Russell and Ann Obermoller are making a unique business venture work for them in Southwestern Minnesota. Together with their son, they run a bison farm – Brewster Bison. Just north of the town of Brewster, their farm currently has around fifty bison, with two bulls, 26 cows, and calves to fill out the herd. They roam in a pasture that used to be farmland. The land produces high-quality grass that grows faster for the bison to graze. A small stream also runs through, bringing some water to bison on hot summer days.
When their son, Kurt, came to Russell and Ann wanting to get into the farm business, they knew they would have to do something unique to distinguish themselves.
“This was more profitable with the smaller amount of land we have,” Russell said. Kurt also is very passionate about animals, and after they got connected with the Minnesota Bison Association and another local farmer, they got their farm off the ground.
They began in 2017 with eight animals, with the original goal of getting to twenty in the first year. They ended up with fifty, and grew faster than expected!
Day-to-day operations are usually very busy for the Obermollers. They grind their own feed, bale their own hay, as well as keep the animals and the environment clean and in good condition. Russell and Ann have grown to enjoy working with the animals, and say it’s a “labor of love,” as bison don’t like to be pushed around or follow directions.
“They’re smart,” Russell said. “We usually have to change tactics to get them to do certain things like rounding them up. They catch on so well.”
As the bison grow, they are fed with corn and soybean meal mixture, along with a mineral blend to keep them healthy. When they reach thirty months, they are fully grown. Russell and Ann work with a local meat locker for butchering and have many loyal customers ready to buy when the meat is ready.
Most of their customers are local, but Ann explained they have several that come from around the state, like Detroit Lakes and Duluth, as well as further away, “We have a client all the way from Indiana.” They take orders through their Facebook page and over the phone.
As their business grows, Ann hopes to educate more people on the benefits of bison meat. She explained that it is lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol. Though many people start to buy it for the health benefits, they come back for the taste.
“Some people think bison is a dry meat and it isn’t. It’s all in the cooking. It cooks so quick that it’s hard to realize when it’s done, and can overcook easily,” she said. Ann now cooks mostly with bison meat and wants to start teaching recipes to their customers.
With the success of their farm, they’re looking to grow outside of their current pasture. Their son, Kurt, has about 120 bison being raised on his farm, and will continue to grow a breeding herd. With this being such a unique area of farming, it’s hard to see a clear future, but Russell and Ann know they have the work ethic to make it succeed.