Season 3, Episode 01

Where The (Water) Buffalo Roam

Donna Sanders headshot and byline.

“DOWN BY THE BAY – WHERE THE WATER BUFFALO ROAM – BACK TO MY HOME I DARE NOT GO.” What exactly is this? It is a traditional children’s song made popular by a singer Raffi. Okay, these are not exactly the right words – it’s actually where the watermelons grow. So why open the article with this? First, it is how I sing the song (Don’t ask) and second it really fits this Behind The Scenes. Just be really careful if you listen to the tune – you may just get an earworm (that’s how I wound up constantly singing it… with the wrong words).

WTFCF visited Fading D Farm in Salisbury, NC on August 10. Okay, just another farm right? Nope, there is something special about this farm. It is an honest to goodness water buffalo farm. Who knew! My son, who worked at nearby Catawba College in Salisbury, didn’t know it was there and neither did his friends and colleagues.

You may have seen water buffalo in a zoo, but up close and personal is a little different. These animals are huge and can get up to 1,800 to 2,200 pounds. A bit intimating. But these water buffalo, unlike their wild counterparts, are extremely gentle. They have been domesticated. More about that later. Our first encounter was with one-month-old Maisie. Maisie was born on June 23 and is a cute little water buffalo. Little may be a stretch. You see water buffalo are born weighing 75 to 95 pounds, not too little if you ask me, and gain an average of two pounds per week.

Water buffalo laying out in the field.
Water buffalo calf Masie

Maisie was in the process of being fed by farm hand Autumn Kinley. Maisie scoffed down her pale of milk much too quick to get a picture, but you can see it in the episode. Maisie will be hand fed for three months. Then off to the fields.

After seeing how well Maisie behaved I decided to make friends with her. She did let me pet her, but she also tried to eat my fingers and move up my arm with her mouth. Eek! Autumn laughed and told me this is normal behavior.

My thought was okay let Autumn do it. Autumn explained water buffalo’s upper gums cover their teeth so there really is no danger in getting bit. My thought – YEAH RIGHT!

Donna befriending a water buffalo calf named Masie
Farmhand Autumn Kinley working with a water buffalo calf.

While I was befriending Maisie, Chip was talking with Faythe and David DiLoreto, owner and manager Fading D Farm respectively. This was a howdy; the main interview took place later in the shoot.

Have you ever been to a cow farm? In my limited experience cows are usually smelly animals and feel dirty when you touch them. But, there was no smell around the water buffalo and no yucky feel either. There had to be a reason and naturally I had to ask. I found the answer to be quite surprising. The water buffalo take showers. Showers! I was told there are spigots in the ground and the buffalo walk through the water. I wish I could have seen that, but it was not shower day. At least Autumn doesn’t have to give them sponge baths.

Faythe and David DiLoreto

Up next the milking barn. The huge water buffalo were lined up in two rows with the milking machine in a pit between them. No help required, they actually line themselves up. As you can see the pit was tight. There was barely any room between Autumn, Chip, and two members of the crew. Man I wanted to be there so bad, but I never get to have any of the fun. That’s the problem with some of these shoots. Being the script supervisor I take notes and never get to experience what is going on up close and personal. Let’s continue.

But this time it worked out for the best. You see Styles Wilson, one of the camera men, was in the pit. Well…. water buffalo don’t wear diapers and aren’t toilet trained. Can you guess what happened next? You probably guessed right. One little lady decided to relieve herself and Styles got the fallout. Chip only got sprinkled on.

Water buffalo lined up in milking barn.
Crew in milking barn with water buffalo.

Remember what I said about these water buffalo being domesticated? Take a look in the back right corner of the above picture. One of the ladies was very curious about Chip, I don’t think he realized he was being assessed.

He must have felt he was being stared out and turned his head. Well low and behold they came nose to nose. I have no idea what was going on in Chip’s mind at that moment, but man I wish I did. Out of all the pictures I took during this shoot this is my favorite.

Chip sitting nose to nose with a water buffalo.
Autumn milking a water buffalo.

Let the milking begin! Autumn proceeded to give Chip a detailed lesson. One of the first things she taught is udders are cleaned prior to putting the milking device on. I like that. I have said it before – being a nurse sterile technique is really important to me.

Chip was in for a bit of a surprise. It turns out the udder wash used is the same stuff he made working in a factory in his Georgia hometown in his younger years. Pretty cool — why change what is not broken?

It was finally time to put Chip to work. With a bucket full of milk, Autumn had Chip carry it to the ancillary milking room to strain. But why strain fresh milk? Turns out no matter how sterile the procedure – nursing talk – there may be some debris floating around. Ok, makes sense. I wouldn’t want debris in my gelato or mozzarella di bufala or anything else for that matter.

Chip holding an container of fresh water buffalo milk.

Every place we go usually has some sort of gift shop or store and Fading D Farm is no exception. The products range from milk products, meats, and soaps. I can’t resist gift shops and always wind up buying a few things. Unfortunately, this was not really a good idea with the mozzarella di bufala. You see, our next destination was not around the corner and we did not have a cooler with us. By the time we got to our next destination on this road trip, Chip thought the mozzarella di bufala looked a little off (it was August, remember!) and stayed away from it. I on the other hand tried it and continued to eat it. Honestly, it was something I did regret later.

All was not lost. I did buy some of the water buffalo soap. I love it and so does my daughter. It is so gentle and leaves your skin feeling so soft she even uses it on my grandson. You can go online and purchase it at Fading D Farm. I highly recommend it. Now I sound like a commercial.

Faythe holding farm fresh water buffalo meats.

Faythe holding farm fresh water buffalo meats.

Fading d Farm water buffalo milk case in store.

Fading D Farm water buffalo milk case in store.

Water buffalo soap display.

Water buffalo soap display.

I think we all were a little disappointed they were not making mozzarella di bufala that day – they were making gelato. Not a bad trade off at all. Again, we had to maintain sterile conditions. We were given gloves, gowns, hair nets, beard nets, and foot covers – score more points in my book. I don’t have a picture of everyone gowned up – more nursing talk – we had to stay in the corner. So why are Faythe and David not gowned up? They changed into clean scrubs before they entered the room.

Time to make the gelato, another fun thing I did not get to do. Now I sound like I am whining and out of shear spite I did not include a picture of Chip sampling and thoroughly enjoying the gelato. We all did get a chance to taste it. No regrets there.

Chip being instructed on how to make gelato.
Fading D Farms team making gelato.
Chip scooping gelato.

What happened next I totally missed. I was interviewing Autumn and creamery assistant Kristie Ward in the office. We talked about their backgrounds and how they came to Fading D Farm, you can read that interview here. As it turns out Kristie is the one who makes the fabulous soap.

And where did Chip go?

Off playing with the water buffalo of course. Another missed opportunity – sigh. He was in the field with the “teenagers” — actually one-year-olds, but they’re rambunctious so grouped together. Remember I said they were domesticated? Well not only domesticated, but playful as well. Chip later told me while filming the opening of the show the teenage water buffalo were nudging him, trying to eat his elbow, attempting to suck his fingers — “They were playing ping-pong with me as the ball,” he said. I really wish I had seen that live — at least I got to see some of it in this bonus scene from the show!

Last item for the day.


Let the interview commence. With Chip off camera Faythe and David talked about how it all started. Ironically it started with a trip to Italy. Here they fell in love with mozzarella di bufala and the rest is history. Don’t worry you will hear this fantastic interview in the show.

So there you have it. In my opinion this was probably one of the most interesting trips we have taken. Fading D Farm offers tours and if you are ever in Salisbury, NC I suggest you stop by. Sounds like another commercial.

Faythe and David DiLoreto