Dan O’Brien started Wild Idea Buffalo Company (WIBC) in 1997. Dan states, “I never dreamed I would be a meat purveyor, I was just trying to save a threatened ecosystem, but by raising bison as nature intended, it turns out that the by-product of those efforts produces the healthiest red meat on the planet.”
Dan has been a wildlife biologist and rancher for forty 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’s powerful literary voice has been 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, Stolen Horses, and Eminent Domain, a collection of short stories, which was the winner of the 1987 Iowa Short Fiction Award. 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 books include, Buffalo for the Broken Heart, which explores the history of his ranch and the conversion from beef to buffalo. It was chosen for One Book South Dakota in 2009. And, Wild Idea – Buffalo & Family in a Difficult Land, the sequel to Buffalo for the Broken
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.
Dan divides his time between WIBC, working on the ranch, writing and teaching ecology. He remains an avid falconer and runs a string of bird dogs.
JILL O’BRIEN: CO-CEO & Marketing Director
Jill’s culinary career began on a South Dakota dairy farm where, participation in “kitchen chores” wasn’t optional. Something stuck, and food became her passion.
After learning all facets of the hospitality industry, Jill started a personalized catering service, and owned and managed three restaurants before giving her full attention to Wild Idea Buffalo Company.
Jill has spent many hours in the Wild Idea test kitchen and states, “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.”
Jill’s culinary and creative contributions to WIBC include, recipe and product development, food and ranch photography, written and visual content for the website and is a blog contributor. Jill also handles the Cheyenne River Ranch tours, assists on the ranch and is a volunteer board member of Badlands National Park Conservancy.
JILIAN JONES: General Manager
After earning her bachelor’s degree in business, Jilian joined her mom and Dan at Wild Idea Buffalo Company. Jilian spent years learning the details of each position, before earning the position as the General Manager. Her passion and commitment to improving our environment and food supply does not end with large landscape bison ranching and running a sustainable meat company, she carries it through into all of her actions.
In addition to managing WIBC, Jilian helps on the ranch, is in the process of building a food forest, milks a cow, raises chickens, is the mother of two energetic boys and is married to Colton Jones.
COLTON JONES: Cheyenne River Ranch Manager & WIBC Sourcing Manager
Colton holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Black Hills State University. As a Nebraska native, and after years of working and learning alongside Dan, Colton folded into the ranch with ease. He now oversees and runs the ranch’s daily operations.
In addition to being the Cheyenne River Ranch Manager, Colton is a blog post contributor and is also very involved with the operations at Wild Idea Buffalo Company. His expertise on range management and bison is critical to his role as Wild Idea’s Sourcing Manager, working with other like-minded ranchers, ensuring WIBC criteria is met. An instrumental position in growing grassland preservation.
Photo Credit: Jill O'Brien / Heather Wilkinson (Jill)