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How many of you can remember what you wanted to be when you were little? I’d venture to say most of us can remember what our dream job was but most of us would also say life took us down a very different career path than our young minds imagined.
But that’s not the case for Jon Sepp. He’s right where his four-year-old self hoped he’d be, owning bison in the vast prairie of Montana. “As I got older I always knew in one way or another I wanted to be able to have bison and so I worked towards that goal for a really long time,” says Jon.
Jon Sepp and his fiancé Brittany Masters run Roam Free Ranch on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. They produce a 100% grass-fed bison jerky. You’ll find them up with the sun, fencing nearly 10,000 acres of land, hand packing jerky for distribution and managing a growing team of ranch hands.
Jon wears the Boss of the Plains. Shop Stetson Western Hats.
With no ranching background, Jon and Brittany struggled to figure out how to make their land as healthy as possible. “The ground was in really poor condition when I bought it so I was desperate and willing to try anything I could find to make grazing more efficient here and that’s when I heard about a lot of these concepts of holistic management, managing your grass better,” says Jon.
Holistic management is a way of approaching your ranch that takes the whole ecosystem into consideration. In this case that includes managing the bison in a way that mimics how wolves and other predators would have moved them across the land prior to the West being settled. It’s better for the animal and a game-changer for grasslands.
“We came to find out that our grasslands are the number one most endangered ecosystem in North America,” says Brittany. “Here in Montana, we have the second most biodiverse ecosystem. We have this beautiful American Prairie that is disappearing and we only have one percent of it left and it’s up to the ranchers that steward that land to make sure it’s there for future generations.”
BECOMING THE SOLUTION
Jon and Brittany say once that realization hit home, they couldn’t help but do everything they could to become part of the solution. They’re tackling a tremendous project reseeding 10,000 acres of land to native grasses and building more than 80 miles of fence in order to move their bison holistically. “Once you know, you can’t look the other way. You have to do something about it and find a way through it,” says Brittany.
“We’ve come to realize the many challenges facing bison, healthy food production and our native grasslands,” says Jon. “We have the ability to do something about that within our realm, right now, and we’ve taken this on as being our purpose for our business but also our personal lives.”
A life mission sparked by a four-year-old’s love for our national mammal. I’d say young Jon would be proud.
Follow Jon and Brittany’s journey