Category Archives: The Business

Choosing a WordPress Theme for Your Farm Website

Choosing a Theme for Your Farm Website

When it comes to choosing a WordPress theme for your farm website or blog, the options are nearly limitless. Just a quick glance through any theme showcase can overwhelm you with possibilities!

Intended Use

Many themes are designed with a particular use in mind, such as photo blogs, online magazines, or real estate sites. A few theme categories you may want to look at closely include:

  • Blog. Made for keeping readers up to date with timely posts.
  • Business. Often includes a clean look and customized areas for testimonials and a portfolio.
  • Craft. Best described as cute and colorful!
  • Easy. Designed specifically for beginners.
  • eCommerce. Set up for selling products online.
  • Food. Some of these are made for restaurants, but many are for recipe blogs.
  • Journal. Similar to the blog idea, but with an emphasis on readability.
  • Lifestyle. Sleek, innovative themes that frequently make it possible to showcase a lot of content.

(Note that theme categorization varies; these category examples are drawn from several sources.)

Homepage Design

One of the first things you will see when you demo a theme is the homepage. And the homepage is also something many of your readers will see—often more than once! So make sure that your new theme has a homepage capable of showcasing your most important content.

Some homepages are heavily image-driven (ours generally is)—don’t choose one of these themes unless you are prepared to use a lot of photos! Other homepages emphasize featured pages, which is excellent if you have a static site. Still other homepages offer unique combinations of features to highlight more than one type of content, such as pages and a blog.

Many themes offer multiple homepage setup options, so be sure to read the documentation and see what options are available to you before dismissing a theme altogether. Due to recent advancements in the WordPress experience, homepages are becoming increasingly customizable with a simple drag-and-drop-type interface.

Content Presentation

Be sure to click on several posts, pages, and archive pages at the demo sites for the themes you are considering to see if you like the way the content is presented. Some things can be changed—fonts and colors can easily be replaced in the Customizer, for instance. If you know or learn CSS, you can tweak some typographical elements, such as underlining links or adding space between items in a bulleted list.

Other things are not so easily changed:

  • How featured images are displayed.
  • Whether post excerpts will be visible.
  • What post tags look like.
  • What decorations set off a blockquote.
  • How tag and category archives are laid out.

Make sure you choose a theme that has good eye appeal and readability when it comes to matters such as these. Also remember to preview the demo site for both desktop and mobile users.

Widget Areas

Widgets are a way to make your site unique and direct your readers to other content that they may enjoy. Many themes have a place for widgets in the footer (if you aren’t familiar with widgets, scroll down to see the text, image, menus, tags, and search box in our footer). Some themes also display a sidebar with widgets to desktop users, although this has become less common since people started browsing on smaller devices.

Pay attention to how many widget areas your prospective theme has, particularly if you are planning a content-heavy site. Many farm sites will need comparatively few widgets to help visitors find their most important content, but some sites will need more widgets to feature more posts and pages.

Additional Features

And then there are all those nice little touches that make some themes really stand out. Depending on your needs, you may want to consider:

  • Room for a site logo in the header (highly recommended for businesses!).
  • Multiple navigation menus.
  • Special post formats to make images, videos, links, or quotes stand out.
  • Full-width pages to use as landing pages for promoting products or services.
  • A specially formatted portfolio.
  • Online store compatibility.

Theme Age

As technology advances, some themes become obsolete and have to be retired. Don’t get attached to a beautiful theme only to find out it is dying of old age. Start by looking at the newest themes first.

If you really want an older theme, one way to gauge its age is to find a support forum for that theme and see how old the oldest threads are. By the time a theme is three years old, it is generally pushing its life expectancy.

Theme Support

A well-supported theme is a pleasure to use. Even if you never have to contact the theme creator yourself, you can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that your theme is being regularly monitored and updated to keep it functioning properly.

Evaluating support is another job for the theme support forum. Get a feel for how often problems arise and how quickly they are resolved. Evaluate what kinds of problems come up—sometimes new threads deal more with user errors or design suggestions rather than actual bugs. When issues do arise (and they will), make sure that the theme creators have a good track record for actually resolving problems and bugs rather than letting them dangle indefinitely.

And the Winner Is…

The final criterion for a good theme is the most important—how much it appeals to you. As long as there are no major problems with the theme or with the way it will suit your application, you should definitely settle on a theme that you love. Your favorite theme will add authenticity to your brand, because it will be a reflection of you.

Have fun!

Adding Value to Milk

Adding Value to MilkLooking for ways to expand your small-farm dairy business? Milk offers many opportunities for diversifying your product offerings!

Here are some common ways to add value to farm-fresh milk.

Cream

Cream is not one of the more popular value-added dairy products around, but it does have a loyal following among health-conscious customers. Fresh, raw cream is often touted as nature’s ultimate health food due to its vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria. Good cream can also provide quite the gourmet cooking experience.

Butter

Because butter requires a great deal of milk fat to make, selling butter is typically a better fit for dairy farmers with cows rather than goats or sheep.

Another pitfall with butter is that it is often harder to sell to the public. Many customers (even those who aren’t necessarily health-conscious) won’t think twice about sampling homemade cheese or ice cream. But the market for farm-fresh butter is much smaller.

Buttermilk

Old-fashioned buttermilk is the milk left over from the butter churn, in contrast to grocery-store buttermilk made from skim milk, cultures, and thickening agents. Buttermilk is one of the less common dairy products sold on small farms, but it may be a way to salvage an otherwise wasted byproduct.

Or, to take the value-adding a step further, make buttermilk soap! Handmade soap can be a truly artisan product that commands high prices. It also has a major advantage over many dairy products in that it can be sold online and shipped across the country, enabling the soapmaker to find markets anywhere at all. The usual rules apply when selling soap—check the laws (soap is regulated by the FDA) and make sure you produce a quality product every time. If your customers are paying top-dollar for handcrafted soap, they expect more than a run-of-the-mill cleansing agent.

Cheese

Whether you keep cows, goats, or sheep, cheese offers a magnificent opportunity to the artisan entrepreneur. At the same time, it is a very popular product to eat across America! And another bonus? Cheese made from raw milk is typically regulated much less stringently than raw milk itself (but please check your state regulations before starting on your cheese venture).

Another advantage of selling cheese is that it allows for considerable variety, as there are many different types of cheese that can be made. Cheese made from raw milk must be aged prior to sale in some states, which means that the cheeses many small farms will be able to offer fall into the hard cheese category. Fortunately, hard cheeses do include some very popular varieties, such as cheddar and Gouda. Pasteurization will enable you to add soft cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta to your lineup. Another option for adding still more variety is flavoring your cheese with herbs and spices.

A few words of advice—trying making cheese for home use before turning this project into a business. Cheesemaking is very time-consuming, the equipment is expensive, and quality is the key to maintaining customer interest, so it’s a good idea to test your interest level and build your skills before committing. The good news is that instructional materials abound these days, making the learning curve much less steep.

Also keep in mind that specialty cheese sales usually peak around Christmas—near the lowest ebb of seasonal dairying.

Whey

Whey is a byproduct of cheesemaking. Hard cheeses are pressed to remove the fluids, which can in turn be sold as whey.

So what do you do with whey? Bottling flavored whey drinks is one option. Also, if you happen to know any other small farmers, you may be in luck. Whey can be marketed to pig farmers as feed, and it can also be sold as a very effective fertilizer for organic pastures and fields.

Ice Cream

Ice cream is an extremely popular value-added product, partly because it is readily accepted by the public whether sold by the gallon or by the cone. It’s also portable—some small-scale creameries set up shop in trailers at fairs and other special events, allowing them to capitalize on existing crowds in a festive mood.

The demand for gourmet ice cream is particularly high among older, wealthier customers. Hand churning and indulgent flavors can command an impressive premium—just be aware that choosing this marketing route will make your product a luxury and will consequently reduce your customer base.

Yogurt

Yogurt can be a favorite product among health-conscious consumers, who tend to view it as a positive snack choice.

One potential pitfall to be aware of is the fact that not all areas have a large enough interest to support a yogurt business. Even in areas with access to interested buyers, it would be quite easy to oversupply the market, since a pound of milk makes a pound of yogurt! Yogurt makers will definitely want to have another outlet for milk and dairy products besides yogurt.

Another factor to consider is that tastes vary. Most Americans prefer heavily sweetened yogurt made from low-fat milk. The thicker, less sweet product is more likely to be enjoyed by a few select groups.

Some Final Thoughts

Adding value to milk invariably requires expertise and special equipment. It also requires commitment, and preferably an artisan bent. Before undertaking any value-added dairy enterprise, assess your financial situation, your workload, and your level of enthusiasm carefully and honestly. Many successful dairy entrepreneurs start out learning to make their chosen product on the kitchen stove and sharing with friends and family for free.

One way to reduce the startup costs is to purchase used processing equipment. If you do want to buy new equipment, keep in mind that some manufacturers now make dairy equipment sized for smaller farms—industrial machinery is not necessary these days.

Also note that, in niche dairying, quality is all-important. Off flavors must be avoided, which requires close attention to grazing management. Furthermore, dairy products must be moved fairly quickly to avoid expiration.

Are value-added dairy products right for your farm? If you have serious passion to see you through, maybe so.

Helpful Resource

Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm BusinessStarting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business
This handy book offers a step-by-step approach to business planning. It addresses many of the financial, legal, and marketing issues you will encounter when considering value-added dairy. Read our full review.

Choosing Categories and Tags for Your Farm Blog

Choosing Categories and Tags for Your Farm BlogStarting a blog for your farm website? If you are using WordPress, one of the things you will have to do is select the right categories and tags for organizing your posts.

Categories and tags are important because they help your reader find content that they are interested in. For instance, not everyone who visits the Homestead on the Range website is interested in the same topics. Some come here for information about cattle, chickens, and other livestock—they will gravitate toward The Farm category. Others are seeking information on Kansas history—they are more likely to pick The Sunflower State category. These readers can narrow the topics down still further by selecting tags ranging from Agritourism to Nature to Writing.

So how do you choose the right categories and tags for your application? Let’s dig deeper.

Categories

Think of your blog as a book. The categories are your table of contents. Each entry in the table of contents covers a major topic.

What topics will you be writing about on your farm blog? Here are some suggestions:

  • Perhaps you could have one category for every enterprise in your farm business—Cattle, Goats, Poultry, Produce, etc.
  • If your blog is more of a personal diary, your categories might include Home, Farm, Musings, and the like.
  • Some bloggers enjoy writing about current issues—their categories could include Farm Updates, Philosophy, News, and more.

But don’t choose too many categories! This is the table of contents, not the index. Keep it clean and comprehensive. Choose four to six categories that cover all of your desired topics.

Finally, about that ubiquitous Uncategorized category that WordPress kindly provides us with. While it’s a handy tool that saves the writer some headache, it does nothing to assist readers. Help them find what they are looking for by creating descriptive categories. If you have a post that does not fit into your existing categories, it may be time to reassess your site structure.

Tags

If the categories form the table of contents of your blog, the tags make up the index. Tags break things down into specific topics that readers are looking for. Tags also have the advantage of crossing category lines.

Let’s revisit the three scenarios above:

  • The farm business could use tags like Meat, Milk, Vegetables, Sales, Events, etc.
  • A personal homesteading blog might use tags like Cooking, Family, Inspirational, Photos, etc.
  • The current-issue-minded blogger could use tags like Markets, Politics, Agribusiness, etc.

If your site is hosted on WordPress.com, keep in mind that tags offer new readers an additional way to discover your content through the WordPress Reader. WordPress Reader users can browse tag archives crossing all the multitudinous sites hosted at WordPress. Fellow bloggers can even follow their favorite tags to find new posts and sites that they will enjoy. For instance, if you write a post tagged Recipes, every WordPress user who is following the tag Recipes in the Reader will see your post!

Tags are much more flexible than categories, and you can afford to have many more of them. Just keep in mind that having 100+ tags on your blog is probably unwieldy for you and not helpful to the reader. Only create tags for topics that your readers will likely want to find out more about.

Also note that tag-packing your posts will not help you. At the time of this writing, the WordPress Reader will block posts that contain a combined total of over 15 tags and categories on the assumption that the post came from a spam blog.

Putting This Information to Use

Now that you have some categories and tags, how do you feature them to make sure that readers can find what they are looking for? Most themes automatically display the appropriate categories and tags on each post in some way, but you typically have a few more options.

Categories can sometimes go into the primary navigation menu, depending on your site structure and what pages you will need to feature there. Sidebar and footer widgets are also good places to feature category menus. Finally, consider listing your categories on your sitemap.

One of the best ways to display your tags is in a tag cloud, again in the sidebar or footer. If your blog is information-heavy and requires many tags, you can also create an index page to help your readers navigate the site.

When choosing and displaying categories and tags, always keep the primary objective in mind—helping your reader find what they’re looking for—and you can’t go wrong.

8 Ideas for an Elk Business

8 Ideas for an Elk BusinessOften it is the novelty that first attracts people to the idea of raising elk. But those who do their research have the potential to cash in on a profitable enterprise.

While starting an elk ranch will require attention to legalities, fencing, safe handling facilities, and the like, one of the first questions begged is—what do you do with an elk?

Elk have several uses:

  1. Velvet. Elk velvet comes from the soft inner core of the growing antler, typically of the bull elk. Because elk grow new antlers every year, elk velvet can be harvested annually, and should not cause injury to the elk if done properly. The velvet is then marketed as a dietary supplement. It is believed to have immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties. Note, however, that the velvet market, while often lucrative, can be rather volatile.
  2. Antlers. The hard, calcified antlers can be used to make innumerable items. Options range from jewelry to chandeliers to knife handles. Are you the handyman sort? Add value to your elk antlers by making art, novelties, and home furnishings, then direct marketing the finished products. Another option is to sell antlers as all-natural dog chews, a popular product in these chemical-conscious days.
  3. Ivories. Ivories are the canine teeth of the elk. Elk ivories can be made into Western-themed jewelry. Bull ivories are particularly favored.
  4. Hides. Elk hides can be quite useful since an elk hide is about twice the size of a deer hide. However, its size and thickness may make it harder to work with. Elk hides can be used for products ranging from rugs to clothing.
  5. Meat. While elk meat is a specialty item, it is a favorite lean treat with some who would otherwise avoid red meat for health reasons. Farm-raised elk can have an advantage over wild-caught elk due to its milder flavor. Prime cuts are typically sold at either farmers markets or fancy restaurants. Less valuable cuts can be processed into value-added products such as jerky.
  6. Breeding stock. High-quality breeding elk can be very profitable. Elk are typically sold by private treaty (from one breeder directly to another) or at a handful of auctions. There is also a demand for semen from registered bull elk with desirable traits, such as a calm disposition, high weight gains, and impressive antlers.
  7. Agritourism. Farm guests often enjoy taking tours of elk herds. Of course, care must be taken to protect the guests from injury, as even farm-raised elk are still wild animals at heart.
  8. Game preserves. Game preserves can be extremely profitable because they capitalize on extensive tracts of low-maintenance natural landscapes. Game preserves are sought out by hunters because they have high success rates, healthy elk, and quality trophies. In areas where wild elk are rare, a preserve is likely to receive plenty of business from hunters seeking thrilling experiences close to home.

Getting into the elk business can be expensive due to the cost of both the animals and the facilities needed to handle them. However, several lucrative markets exist that can easily justify the cost. The possibility of filling several niches with one elk herd can make this unique business an attractive one to enterprising farmers and ranchers.

The Organic Price Premium

The Organic Price PremiumWe’ve all seen it at the grocery store—organic food can be shockingly expensive! Price premiums vary by product, ranging from a mere 7% premium above conventional prices for organic spinach to an 82% premium for organic eggs.

The organic price premium debate has gone on for over a decade now. Some experts claim that the costs outweigh the benefits, while others say that the premium is the only way organic farmers can receive a fair wage.

 

Why is Organic Food So Expensive?

There are many reasons that organic food costs more to produce than conventional food, which in turn raises the price. Some factors include:

  • The three-year transition period for converting conventional farmland to organic.
  • Smaller size of most organic operations, which has a negative effect on economies of scale.
  • Greater labor inputs.
  • Higher stewardship standards, which require expensive practices such as erosion control and rotational cover-cropping.
  • Lower yields.
  • Limited supply compared to demand.
  • Larger cut typically reserved to the farmer for his living.

The three-year transition process, in particular, is tricky for producers seeking organic certification. They have to use organic practices while accepting commodity prices that entire time, investing in new equipment and learning new farming methods at the same time. The good news is that this dilemma has led to the creation of certified transitional programs.

 

Is There Truly a Premium?

With this mind, do organic products actually receive a premium, or are the higher prices merely reflective of higher costs? There probably is a premium in many cases. The FAO notes that, in developing countries, food that is produced organically but that is not certified organic is often sold locally at the same price as conventional food. Prices for organic food in developing countries, the FAO states, tend to depend on “the specific consumer willingness to pay.”

Reasons some consumers have demonstrated a willingness to pay more for organic include:

  • Food safety.
  • Enhanced nutrition.
  • Better flavor.
  • Environmental benefits.

It is interesting to note that farmers’ market managers observe a different attitude toward price premiums among the participating farmers than is seen at grocery and health-food stores (see page 10 of this USDA report). At markets offering both organic and conventional produce, many organic farmers do not routinely charge a premium. Premiums are typically charged for something out of the ordinary:

  • Exceptional quality.
  • A rare type of produce.
  • Food sold at an upscale market.

 

The Downside of the Premium

That price premium can be a deterrent to shoppers, particularly during times of economic hardship. Expense is one of the top reasons organic buyers return to conventional food. Also, low-income families frequently cannot afford whole grains or fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats—let alone organic equivalents.

 

Trends in Organic Food Pricing

Currently, the high demand fostered by improving economic conditions is keeping the premium in place. While organic food was once decidedly a niche product, about two thirds of American shoppers now buy organic products at least occasionally. The demand is evidently strong enough that in 2016 Costco determined that it was worthwhile to offer organic farmers loans and financing for land and equipment in exchange for the first pick of all produce grown on the farm.

As organic food becomes more mainstream and the supply increases, however, the prices will likely start to decrease. The USDA notes that already three out of every four grocery stores carry some organic products. As evidenced by Costco’s move, stores are increasingly seeking out greater supplies to meet their demand. If organic truly becomes commonplace, the premium may become a thing of the past.

Adding Value to Wool

Adding Value to WoolWhen direct marketing wool, you have some options. You can sell just the fiber, or you can add varying degrees of value.

So what is the value-adding sequence for fiber, and which product or products are right for you? Let’s dig in.

 

Raw Fleece

Just offering the plain old raw fleece is very common, and it is an option that appeals strongly to customers who happen to be handspinners or weavers. Many wool growers who direct market are surprised to find that raw fleeces are their most profitable and best-selling products.

But note that selling raw fleece is not as simple as shearing a sheep and shipping out the fleece—attention to quality is far more critical in niche wool production than commodity production. The fleece absolutely must be clean and free of any and all debris. It also must be skirted, which is the process of removing anything undesirable, such as stained wool, second cuttings, or belly wool.

If selling raw fleece is your interest, note that sheep breed will come into play here. Most handspinners prefer long wool, as this type is the easiest to work with.

 

Adding Value to WoolRoving

Roving is wool that has been washed, carded, and twisted up to hold the fibers together in a sort of rope.

Roving is a versatile product used primarily for felting, but also for stuffing, spinning, and more.

 

Batting

Batting is used to fill pillows, blankets, and the like. Coarse wool works particularly well for making batting. Batting can be made to salvage wool too short to make into roving.

The batting concept can be taken another step further by making finished bedding and pillows.

 

Felt

Felt is a good product for adding value to coarse-wool batting, as it has many applications. It can be sold in sheets such as those you might buy at the craft store, but most producers who get this far choose to add still more value.

Do you have a passion for working with fiber yourself? Then you may be able to take value-adding to the next level by creating finished products, such as sponges, placemats, or felted crafts.

Another way to offer felt is in the form of do-it-yourself felting kits for beginners. These can be quite popular if they are quality kits that produce attractive results.

 

Adding Value to WoolSpun Yarn

The spinning step is going to cost you in one of two ways—time or money. Having your fiber spun into yarn at a spinnery or fiber mill can be very expensive, and the mill may require a minimum amount of wool to process. Some companies also have long delays depending on the demand. Spinning it yourself will take some know-how plus valuable time.

Offering the yarn without any dye can be an advantage to some, because there are customers who prefer to dye their own yarns either for fun or to avoid chemicals.

However, dying your yarn can increase its value to customers who are interested in knitting but not dyeing. All-natural botanical dyes can be popular among this group. (You may even be able to take the art of dyeing still further and grow your own dye plants.)

 

Woven Fabric

In some markets, fabric has a broader appeal than yarn. Yarn is primarily for craft hobbyists, while fabric is useful in a wide range of applications and on a variety of scales. Most producers have their wool processed by a professional mill. Fine wool is particularly well suited to fabric-making.

 

Handknits

Selling knit or crocheted clothing, afghans, and other gifts is an excellent way to sell your farm’s story—if you can pull it off.

One of the most common challenges with this level of value-adding is keeping up with the demand. The pre-Christmas rush will likely see your biggest boost in sales. Can’t make enough products yourself? You may need to find a team of knitters to help.

What type of products you can produce will depend primarily on your interests, but the breed of sheep you raise will also have a huge impact. Fine-wool breeds produce soft, versatile yarns, while yarn from coarse-wool breeds may be best suited to making rugs.

 

A Final Reminder

Quality is key in direct marketing wool or wool products, no matter what form they take. The best wool comes from healthy, happy sheep that receive optimal nutrition and have access to fresh water at all times (even in winter). It usually also comes from sheep that wear lightweight coats to protect their fleece from damage due to wet conditions or intense UV light. Caring for the sheep may therefore cost more in a direct-marketing business than in commodity production, but it can yield profits that more than compensate.

11 Applications for an Agricultural Interest Besides Farming

11 Applications for an Agricultural Interest Besides FarmingRunning a farm or ranch is not the only way to cash in on your agricultural interest. These days, there are plenty of fields where a knowledge of agriculture and agricultural sciences can be a plus, and where you will have an opportunity to aid those who have chosen to work the land.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Veterinary medicine. Practitioners experienced with livestock work closely with most large farms and many smaller ones, as well.
  • Inspections. Inspectors ensure that USDA and FDA regulations are enforced. Some work in laboratories, others in processing facilities.
  • Scientific research. Science and farming go hand in hand. The points at which agriculture and science intersect are too many to list here, but just to give you an idea:
    • Soil science, the study of the soil and its management and conservation as it relates to farming.
    • Botany, the study of plants of all types. Botanists may research anything from breeding crops for hardiness to the conservation of native species to new food, fiber, and medicinal uses for familiar plants.
    • Plant biology, the study of how plants work, particularly from a genetic perspective. Plant biology differs from botany in that the former seeks information in the lab while the latter seeks information in the field.
    • Animal sciences, a broad field covering the standard American livestock species plus other farm animals kept around the world. Animal scientists can focus their attention on subcategories including physiology, livestock management, nutrition, breeding/genetics, and diseases.
    • Food science, the study of and experimentation with food ingredients and processing techniques with a view to improving food products.
  • Agricultural engineering. Not the same as genetic engineering. This field involves designing logistical solutions to farming problems and needs. Machinery design is a major focus of agricultural engineering, but some engineers work with livestock housing, processing plants, food storage facilities, dams and reservoirs, or even water quality solutions to minimize pollution.
  • Historical scholarship. Some historians pin their focus on agriculture and rural living, preserving and interpreting the past of farming to aid us in understanding its present and future.
  • Agricultural economists. The study of all aspects of agribusiness, including management, law, policy, and rural sociology.
  • Agricultural meteorology. A specific branch of meteorology that connects weather events with their effects on crops and livestock. Agricultural meteorologists forecast crop yields, animal performance, and enterprise risk.
  • Agricultural communications. This field covers a wide array of talent from PR, advertising, and marketing experts to those who write about farming-related topics in magazines and newspapers.
  • Extension. Extension services provide much of the information beginning farmers rely on to get started.
  • Accounting. Many farms hire accountants and bookkeepers to make sense of those tangled numbers.
  • Trucking and heavy equipment operation. These people do everything from transport food to operate hay balers.

8 Ideas for a Bison Business

8 Ideas for a Bison BusinessWant to do something a little different with your family farm or ranch? How about raising bison?

From a land stewardship perspective, there are some major advantages to raising bison. Despite their size, these animals are far easier on pastures than most types of domestic livestock, fostering a healthy grassland ecosystem. Furthermore, they are hardy and well able to take care of themselves with few inputs.

But does raising bison pay? The short answer is yes, but keep in mind that bison are specialty livestock. It is crucial to size up the market before jumping in.

Here are a few of the enterprises you might consider:

  1. Meat. Bison finish quite well on grass alone, making them efficient in the pasture. The resulting product is lean and high in protein. It has a rich flavor that makes for an enjoyable gourmet dining experience. If you are up to the task of direct marketing bison meat, this enterprise can be extremely lucrative. Potential options are selling to consumers, selling to restaurants, or selling through some health food stores.
  2. Hides. You may be able to sell these through a novelty shop, or you may need to find a way to direct market to the end purchaser. If you can find a leatherworker interested in your bison, you are in luck as this is an excellent way to sell untanned hides.
  3. Leather. What if you are interested in working with leather yourself? Add value to your hides by turning them into finished products.
  4. Fiber. Did you know that bison hair can be spun into yarn? Bison can be either sheared or brushed to collect the hair. Then it must be sorted, as there are four layers of coarse outer coat suitable primarily for making ropes. The soft undercoat is typically mixed with wool or alpaca to make it easier to work with. The result is a soft, durable yarn.
  5. Trophies. Bison heads can make fine trophies, which in turn make marketable products.
  6. Skulls and other bones. Some novelty shops carry these items, or you can sell direct to the customer.
  7. Agritourism. Instead of just selling the bison, sell the bison ranch experience! Bison-related agritourism opportunities are too numerous to list here—the list would look remarkably like an extensive list of agritourism opportunities in general. One of the most common ideas involving bison is herd tours. This could be coupled with other enterprises, such as a gift shop or bed and breakfast.
  8. Breeding stock. Are you really serious about breeding bison? Selling seedstock may be an option. Note that there are no specialized bison sale barns. You will have to plan on sending bison either to one of the few major bison sales or selling direct to the customer. In some cases, you may be able to sell to zoos and public game reserves.

Before buying any bison, you will want to evaluate these enterprise ideas carefully to locate sales channels and to estimate demand. This requires time and research, but it will pay off in the long run. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find out that these unique animals are just the right fit for you.