Written for the Bison World Magazine, a seasonal publication from the National Bison Association
To ask Why Bison – is to ask so many more questions.
Why bison for our land?
Why bison for our country?
Why bison for our community, for our health, our history and our future?
I could go on for hours in a jumbled mess of excitement to answer “Why Bison” however I will take a stab at putting it into writing.
I will tell you that it certainly wasn’t in my background or in my family’s, but it was in Austin’s. Several years ago when we met I would have never thought that in a short matter of time we would both leave our day jobs - mine as a Corporate Recruiter for a company out of Chicago and his, a Manager for an Oil & Gas company out of Midland - for life on a bison ranch, nonetheless here we are!
We were looking for something more out of life, something tied to the land, tied to history and something more impactful to the future, and ultimately, something tying us to our roots. Roots are what brought us to the family ranch in Western Oklahoma. Land where Austin grew up and learned how to farm, hunt, make animal calls and just be a boy. Land that his great grandfather had long ago farmed, land that was once part of Comancheria and had been home to countless herds of plains bison; this is Native America.
Austin had known for years that he would end up in ranching/farming and that he wanted to raise a healthier lifestyle of meat products for consumers to have access to. After considering grass-fed beef and other pasture raised animals, we settled on bison. Bison is America’s original red meat and provides health benefits and lifestyle that are lacking in most domestic animals. Bison require little assistance adjusting to the land for which they evolved, they are less susceptible to infections and ailments and have few calving issues, making them healthier and more natural than beef. So, in 2017, after years of his family running the operation, it came time to start our own bison story. This passion and experience has been shared with a fellow friend, business partner and foodie, Kyle, who has been instrumental in this journey and the ranch wouldn’t be where it is today without his never faltering drive to improve the ranch and to introduce our bison meat to the world.
Our first NBA conference was in 2018, when we all still had our day jobs, yet were spending countless hours, days and months updating and preparing the ranch for the transition into Benjamin Lee Bison. We were overwhelmed by the support we received from our fellow bison ranchers, new friends and acquaintances. Everyone was so welcoming and excited to pass down their lessons, and one thing we have certainly learned, is that bison ranching is an experience that involves constant learning - often from professors that have long beards, chaps … and horns with a noticeable grunt.
Bison are majestic, wild, iconic, instinctual animals that miraculously survived intended extermination. They are fighters and survivors and are a symbol of the resilience, strength and determination that defines the best of what America is. They are wild and docile, crazy and caring, individuals and one herd. All of which make them fascinating creatures that we are proud and honored to raise. I still remember my first time seeing a calf born, and the feeling isn’t any less incredible each time I experience it. I love looking into a bison’s eyes, you can see their emotion and read their intentions. Bison are intentional, they are true to themselves, true to nature and true to history. These animals roamed the plains and prairies that we now call home and to be able to bring them back to their rightful environment is truly rewarding. Bison in and of themselves raise awareness to conservation and regeneration. These animals have created a historical impact, they make a current impact and it is our job to ensure they make a future impact. Our goal is to spread the appreciation of conservation and our desire to be more natural, more authentic to our land and provide for a better future. We want to bring value to these prairies and restore our pastureland and bring new life to rural America. We want to leave this place better than how we found it!
So, Why Bison? That’s easy, there are thousands of reasons why bison and we only touched on a few. A real challenge would be answering: Why NOT Bison?
As you develop your awareness in nature, you begin to see how we influence all life and how all life influences us. A key and critical feature for us to know.
- Tony Ten Fingers/Wanbli Nata'u, Oglala Lakota
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