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January 12, 2016


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Dan's Writings ›  


A Tip of the Hat to the Spirit of America

I’m sitting in a room on the ground-level of a brownstone in Brooklyn. It is night and I’m wondering how I got here. The room is filled with books manuscripts, and galley proofs that are staked on every horizontal surface. It is the home of my long-time friend and literary agent. My body is surrounded by perhaps the greatest city in the world. But my heart is on the Great Plains.

Jill and I left the Black Hills early this morning on an airplane heading east. Wild Idea Buffalo Mobile harvester with sun setting over the Bob Marshall Wilderness area.Company’s mobile harvest crew left even earlier than we did – they met at our office in Rapid City, SD at 2:00 am and headed toward the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, in western Montana. Everyone involved with Wild Idea – the office people, the meat processors, the shipping team, the mobile harvest crew, and Jill and I – are working as hard as we can to make a difference in the ecology of the Great Plains and in the eating habits of America. How the hell did we get here?

30 years ago, I barely knew where Brooklyn was, but I knew where the Bob Marshall Wilderness area was because I’d worked there as a young man. As New York might be the greatest city the world, the Bob Marshall might be the greatest landscape in the world. It is odd that the arch between these two American extremes runs right through the Black Hills and, for more and more people, right through the office of Wild Idea Buffalo Company.

 Since I arrived in New York I’ve been staying in touch with the harvest crew via text messages. New York SkylineThey made it to Choteau, Montana about the same time we made it to New York. Jill and I are surrounded by many, many miles of concrete, bustling noise, and city lights. In contrast, miles of silence, beauty, and a glowing sunset surround the mobile harvest crew. They will be ready to harvest buffalo early in the morning. I’ll be talking in public forums, about Wild Idea Buffalo’s mission, in New York and Washington, DC. Wild Idea links those venues in a uniquely American way.

This connectivity is another example of what makes America great. How does a middle class American kid, running on nothing but passion, get to a basement room in Brooklyn with a crew of six super-capable guys, texting him from the base of the Rocky Mountains? The only way that can happen is if a whole bunch of other Americans – from investors to folks that just like to eat - pitch in and support the cause of saving the Great Plains ecosystem and demanding better food.

It amazes me that I have been invited to present our ideas at Patagonia clothing stores, led by Yvone Chouinard, while the harvest crew is out harvesting buffalo in Montana. Having the support of these influential people and thought-leaders is tremendously important but it is the support of the thousands of Wild Idea Customers that makes the dream come true.



January 12, 2016

Hey Dan and Jill!
Where and when is the public forum in Washington DC? I’ll let R & R know about it.
enjoy those bright lights

Mike Heisler

January 12, 2016

Dan, Really good note. Thanks.

Stuart Pigott

January 12, 2016

You have been an inspiration to me since I visit your Cheyenne Valley in October 2005. Thank you for your dedication to the buffalo and the Great Plaines ecosystem that it’s such an important part of, and for your determination to reinvigorate that ecosystem.

Janis Fiatschen

January 12, 2016

Wow!!!! I am so proud of you all and happy at the progress of W.I.B. You
remind me of a famous Wi. author Mel Ellis. His last book. “The Land, always, the land”.
I understand your feelings. Surrounded by all the concrete but your heart is in the plains.
I wait for Ranch Notes to arrive as my heart and spirit are out there with you.
God Bless and keep it up all of you delightful persistent folks.

Linda Huhn

January 12, 2016

Hey Dan, remember when my husband Richard (from Salt Lake City) and I (from Minneapolis) came to stay in 2003 for 3 days at the ranch house to do photography.and talked with you? You said your worst nightmare was having a large grocery store chain expecting orders to be filled because you weren’t ready for it. I guess you’ve surpassed your nightmare.

Charlie DeVerna

January 12, 2016

cant make it in to NYC event on west side. Good Luck. I often am in the Sand Hills of Nebraska…love that country ! You drive 60 miles from No Platte airport and you may pass a dozen cars going in opposite I drive to Mullen..everyone waves ! Putting in my first order with you today. Have a great year. Charlie

David Thoreson

January 12, 2016

It’s really great to read something from you again, I’ve missed you.


January 12, 2016

And the connections run deeper still. I grew up in Brooklyn and through a series of life-changes ended up these past 47 years in a small Massachusetts town. Here we care about our land and the future of our children. We belong to a local Community Supported Agricultural project, buy our eggs from a neighbor and buffalo is another extension of our interest in preserving our way of life.

Chris Knerr

January 12, 2016

As always Dan, I love hearing about your work. Great article in the Patagonia catalogue as well. It’s been such a great experience for our teachers and students to have the opportunity to hear about your vision. Warren and I and the other faculty members who have experienced the Great Plains find ourselves talking about sunsets and thunderstorms quite often. Hope to see you this summer.

Benjamin Ferenc

January 12, 2016

Love reading this post in the morning and it gives me hope and inspiration for the day. We’ve loved your products for years and will be grilling up some burgers for the Bronco game this Sunday! Thanks for all you do!

Ken Fox

January 12, 2016

Thank you for sending out your latest blog. I don’t know of better ambassadors for the American Bison industry and the Great Plains than you and Jill. Thank you.

Tracy Merritt

January 12, 2016

Dan, it would be great to see the crew. If they are still in Choteau, we may run up this weekend and say hello.

Pam Phillips

January 12, 2016

Ann and I are looking forward to seeing you, meeting Jill and hearing your presentation at the Patagonia store in Washington, DC on Thursday. Pam

Mike Hancock

January 12, 2016

Just wanted to say you guys did a great job getting out gift to friends in Knoxville. They told us they got nearly a WHOLE buffalo. LOL….I know they were exaggerating, but thank you for the great service.

john Collier

January 12, 2016

“Thank the goodLord” theri are still a few folks like Yourself in the world and the US that are actually doing someting postive, to improve our eiroment and healthly eating habits and preserve the wild Buffalo… what a wonderful great animal animal whose meat is the best…!!!! Keep up your goood work and “grow the herd” so there will be more of this Portien to go around to all..
I love your webswite and treffic receipes keep doing what your doing as you are doing ….!!!!
John Collier

Eve Larson

January 12, 2016

The Alexander Mitchell Library Book Club is discussing Wild Idea at the meeting January 13th. I am buying your bison at the Natural Abundance Store in Aberdeen frequently. My favorite package is the gound patties which they don’t stock very often.


January 12, 2016

As always Dan, I love what you’re doing and love to read what you write.

Sue Munz

January 12, 2016

Just wondering why you continue to use the term “buffalo” instead of the correct term “bison”? It’s great that you are promoting the Great Plain ecosystem and better food choices, but how nice it would be if you’d also promote the correct name of the animal.

Dawn Kennedy-Haeder

January 12, 2016

Thank you for what you are doing. I worry about the children growing up without the connection to the land that was easier to experience in my generation. Awareness; education; and familiarity, even intimacy, with the environment is necessary for respect and love of it to develop, and in the midst of concrete and lights and technological communication, members of the new generation often miss those things. I hope with books and dedication like yours, at least some will come to it again.

Cindy Burich

January 12, 2016


Carol O'Brien

January 12, 2016

What fun to hear of your ability to get out there and spread the word. I have loved your books and following your love story of the plains, and Jill. What you are doing makes so much good sense to me- restoration needs champions like you! Yes! You can do it!
I hope you’re able to to get to speak with some of the movers and shakers in Washington, along with the passionate Patagonia folks. We, as people, need good models to follow, and you’re certainly one of them.
Your crew is in The Bob? Are they harvesting on private land or a reservation?
Good luck to you both- you are a remarkable team!

Keith Lewis

January 12, 2016

Am on the train now, en route to NYC to hear your talk at Patagonia. Many thanks to you and Jill for your dedication and work on behalf of the Great Plains and humanely harvested food that is also healthier and better tasting.

Barbara Dina

January 12, 2016

Good for you! I have been telling anyone who will listen about your story. Now the word will be spread far and wide. Pleas post a video of your presentation if possible. Thank you for everything you do.

David M. Zebuhr

January 12, 2016

I recently read mark Kurlansky’s “The Big Oyster”. Kinda makes me wish NYC never arrived to destroy the nature of the area before the mid 1600’s. It must have been immensely beautiful and nurturing then when one could walk to the water’s edge and feast on abundant perfect oysters.
Keep up the good work preserving what you can of the great grasslands, another fabulous work of nature that could be forever lost.
I love the Dan O’Brien books.

Kathy Treaor

January 12, 2016

Enjoy the ride and follow your hearts home! You are blessed with the verbal and written ability to eloquently express the beauty and value of the land, magnificence of bison and how they fit with the land as well as why eating “right” is vital for the health of the planet. I remember a great interview about 10 years ago with you and Beau Turner for public TV on the synergy of prairies and bison…near the beginning of your dreams. Keep dreaming! Best wishes.

Natalie kirkland

January 13, 2016

Why can’t you collaborate with the BLM and Park service to manage the buffalo they want to move off land in and around Yellowstone? At least to send your mobile harvest crew in to see it done humanely?

Amy Bechtold

January 13, 2016

Dan and Jill, I too am wishing that I could be in two places at once. Pressing family matters have brought me to the Northeast Kingdom. Thank you both for being such capable and stellar advocates for making positive change. Amy

Jill Hammond

January 13, 2016

Such a marriage between macro and micro; Wild Idea creates and supports prairies while producing the healthiest of foods and at the same time supplies me, and all your loyal customers, with honest and sustainable nutrition.

Our world is healed and enriched by your efforts.

Oh, and let’s not forget gorgeous and delicious cuts of meat.

ray vosilla

January 13, 2016

why are you going to Montana to get buffalo? make sure you try the new york pizza and get a corrned beef on rye at Katz’s downtown.
Nancy Zuercher

January 13, 2016

Wonderful news, Dan! I’m happy to be among your SD support crew.

Burk Daggett

January 13, 2016

Dan and Jill, the creator is smiling upon your crew for sure. Now NYC not so sure.

Thanks for the great article. Travel home safe.

Penny Gray

January 13, 2016

Safe travels, Dan and Jill, and thank you for making a difference.

Sue McGough

January 13, 2016

Mr. O’Brien,You might like to hear that our book club chose your book,Wild Idea, to read as our last book. We all really enjoyed your story as well as some ground buffalo sliders after our discussion Because of the experience I am on your email list and have incorporated buffalo into our diet at home. I bought some ribeyes from Whole Foods, but they were not your brand. Our local Pasadena Whole Foods gets their buffalo from Colorado. My husband grilled them and they were delicious. I plan on purchasing some from you. I really love what you are doing and wish you continued success. Also, I met Yvonne Chouinard years ago when I was a student in Santa Barbara and he we giving talks about his climbs.. he has come a long was too!!

Susan Turner

January 13, 2016

Dan, I am so proud of (and thankful for) the work you, Jill, and your team do. I wish there was more I could do to help here in Seattle. Patagonia is a leader and they have merely recognized a partner in what they believe in. Please don’t ever stop on your mission.

Patricia Woolley

January 13, 2016

Thank you for doing the conservation work you do as well as providing my family with healthy meat. We have been using your buffalo since we moved to South Dakota in 2009. We were looking for local food, and though the ranch was 3 hours away from us, we soon learned that is still local in South Dakota. We have never been disappointed in any of our orders, and neither have any of the people we sent gifts to. Now we live in South Carolina and are thrilled to be able to fill our freezer every 6 months with delicious, healthy food at a reasonable price and free shipping. I agree, it is amazing the way we can be connected now. You make us feel like we are apart of making a better food system!

Jeanne Giacalone

February 13, 2016

As always, I so enjoy your writings and am mesmerized by your photos. My husband so loves your products, especially the petite tenderloins, that we make sure we are never without them.
However, I do have a request. Several of the above comments posed some interesting questions that do not seem to have been answered. They are great questions, and I would appreciate it if you would address them. There were basically 3 that I would love clarified.
First, why do you get you bison in Montana instead of SD. Secondly, with you dedication to preserving the prairie, and promoting good eating habits, have you not promoted the correct terminology by using BISON instead of BUFFALO. I think that an important distinction. And lastly, is it possible to help Wind Cave with their need to cut back their herd by purchasing from them, and/or can you at least help them with humane decreases.
Would love to know the answers to these questions.
Appreciate all that you do, and wish you much continued success.

Jill O'Brien

February 23, 2016

Sincere appreciation for all of the support. Jeannie – To answer your questions: 1) Why harvest in Montana? We work with like minded ranchers that meet Wild Idea’s criteria: * !00% grass-fed/grass-finished, * 100% Antibiotic & Hormone Free, *100% Ability to Roam Naturally, and we insist on 100% Humanely Field Harvested. Ranchers that meet this criteria, and share our mission of an improved environment and healthy eco-systems are limited. We try to support and work closely with those that do. 2) Why use the term Buffalo instead of Bison? Both words are used interchangeably, and accepted throughout the industry. Also when the Europeans first came over the translation was understood as Buffalo by the Native people. Due to our proximity to many reservations buffalo is more commonly used. 3) Why don’t we work with Wind Cave? If given the chance to work with Wind Cave, we would take it. Thank you for your support.

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