A group of friendly water buffalo pauses for a photo at Reverent Acres. (Reverent Acres photo)

Shuswap farm family finds happiness among water buffalo

Kim and Matt Van Rookhuyzen run Reverent Acres farm in Yankee Flats

Some people offer a curious gaze as they pass by Kim Van Rookhuyzen and the Reverent Acres’ table at the downtown Salmon Arm Farmer’s Market.

Most who stop at the table either know what they’re after or want to know more about Reverent Acres’ meat products and, specifically, what they’re from: water buffalo cared for by Kim and husband Matt Van Rookhuyzen at their Yankee Flats Road farm.

“People are used to bison out here and not water buffalo, even though the meat is similar…,” Kim explained. “It’s usually a long story or they think we’re joking.”

One customer asks for a packet of water buffalo jerky and a package of bone broth. Another is after rib-eye steaks. Burgers are also popular.

Kim explained the animals are raised humanely, grass fed, free range and given no hormones or antibiotics.

“They’re happy, they’re super friendly,” said Kim. “It’s really great because we have kids and they’re super gentle animals. We’re able to co-exist really nicely that way.”

The Van Rookhuyzens moved to the area about 11 months ago from Abbotsford, where they were leasing land on which they cared for about 50 water buffalo, 70 sheep and other animals. When the land was sold, the couple tried, unsuccessfully, to find another property in the Fraser Valley. And then they found a 120-acre property in Yankee Flats.

“Finally, we found this place, about four weeks after I had a baby,” said Kim. “We came up and had a look at it and loved it and signed the deal right away.”

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The family hauled their animals to their new property and lived in an RV while building a new home.

Kim said the idea for a water buffalo farm came after friends decided to start a water buffalo dairy.

“They had bull calves every year and they didn’t need them but the meat was really good, so we went with the intention of buying those from them and raising them for meat,” said Kim, explaining grass-fed water buffalo meat tastes similar to grass-fed beef, but is much leaner, like bison.

“Matt and I were trying to figure out how we could make our lives more healthy. Knowing where our meat came from was really important.”

Kim, a former teacher, said a lot of work goes into running the farm. Matt also works full time as an electrical contractor. However, she said there are things the lifestyle offers that she would never trade.

“My kids run free and they love animals and they’re learning all these life skills and they’re getting helpful,” said Kim. “And what would I do in the evening? I’d watch TV. There’s something for me too, to stop and watch my animals and make sure everyone is OK and breathe. It’s something that’s just good for our souls, to be connected to where our food comes.

“And my kids learning about life and death and hard times and good times, all through the animals… I think that’s really powerful for them too. They’ve seen us stressed and they’ve seen us happy and it’s a very interesting life to live with your kids. It’s raw.”

In addition to Saturday’s farmer’s market in Salmon Arm, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Reverent Acres’ products can also be ordered through reverentacres.ca.

To learn more about Reverent Acres and their water buffalo, visit reverentacres.ca.

lachlan@saobserver.netLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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Kim and Matt Van Rookhuyzen, with kids Bentley and Nolan, enjoy time with their water buffalo at Reverent Acres farm. (Alpine Wildbloom Images photo)

Matt and Kim Van Rookhuyzen, with their children Nolan and Bentley, run Reverent Acres water buffalo farm in Yankee Flats. (Alpine Wildbloom Images photo)Kim and Matt Van Rookhuyzen, with kids Bentley and Nolan, enjoy time with their water buffalo at Reverent Acres farm. (Alpine Wildbloom Images photo)