Craig Fischer of Sleepy Bison Acres in Sleepy Eye is passionate about bison and soil.
“I got bit by the bison bug during college, and sometimes I would spend more time researching buffalo than I did studying for my classes,” he confessed during an ag series presentation at the Redwood Falls library.
Sleepy Bison Acres was started by Fischer in 2013.
“We wanted to be different. Everybody has Black Angus; we had to have good fences to ease the neighbors,” said Fischer.
Not only is their choice of animals different, but so are some of their methods.
“We’re trying not to fight nature, and so we start with the soil for the animals’ benefits,” he said.
Fischer rotates the animals through his pastures so they can forage more efficiently. Forage diversity is preferred rather than single crops planted in rows. His process helps maintain a balance in the soil and offsets nitrogen with carbon.
A foraging method results in several benefits and has resulted in their farm being the first in their area to be water quality certified. By increasing his farm’s biodiversity he has improved its efficiency by maximizing ground cover, increasing water infiltration, reducing erosion and soil compaction.
Fischer is very knowledgeable about more than just what grows in his pastures, but acid and alkaline levels and the subterranean habitat for other creatures that maintain the health of his soil.
“We don’t use chemicals. Weeds are usually a symptom of other problems, and they become manageable if we address the real issues… We are using methods more like my great-grandpa’s,” he said. “We use no growth hormones, steroids or unnecessary antibiotics: no tricks, no cut corners, just natural protein."
"We try to manage as nature intended. Impact the land, and then let it rest,” added Fischer as he explained the rotation cycles of his holistic management style. “We practice adaptive grazing to mimic that natural disturbance and rest pattern.”
It is also of note that there is a financial incentive.
“When I have to harvest or bale crops for my animals I am working for them; when they forage, they are harvesting and working for me,” Fischer added.
Bison are a slower growing animal, and Fischer lets his other animals grow at a more natural rate, as well. The farm also raises chickens and hogs.
“We want a pig to be a pig,” he said, noting that the slower growth resulting from a high forage diet gains a more nutrient dense product. “Due to the carbon in their diet, our pigs don’t stink, “even if you’re standing right next to one,.”
Fischer noted there is a difference between some of the modern practices that lead to the stench one normally associates with barns.
The meat from bison is a super food.
“Bison is the only red meat endorsed by the American Heart Association,” he said.
It is high in protein, low in fat, low in cholesterol, nutrient dense, high in Omega 3 and the bison is the only mammal that has not been known to contract cancer.
“It’s America’s original red meat,” he said as he discussed the animals’ historical roots.
Bison are also extremely adaptable. They don’t use shelters (though the farm does supply them for the other animals that they raise), and bison were tested to discover even in temps of -60 they didn’t exhibit signs of cold-induced stress.
Bison have eight times as many hair follicles as beef cattle.
“But raising bison isn’t for everyone,” Fischer said as he shows some of his damaged fences near his bull enclosure, and they require him to keep close tabs on his fences.
Sleepy Bison Acres sells much of its product directly to consumers or restaurants.
Fischer and his wife Elizabeth can be found on social media by searching “Sleepy Bison Acres” and contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for folks interested in ordering any of their products.