New Generation Farming
We are young(ish), educated, successfully ran business and enjoyed careers and still chose to become a new-generation farmer. Given that we live in a huge agricultural farming area, its pretty wild that we were not already into some sort of farming already. Marks grandfather was a farmer and his mom and uncle grew up on a cattle operation - but aside from stories that a little removed from our lifetimes. So we are not first generation farmers, we are new generation farmers. Now you are asking - what made us take the leap?? We fell in love with Bison - the taste, the sustainable nature of the business and the low input animal itself.
Then we did our research, and then we did some more research. And then we went to 2 Canadian Bison Association conventions in Regina with no land and no herd just to get more information. We networked and aligned with the best producers in Canada and the USA asking what would have seemed like silly questions to them, but were quite pressing to us at the time. Once we felt we had a better understanding and had a handle on how our business would roll out we went for it.
Now keep in mind - farming is not a sprint, it'ss a Marathon. And even through we knew that going in, its not hard to see how your patience can be tested, but in the end taking the time has been 100% worth it. It took time to get our perfect farm, it took time to source the best animals, it took time to set up safe and efficient handling facilities, it took time to fence and establish our rotational grazing program..again its a marathon.
The image of a old generation farmer to most would have been something like this. Older, overalls, apron, simple expectations and lifestyle, and most likely white (Caucasian) and been doing it for generations and would expect some of his kin to take over for him. They settled with their families on unfamiliar land and cleared by hand the property that would feed them and hopefully make the family some money.
Farming was hard work and your whole livelihood could be taken out by mother nature without warning. It was not glamorous, but back in the day the lifestyle, and working with and for the land and animals was as much why people stayed at it as anything.
There were years of mega farming, commercial farming etc that almost pushed a lot of the "small guys" right out. Technology was power and money talked to the tune of buying up family farms all over to cash crop. This is getting away from the "lifestyle" that most farmers old and new think of and aspire toward. There were still family farms of course but big farming and big business took over for a while and continues to in many areas.
"Taking up farming as a profession has rarely captured the imaginations of upwardly mobile young people whose dreams and search for opportunities takes them to mostly white-collar professions, mainly in cities." (Pokharel, 2011) Until recently. There has been a movement in the last 15 years of people wanting to know where their food came from again and being willing to search for it and pay a premium. This has driven a whole new generation of consumers who are busy like their parents before them, but more conscious about what they are putting into their bodies and those of their families. And this consciousness has sparked a large amount of interest in people like ourselves (young and upwardly mobile) to get into farming. Specialty farms and specialty products are what drives the specialty food market which is 2017 was a 127 billion dollar industry. And we all want something special from time to time. Whether it be some micro greens grown hydroponically or heirloom vegetables to top off a gourmet meat of specialty bison meat. "Specialty foods are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in almost every category, as consumers continue to become more aware of quality in their food choices. Categories aligned with better-for you options, health and wellness, and freshness are growing fastest." (Association, 2017). Now your wheels are turning aren't they??!!
Youthful energies and innovation are what drives modern farming and specialty products now and will continue to in the future. BUFF started from a desire to get a better handle on what we were feeding our kids and ourselves, starting with one simple product â€“ meat snacks. From that we started Big Rock Bison and have found a lifestyle and animal we are passionate about. We know we are doing things different and better, its why we feel so good about it. No one in North America has the same quality ingredient in a meat stick as we do in BUFF sticks and very few bison farms in North America are going about their bison operation the way we are. We are innovating and changing all the time to adapt to what is best for our farm and our customers. And the only reason people find it so fascinating (aside from the bison themselves) and one of the reasons we stand out is that it is not the norm. We are not reinventing the wheel here, we are just making the things that matter most the biggest priorities. Which is what we hope all new generation farmers would consider their operating mantra.
We are new generation farmers and proud of it!
Association, S. F. (2017, March 23). The State of the Speciality Food Industry 2017. Retrieved from Speciality Food Association: https://www.specialtyfood.com/news/article/state-specialty-food-industry-2017/
Pokharel, M. (2011). Young, educated, and choosing to become farmers. The World Bank, 2-3.