A Labor of Love


When Jilian was a kid, she would often¬†ride her bike down¬†to my restaurant after school, have dinner, and do her homework at¬†the back table. Dan would occasionally join and mentor her, trying to win her affection, which worked. It was around that same time that Dan brought¬†me his first¬†box of Wild Idea Buffalo meat and asked if I would come up with some recipes. I had been cooking buffalo meat for a while, but this was noticeably different. There was no sour smell, it was dark red in color, I didn't have to hide the gaminess ‚Äď as it didn't exist, and it was rich in flavor, as well as tender. If buffalo meat could be this different, what else could I improve upon? I had been hoodwinked by our food supply and Wild Idea Buffalo Meat was the product that switched how I sourced my food for my restaurant and my family.

Jilian Jones holding a handful of soil in her greenhouse garden

If it was my carpool pick-up day, there would often be a trip to the grocery store and Jilian and friends would cruise the aisles with me, in search of organic this & that. We would have food discussions and the other kids caught on too, with parents who were equally interested.

Jones family in their greenhouse garden

Flash forward twenty-four years and now Jilian, along with Colton are teaching their own boys about eating sustainably and knowing where food comes from and how it's raised. Of course there has always been the buffalo meat and Colton is an avid hunter & fisherman, but Jilian insisted that eating clean would carry through to all of the food they consumed. Once she knew there would be children, they ramped it up even further.  

Collage of the Jones children standing among plants in a greenhouse

For the past ten years she's had an amazing garden, reading books along the way on how to improve the soil and what to plant next to what. She and Colton milk a cow every day for raw, non-homogenized milk. "No white sugar water for my boys." And, they have a string of chickens for farm fresh eggs. 

Collage of construction around a greenhouse scaffold.

A few years back Jilian and Colton attended a permaculture workshop and visited a food forest. They came back so excited! Jilian started drawing up plans straightaway, along with continuing her research.

Greenhouse Assembly

This past winter, phase one of that food forest started with a greenhouse kit. Which became the greenhouse that just wouldn't stay up. The cause was due to materials that are NOT made for the elements of the Great Plains prairies. 

Greenhouse Assembly

The roof was patched twice, before it was finally replaced and secured with good old fashioned wood. And, their main water line accidentally got hit while digging the thermo trench, cutting off their water supply for a day.  

Greenhouse Asssembly

Over the months, family and friends came by to help and when it was finally up, no one was happier than Colton! 

Greenhouse Assembly

Jilian got busy prepping the inside with top soil, which she had been building for months, using food & yard waste and buffalo & chicken compost, and worms. Her own unique recipe.

Worm Farms

Trenches were dug for "worm farms", which would be covered with plywood for the walkways. To view their work ‚Äď it looked like an overwhelming project.¬†

A collage of children wearing PPE and helping build a greenhouse.

The children helped right along, of course wearing only the finest of safety gear... scuba masks. If they remember this time, I'm guessing it will be a favorite. 


All the plants were grown from seeds in the house over the winter. To witness these tiny little seedlings grow was magical. Jilian would move them from trays to bigger trays, to pots, to bigger pots.

Greenhouse Planting

Finally it was time to put them into the earth in the new greenhouse, which they were still working the kinks out of. Two months later, plants that seemed dwarfed in their new home had turned into a jungle of healthy plants. 


Colton & Jilian Jones

For scale reference, Colton is 6'3". 

Garden Flowers

When Jilian was little, she had a book called Jilian Jiggs, and the best line in the book, one that I repeated to her regularly was, "Jilian, JIilan, Jilian Jiggs, maker of wonderful magical things!" She has certainly proved that to be right!  

Jilian Jones

A project like this can be a real relationship tester, but no doubt it has made them stronger and for sure a memory maker - with stories to come for many years. 


Jilian & Colton are now taking a "Soil Food Web" course, where they will be studying the soil biome, not just of their garden, but of the ranch too. And although the work continues, we are all enjoying the rewards of the laborious work, which I can personally attest to being absolutely delicious!  

Food made from greenhouse vegetables.

As we learn more, we continue to shift in finding improved ways to be good stewards and consumers. Sharing that information with you along the way. As I was putting this piece together, a song came to mind by Crosby Stills & Nash, as I hummed the lyrics in my head, my heart was bursting with pride & love.


"Teach your children well
Their father's hell did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The ones they pick the one you'll know by

And teach your parents well
Their children's hell will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The ones they pick the one you'll know by

And know they love you..."


  • Posted on by Barbara and Jerry Bzrtak
    We had been staying at the ranch and got to meet the family. There was a young man working there from Nebtaska and we so enjoyed meeting him..As we were leaving that next day. He stopped us and asked us if we thought he should ask Jillian to marry him. We immediately said yes!!! And yes we were born and raised in farm country, Nebraska..what an honor for us to be a small part of the wonderful family known as WILD IDEA BUFFALO .COM
  • Posted on by Bev. De Witt-Moylan

    This is so beautiful! Bravo!! Here in San Luis Obispo County California we have a woman-owned Vermicompost business, Black Diamond Vermicompost, that supplies many of the local vineyards with lifegiving Vermicompost and Vermicompost tea. Cristy Christie, the owner, began like Jillian, reading books, trial and error, looking for mentors, and finding her way. She is now considered an expert to whom others go for guidance. She gives soil and composting classes to the community at very low cost. She is a true resource. Her Vermicompost operation is top of the line. https://www.blackdiamondvermicompost.com

  • Posted on by Shirley
    You are all fabulous beautiful Thank you so much

    Magical amazing
    A prayer answered
    My husband died we had moved from the City
    so many plans he the green thumb since
    I have been struggling alone to plant in my Greenhouse … small Costco …
    You have given me ideas help the worms I never thought of plus
    Thank you
    Blessings Love hugs ūüĆąūüíĚ

  • Posted on by Mardelle

    Inspiring piece. Thank you.
    And the timing couldn’t be better. Late spring here in Minnesota, so time to get to the seed store for our summer bounty. Also expecting my buffalo order today!!

  • Posted on by Susan

    Magical indeed! Love the story. Love the people in it. Wished I lived closer so I could be a recipient of the produce!

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