Loyal to Local: Backyard Buffalo

Loyal to Local: Backyard Buffalo
Punita at RAM | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo Facebook

The Riverside Arts Market (RAM), now in its 13th year, is a weekly makers and farmers market hosted by Riverside Avondale Preservation on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., rain or shine. Each week more than 100 small business owners gather under the canopy of the Fuller Warren Bridge to sell their products to the local community. Learn more about some of the incredible vendors that make RAM a must-visit part of each Saturday.

It all started with buffalo milk. A need for a daily dose of a half cup of buffalo milk, to be exact.

Punita Patel grew up in an area of India where tea is considered a daily necessity. She left India at 17, and it wasn’t until her longest visit years later that she came to fully appreciate a daily cup (or two) of tea with buffalo milk. Once she returned home, she found herself trying to recreate the taste of the tea with cow milk. Her efforts proved to be unsuccessful.

Punita with a buffalo | Picture credit Will Dickey, Florida Times Union
Punita & Buffalo | Picture credit Will Dickey, Florida Times Union

This need for buffalo milk took her on a decade-long hunt throughout farms in the United States. By that point she’d started joking that the only way she’d get this milk is if she got her own buffalo. And during December 2017, she did just that. Goldie, a buffalo from a farm in New Jersey, found her new home on rural land in Northeast Florida. The following spring Goldie gave birth to her first calf, and soon after another baby was born. This time it was Patel’s micro dairy business: Backyard Buffalo.

Like most small business owners, Punita ran into some hurdles when she first got her start. Luckily for her, those in the local farming community offered her sage advice: participate in farmers markets to “find your customers” and do so consistently. After a few months of less-than-stellar sales at markets, Punita brought shrikhand, a traditional Indian dessert that her mother had made for her kids using Goldie’s milk. She was stunned to find that people fell in love with an item she thought would be “too Indian” for customers on the First Coast. As she began to introduce more authentic Indian products, she discovered that locals loved the cuisine, even if they had never tried it before.

Containers of Bhuna Masala
Bhuna Masala | Picture Credit Backyard Buffalo website
Containers of granola | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo Facebook
Granola | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo Facebook
Shrikhand | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo website
Shrikhand | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo website
Mango Lassi containers | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo
Mango Lassi | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo
Containers of Ghee | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo Facebook
Ghee | Picture credit Backyard Buffalo Facebook

Fast forward to today: Backyard Buffalo has become a RAM staple for over a year. Backyard Buffalo products can also be found at Grassroots Natural Market in Riverside, as well as other local grocers in Jacksonville. Some of the growth of Backyard Buffalo is due to collaboration with other local businesses. The popular Mango Lassi uses cow milk supplied by Wainwright Dairy, a family-operated dairy in Live Oak. Punita continues to collaborate with her fellow market vendors, including offering products for giveaway boxes at RAM. If you are looking to try something new, the shrikhand is a fan favorite. Every time. Even those who don’t eat dairy products have plenty of tasty options to choose from, such as granola, Cilantro Chutney, and Channa Masala

People outside at Riverside Arts Market | Picture credit @caroneats on Instagram, Backyard Buffalo Facebook
Picture credit @caroneats on Instagram, Backyard Buffalo Facebook

If you’d like to stay up to date with Backyard Buffalo, please check out their website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Are you interested in becoming a RAM maker in 2023? Please visit riversideartsmarket.org and review the Applications tab for access to our 2023 Vendor Interest Form and additional information. Applications will be open to the public in December.

Elena Curtis, Outreach Manager, Riverside Avondale Preservation

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