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Meet Our Founders


Dan O’Brien

Dan O’Brien is an owner of the Cheyenne River Ranch just west of the Badlands National Park and North of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He lives and shares his life on the ranch with his wife Jill, and their old friend Erney Hersman.

Dan has been a wildlife biologist and rancher for more than thirty years. He is also one of the most celebrated falconers in America today, and was a prime mover in the restoration of peregrine falcons in the Rocky Mountains in the 1970s and 80s.

Dan is one of the most powerful literary voices on the Plains. Described by the New York Times as “a writer with a keen and poetic eye…”, his novels include, The Spirit of the Hills, In the Center of the Nation, Brendan Prairie, The Contract Surgeon, The Indian Agent and Stolen Horses. Dan’s memoirs on falconry, The Rites of Autumn and Equinox, are intimate and revealing explorations of his life-long search for wildness on the Great Plains. Dan’s other non-fiction book, Buffalo for the Broken Heart explores the history of his ranch and the conversion from beef to buffalo, was chosen for One Book South Dakota in 2009. Dan’s latest non-fiction book, Wild Idea – Buffalo & Family in a Difficult Land is a sequel to Buffalo for the Broken Heart.

Dan is a two-time winner of the National Endowment for the Arts’ individual artist’s grant, a two-time winner of the Western Heritage Award, and a 2001 recipient of the Bush Creative Arts Fellowship.

In addition to writing, Dan divides his time between working on the ranch, teaching ecology, and writing and serving on the Black Hills branch of The Nature Conservancy.


Jill O’Brien

Jill’s culinary career began on a South Dakota dairy farm where, as a child, participation in “kitchen chores” wasn’t optional. But, something stuck, and food became her passion.

She started her hospitality career working in a variety of positions learning all facets of the restaurant industry. In 1989, she started her own business with a personalized catering service and has owned and managed three restaurants. Jill has served and catered for a wide variety of celebrities in the Black Hills and beyond.

Jill has spent many hours in the Wild Idea test kitchen experimenting with and formulating recipes. Jill says, “The food industry is constantly changing and although the finished product is the ultimate goal, it’s the quality and consistency of the product to begin with that determines your success. Wild Idea Buffalo meat will certainly add to the success of your meal, not just in taste, but also in the health benefits it offers, no matter what the trend.”

In addition to managing Wild Idea Buffalo Company, Jill also operates the Cheyenne River Ranch eco-tourism business and assists on the ranch. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen formulating new recipes or taking ranch and food photographs for the Wild Idea Buffalo Company.