272 Russell Street
Sat 10 am - 5 pm
Sun 10 am - 5 pm
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Where the Buffalo Roam?
by Michael Di Natale
When I arrived at the farm, at 2 p.m., it was a ghost town.
A tractor buzzed in the background, but otherwise thescene was silent. I was unclear, at first,
whether or not the farm was open. The building next to the corral was dark, and “closed” signs
covered the window of the farm’s gift shop and café. Walking past the building,
I noticed a small farm stand -- the first sign that the farm was open – selling a mix of grain, vitamin, mineral which could be
fed to the animals. After depositing $2 in a honor-system box, I approached the adjacent corral and found myself face to face with an animal bigger than a small car.
It was a bison, also known as the American buffalo, and what it was doing here, just a few miles down the road from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was
The animals are part of the Long Hollow Bison Farm, located at 272 Russell Street, in Hadley, Mass.
Eight years ago, Fred and Paul Ciaglo began raising bison here, when the brothers bought their childhood home from their mother. They dreamed of saving a small part of American history and culture by preserving the species, which had been brought to the brink of extinction during the late 1800s, and in
so had created a farm quite unlike anything in the Pioneer Valley.
Things have changed at the farm over the last year. The Ciaglos sold about 30 acres of their farm to Lowe’s Hardware for development purposes. As a result the heard has been thinned to
30, and the bison are now contained on the other side of the farm in a hay-filled area fenced in by metal green bars.
Along the fence tubing is placed so that you can feed the animals without getting too close. You
can deposit feed into the tubing, so that it slides down into a trough. This
attracts the bison, all of which seem to understand that your presence
means food was waiting for them. One bison actually followed me up and down the side of the trough as I walked, waiting for me to hand over
some feed. Once food was in the trough, the larger bison usually force away their smaller peers. As I watched, the largest
jammed his head into the sides of those near enough to threaten his meal.
There was no real farm smell, despite my expectations, coming from the bison. If you closed your eyes you wouldn’t have know n they were there. This surprised me because as anyone who has driven down this section of Route 9 can confirm, the area smells like a gigantic animal outhouse
As someone who has traveled to Yellowstone National Park and seen bison in their natural habitat, the experience provided by the Long Hollow Bison farm is somewhat lackluster. However, it was still a thrill to be able to observe bison from not much more than an arms length. It isn’t every day that you get to catch of glimpse of one of these animals.
I had been there for about 40 minutes before another guest arrived at the farm. A father and his four-year-old on a Sunday drive. The child was wide-eyed at the sight of the bison.
“Daddy! They’re so big,” he exclaimed, as he charged toward the fence. He seemed to be
as excited as if his father had taken him to the toy store or candy shop. It is moments like that which give credit to the Ciaglo brothers’ dream of making the bison available to the community.
History of the Buffalo
By the end of the 19th century there were as few as 750 known bison, most living in a remnant herd maintained by the Bronx Zoo in New York. From these dwindling numbers the bison
were repopulated and eventually reintroduced to the wild through reserves like Yellow Stone National Park. The current bison population is estimated to be approximately 350,000, of which around 250,000 bison are being raised for
consumption. This is a far cry from the estimated 60 to 100 million bison that populated the Great Plains region of the United States and Canada in the
pre-Columbus era of world history.
The recent changes to the Ciaglos' farm have come about because of Hadley’s rezoning of the area around the farm. This allowed the Ciaglos to sell a portion of their land to developers and caused them change the direction of their farm. The brothers no longer intend to raise bison for the purpose of consumption. Although the farm will continue to supply the local restaurant, Amherst Brewing Company, with bison meat, their new, smaller herd will be used mainly for
breeding according to sources at the farm. This contributed to the closing of the farm gift shop, which primarily sold bison meat.
Even the tours the farm once offered are now gone. Paul Ciaglo, who used to spend his weekends giving hay ride tours of the farm, is too busy these days with his other job as a software salesman to continue those activities.
Despite the scaled-back farm, it is still a great spot to visit for an afternoon. It is not a place you
would want to spend the entire day, but small children and adults will both delight at the sight of the majestic bison.