I started working for the Canadian Armed Forces in 2000. I was given great advice a few weeks after I joined. I was told to start planning for my retirement right away since we never know what may happen while serving for our Country. At this point I was starting a new career so I had no idea what I wanted to do for my eventual retirement from the military. I kept this piece of advice in the back of my mind throughout my career.
I was afforded many travel opportunities over the years but I couldn't find a place that felt like home. One night, I was waiting outside of a large meat company in Alberta while transporting goods. I watched as many military members came out with large bags of meat. I was curious what they were buying so I asked those who came out while I waited. A few people said they had purchased beef but I was surprised to learn most were purchasing bison. I've always had a fascination for bison and that day stuck with me.
I fell in love with the Ottawa Valley when I was posted to Garrison Petawawa in 2006. I settled into a cozy position teaching the troops how to operate military vehicles and heavy equipment, from a snowmobile to a tractor trailer. I finally found a place that felt like home.
I found an old 105-acre farm in the Whitewater Region of the Ottawa Valley. The property was being used by a landscaping company. The fields were overgrown and unused. The property needed a lot of work and the house wasn't finished, but it had potential. Situated on a great road with lovely neighbours and surrounded by agricultural land, I fell in love with this property! Then it hit me, I could bring this farm back to its former glory and raise bison for my retirement.
Once I secured this farm, a big piece of my retirement plan fell into place. I was determined to be a bison farmer! Every free moment at home was spent tirelessly researching, planning, renovating, and updating the farm property while trying to improve the quality of the soil in the overgrown fields.
Tile drains were installed in one of three fields soon after obtaining the farm. I was determined to learn how to do everything myself. I purchased hay equipment from a local farmer who taught me how to use, maintain, and fix it. I started to put my research into practice on my days off. I was pleased when I started producing quality horse hay, which I sold for many years.
I built an 8-acre bison pen behind my bush for my eventual herd. It was a start! Life with the military became too busy to handle farm improvements and hay production. Luckily, I was able to keep up with producing hay for many years but the renovations and farm improvements were put on hold.
Once I was informed I was being posted to Kingston in 2017, I could no longer manage the hay field myself. I decided to rent the field to a local dairy farmer, Bardee Holsteins. I was very fortunate to have kept this farm while I was working at another military base.
Years of ruck marches and injuries while performing my duty had compounded into a long-term physical impairment. My retirement was now being processed sooner than anticipated. After 20+ years in the military, it was time to prepare for my new civilian life. Luckily, I was posted back to Garrison Petawawa in 2018. I was back home on the farm.
In the summer of 2019, I was able to secure my starter bison herd from Bison du Nord with the understanding of receiving my herd in November. I chose Bison du Nord for their 100% pasture-raised and grass-fed bison, their friendly and helpful nature, and the fact that they are situated close to where I was born. They are true leaders in the bison industry and I couldn't be happier to work with them!
Now that I knew I had a starter herd coming soon, this was the perfect time to rename and rebrand the farm. And so, White Pine Bison was born.
We took agricultural courses that same summer to prepare for farm life. The Environmental Farm Plan, Livestock Biosecurity, and Growing your Farm Profits. These courses have been instrumental in the planning of the farm property, from the management of the soil to learning how to maintain the health of my livestock. These courses are offered to all farmers by The Canadian Agricultural Partnership through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA).
Finally, it was time to pick up our starter bison herd from Bison du Nord. We stayed for a couple days to help with their yearly round-up. We learned a lot and we had much fun! We released our herd into their new home, our 8-acre pen, on November 30, 2019. It was official., we were now bison farmers!
Our small bison herd consists of three young females and one young bull, named Hercules. They live in their 8-acre pen while we make improvements around the farm that will enable us to expand their home. The vegetation in their pen provides a natural dewormer. Our bison are 100% grass-fed and raised in a quiet and stress-free environment.
We strive to use sustainable and all-natural farming practices to ensure we maintain the health of our bison herd and improve the environment within and around our growing farm.