The ground rumbles as the herd of majestic bison move through the spring pastures behind us, their magnificent silhouettes breathtaking against the morning sun.
I’m on the Tatanka Bison Ranch with Fred Ilse, who just happens to be a fellow South African expat! Established in 2015, Fred found an abandoned, overgrown yet majestic 225-acre property in York County, SC and began the labor of love to turn the land into what is today an established eco-tourism ranch.
Having purchased the land, Fred happened upon a herd of bison in North Carolina. On further research he realized that bison where native to South Carolina, and the very area of his land over 200 years ago!
Growing up in South Africa, Fred had a long-standing appreciation for the African elephant, much like bison, they are very spiritual animals, matriarchal in society and extremely protective of each other. He fondly calls his herd his ‘African Elephant’ and has realized his dream to combine his love of farming with ecotourism.
As a species, Bison have existed for centuries, however where almost extinct in the mid 1880’s due to aggressive culling. The motto atTatanka Bison Ranch is ‘Preservation, Education, and Agritourism’, and as a member of the National Bison Association, Fred is committed to nurturing the herd and farming with holistic, ethical and sustainable practices.
Beginning with soil management, the pastures at the ranch have an established soil rejuvenation program without harmful pesticides. The bison get to feast on a veritable ‘salad bar’ of a pasture with a blend of grasses, rye and wild radish, along with plenty of fresh air, sunshine and free grazing results in a healthy animal.
Bison is the ultimate ‘Better for You’ lean red meat, with only 2.42 grams of fat per 100g serving as compared to 18.54 grams for beef; and loaded with B vitamins, zinc and selenium.
What fun I had cooking at the ranch, whipping up recipes on location with Root Sky Productions right in the pasture alongside Fred! The ground bison worked wonderfully in this dish with a Middle Eastern spin, Bison Kofta with Roast Garlic Labneh and Chopped Summer Salad.
If you’re not familiar with Bison, I encourage you to try this healthy protein, good for you and the environment. You can read here how consuming bison is key to preservation.
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