the Woodstock Water Buffalo company — currently called Bufala di Vermont — owner Frank Abballe is moving back to his homeland and taking 500 of his shaggy bovines with him. “It’s very expensive to operate in Vermont. There’s no feed,” he says.
According to Abballe, the state bent over backward to help him, but local farmers did not. “I tried to operate with someone here to get the corn silage I needed for the animals, and although I was paying a premium, he tried to shortchange me,” he alleges. “Maybe it’s because I’m an outsider.”
Abballe has already purchased a farm 20 minutes north of the border, where feed is plentiful, to serve as the water buffalo creamery’s new home. Although it’s out of state, he notes that the new location is actually closer to Burlington than the Woodstock one was.
What will become of the farm in Woodstock? Abballe plans to build a slaughterhouse and turn it into a conventional feedlot for baby sheep. “I’ll be buying lambs at a month old, and I’ll keep them for another two, two-and-a-half months on a feed program,” he says. “I’ll slaughter right on the farm so as not to give them stress.”
When the facility is operational, he says, he’ll invite other farmers to use it. “Once it’s running, the more you do, the better.”
Celeb Chef Eric Ripert, a longtime acquaintance of VB&C founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese, spent three years begging them to whip up the delicacy for his restaurant, according to cheesemaker Adeline Druart. As of June, she explains, “We’ve finally been able to put this recipe together and get the equipment to do it.” Because the process is so labor intensive, Ripert is currently their only customer.
Is it worth it? Druart says the small-batch approach is “a great way to test a new product in the market.” And reactions seem encouraging. Last week, Faisselle got some plaudits on the Food & Wine magazine blog. The post’s title: “Le Bernardin’s Amazing Vermont Cheese.”
The company also makes a singular cheese for Artisanal, one of the Big Apple’s premier fromageries.