- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

SLOCOMB, Ala. (AP) - Sixteen-year-old Weston Spivey isn’t like most kids his age.

Weston is a buffalo, or bison, farmer who has a business partnership with his grandfather, Don McAllister, to own and operate Green Acres Farm in the south Alabama town of Slocomb. The farm spans across several acres of a 124-year-old homestead where Weston said three herds of buffalos, with more than 60 head each, roam within secure locations on the land.

Weston said bison meat in traditional beef cuts such as roasts, steaks, burger, livers and even hearts is organically raised and processed to be sold at the farm. He said the meat ranges from $3 to $12 per pound, and is widely known for its health benefits. A North Dakota State University study found the meat from bison is a highly nutrient dense food because of the proportion of protein, fat, mineral, and fatty acids to its caloric value, according to the National Bison Association website.

The association reported the bison industry reached $340 million this year as a result of increased bison meat sales in retail stores and restaurants as well as in some pet food products. According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ website, there are about 100 bison-processing facilities in the United States, and about 7.5 million pounds of meat from about 15,000 bison are sold annually nationally.

Weston said a buyer travels the country to bring back buffalo to the Slocomb-based farm. He said the farm’s customers come from throughout the southeastern states in search of quality buffalo products. He believes the most well-known customers he has had since working with his grandfather were the Grammy Award-winning Kentucky Headhunters, who Weston said stopped by the farm to buy some meat they could grill on the road after their performance last weekend at the Slocomb Tomato Festival.

Weston, an 11th grader at Ridgecrest Christian School, said he started sweeping floors at Green Acres Farm before coming on board as a part owner a few years ago. Among his favorite things on the job is serving customers, he said.

“I like to provide people with a good product that I know they’ll enjoy and that will treat them well,” he said.

“The past few years have been great. I enjoy every minute of it and I’m thankful and very blessed to be a part of it.”

In addition to buffalo, Green Acres Farm encompasses a lake in which Weston’s family allows residents to fish for multiple species of fish. There is a building at Green Acres that displays arrowheads and other artifacts found over the years on the land there.

Weston said his life as a buffalo farmer requires waking up and working as early as 4 a.m. on some days, as well as planning out a month - versus a day - of operations. He said buffalo farming is a dangerous field because it requires a consistent consciousness that the animals are wild. Many of the bison weigh more than a ton.

“You can’t ever let your guard down because they can charge you at any time, especially if they’re not familiar with you,” he said.

“As with any type of livestock farming, you can’t grow emotionally attached at all.”

Weston said people are a huge part of what makes the buffalo farm successful.

“My granddad started with 175 buffalo 14 years ago because he enjoyed the meat. He knows what he’s doing and his marketing skills are unbelievable. That’s why we can pull people from everywhere,” Weston said.

“This has really been a hobby for us, but everything we do is all about treating the customer the way he or she needs to be treated and the way we’d like to be treated.”

In addition to buffalo farming, Weston said he is a volunteer with the Fadette Fire Department.

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Information from: The Dothan Eagle, http://www.dothaneagle.com

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