Summarized from IN PRACTICE article, Implementing Good Conservation Methods that Pay written by Heather Smith Thomas, Issue #172, pages 7-13.
Summarized by Renee Roberts
In 1988, Rancher Ken Klemm took his first Holistic Management course and began applying the methods he learned to the 157 sections of ground he was managing in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. He saw enormous benefits to the land, wildlife and finances. Ken participated in some seminars, showing people the results of Holistic Management of the ranch.
From there, Ken went to manage another ranch south of Laramie, Wyoming and applied the same Holistic Management methods and had good success. Then in 1999, he decided to go out on his own and bought his own ranch along with his partner Peter Theiriot called the Beaver Creek Buffalo Ranch near Goodland, Kansas. Ken and Peter call themselves “The Buffalo Guys” and raise bison for a growing niche market in which consumers enjoy healthy meat.
Starting with 320 acres, fences and stock water developments were put in place to provide the necessary tools to effectively manage the grass and farmland – to ensure the conservation of natural resources could be accomplished. The ranch now consists of nearly 4,000 acres of high plains country. Around 500 acres are farmed, and the balance is native prairie or recovered farmland. The ranch was almost exclusively short grass prairie when Ken first started there, but has been transformed to mid and tall grass prairie with a wide variety of forbs. No seed was purchased because the raw materials for transformation were lying dormant in the soil and only needed a chance to express themselves.
The Beaver Creek Buffalo Ranch lies in the heart of bison range and is prone to drought. According to Ken, the ranch has been able to expand and prosper despite the long-running drought due to Holistic Management principles. “We have proven that good conservation practices do not cost; they pay,” says Ken.
When the Beaver Creek Buffalo Ranch enterprise begun in 1999, the market prices for bison plummeted, and the epic drought had begun. Ken devised a plan whereby the ranch could benefit from the great buyers’ market for low-cost buffalo by starting a meat marketing company known as “The Buffalo Guys.” The company sells to grocers nationwide as well as to consumers directly through the internet.
Ken also runs cattle as well as bison to grow his grassfed market. He co-grazes the bison with Spanish cattle. He and his partner have their own brand called Good Land Grass Fed Beef ®, and it is packaged for retail and sold in grocery stores throughout the U.S.
“Interestingly enough, the holistic principles are what spurred us to add grassfed beef to our bison offering, for two reasons,” said Ken. “On the ranch, it was evident that we needed more than one species of grazer… As we began studying the land, it was telling us that we were missing a species. Some of those species eat forbs, and we have a lot of invasive weeds here. The bison don’t utilize those very well,” says Ken.
Ken and his wife Laurie continually try to help educate the public about land stewardship and agriculture. They have a Facebook page and do a lot of education in conjunction with their meat company. Each summer, Laurie offers a “Prairie School,” where local children are invited to the ranch for a full day of learning and hands-on experience. The ranch is also now in discussion with the State of Kansas to research the possibilities of a public/private venture in which Beaver Creek Buffalo would develop a local state park, in conjunction with private land. This could be a destination spot where visitors could view a bison herd and have opportunities to learn how the animals and plants create a functioning prairie. This could provide an excellent opportunity to relate conservation principles to the traveling public.
“Our effective management of the land and business resources has created a very resilient operation… the resiliency of our conservation model has proven that the land, the wildlife and the people who rely on the natural word can yet thrive in a fully sustainable and healthful manner,” says Ken.
To read the entire article, you can order IN PRACTICE Issue #170 here.
IN PRACTICE is our bi-monthly journal full of inspiring articles that will keep you in touch with the progress, innovations and excitement generated by people who are changing their lives by putting Holistic Management into practice. Subscriptions start as low as $20. Subscribe here.
Please Help Us Grow
Holistic Management International’s mission is to educate people in regenerative agriculture for healthy land and thriving communities.
We have helped farmers and ranchers in 130 countries learn and practice Holistic Management for the past 3 decades. You can read some of their Success Stories to learn how Holistic Management has changed their lives and impacted their land.
As a non-profit organization, HMI is always grateful for donations in support of our mission. You can help regenerate land for healthy food and healthy lives with many giving options including scholarships for farmer/rancher training. Learn more here.
Hedwig Weiler says
Fourth and last try. My posts keep disappearing.
This article recognizing Ken’s success is so deserved.
He’s my nephew and Hildie’s son, so I know how dedicated
he has been in pursuit of his vision. He has always been
an out of the box thinker and problem solver. We are all
so proud of you dear Ken.
Blessings and Love, Aunt Hedi