Minnesota Buffalo Association
Creating a Progressive RUMBLE in the Bison Industry

September 2018: Grand View Bison Ranch

Cadott, Wisconsin

Kristopher Brown

grand-view1Lately we have been getting asked a lot how we started Grand View Bison Ranch and why we chose bison, so when the MNBA Executive Director Jessica Spaeth asked me if we would be interested in sharing the story of how we started, to introduce myself prior to speaking at the 2019 MNBA Conference the timing couldn’t have been better.

I have been fascinated by our natural world and many species of animals for as long as I can remember. While growing up, I spent as much time as possible in the outdoors, learning and striving to further my knowledge on the interesting life of animals. After years of working for my father’s construction company and successfully running a business called Vital Exotics with my wife; breeding, raising and selling high end collector exotic reptiles, we longed for something different. I spent the next few years looking for a way to combine my affinity and passion for animals and ranching along with my desire to work outdoors into something that would allow my wife Roxy and to raise our 3 daughters in a better way. Even though I wasn’t raised in an agricultural setting, ranching, livestock and the way of life surrounding them has been a passion of mine for many years. But Wisconsin is a farm state, not a ranch state, right?

Grand View Bison

(L-R) Kristopher and Roxy Brown, Vayda,
Jerry and Betty Dzienkowski, Aryanah and Jersey

In 2010 my wife Roxy and I bought a beautiful 70-acre piece of land from a family she had known for years. That original piece of land was and still is our pride and joy and we spent every weekend out there clearing brush, fixing fence and exploring the woods and pastures. It was our plan to build our dream home there someday and have a small hobby farm where we could raise our family. For the first 4 years we leased the land to a neighboring dairy farmer who pastured his cattle on it. In 2014 we made the decision that it was time to start our own herd, and I reached out to a longtime friend and MNBA member Jeremy Allemann to ask for advice on cattle, since his family had been involved in the cattle and bison industry for years. That’s when Jeremy said, “stop looking into cattle and look into bison”. I had always been fascinated by the bison species, but I never really thought actually owning them here in Wisconsin was realistic. At the time I ran Vital Exotics, working daily with giant snakes and lizards. Now people joke with me for thinking that bison were unrealistic while I was completely comfortable with interacting with 16’ pythons and 8’ monitor lizards that weighed more than I do ha ha! What are bison like to care for? Are they dangerous and crazy as they are made out to be? Is there actually a market for them other than novelty? What kind of fence do I need? Those are just a few of the dozens of questions that ran thru my head. After spending the next 6 months spending every possible minute researching, thinking and talking bison with anyone and everyone we could, attending Roland Kroos’ Holistic Management Seminar and helping round up and work bison at a few different ranches here in the state, Roxy and I decided to dive in and purchase a herd from and family here in Wisconsin that was getting out of the business. The timing was perfect and the herd was a great starter herd to help us get our feet wet. To this day that herd is still here and our herd bull Bob has gotten quite the following with the photos and videos I post on social media.

About a year after catching the bison fever, one fall day, I was sitting at the kitchen table with the gentleman who we had purchased the original 70 acres from and he informed me that he was ready to retire and quit farming. He talked to me about either wanting to sell the land, or lease it out, and the pros and cons of each. One thing that was important to him was keeping the farm healthy, neat and organized and being able to spend the rest of his life here at his home. We had developed a great relationship with this family over the years, they were pretty much like grandparents to us and our daughters, as a few years prior we had moved into a home they owned here on the farm. We were living here for a few years while we prepared to build our dream home on the original piece of land we bought on the other side of the farm. During that time I helped him out here and there maintaining the farm, and fix up the house. While talking about the future of the 600+ acre farm, that afternoon I said “Jerry, we really enjoy this bison ranching, and the market seems very positive, what if I look into trying to figure out a way to put a business model together that would allow us to purchase the entire farm?” After 6 months of deliberation and work towards building a sustainable business model, Roxy and I decided to put the dream house on hold, commit every dime we had and go all in on this new venture. Fast-forward 3 years later, we have built a great friendship and rewarding, sustainable partnership with Sean at The Honest Bison and Mimi and Moritz at 777 Bison Ranch to produce premium 100% grassfed bison to help satisfy the growing demand. Jerry and his wife Betty were able to comfortably retire from the farming way of life, yet finish out their glory years here in their homestead on the farm that he worked so hard for so many years to build. With their support, they watched us transform their pride and joy Rolling Acres Farm, from a functioning dairy farm filled with hay and row crops, to Grand View Bison Ranch where endless rolling hills of green grass flow and almost 700 bison now graze out of their living room window. I think Jerry is proud of the farms new purpose and I am now grateful to take over where he left off and have the opportunity to work with an incredibly fascinating animal species as a team alongside our bison friends, my wife, and integrating our 3 daughters into the ranch life.

Grand View Bison
Kris and Roxy Brown with daughters Aryanah, Jersey,
and Vayda at Grand View Bison Ranch; Cadott, WI.

 

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