Water for Bison

February 4th, 2014 by Linda Elbert




FEBRUARY 4, 2014, Northeast California – California bison ranchers Ken and Kathy Lindner of Lindner Bison were on the brink of closing down their small ranch, after their 600-foot deep irrigation water well failed in April 2013. Without water to irrigate their pastures, their ranch has been steadily dying. Having already exhausted their life savings, and at the urging of customers, they tapped into the ‘crowd funding’ phenomenon to attempt to raise the $150,000 needed to replace the well. On January 20th they raised a total of $155,133 and thus exceeded their goal. Their indiegogo campaign Water for Bison raised $41,263; and the remaining donations came via mail-in checks and farmer’s market stand contributions.

Over 500 contributions averaged about $35 to the campaign including donations from Canada from as far as Australia, Europe, Singapore and Japan. Most came from current and former Lindner Bison customers who buy their GMO-free, 100% grassfed bison meat at California farmers markets. “You can bet there have been plenty of joyful tears here at the ranch since reaching our $150K goal,” says Kathy Lindner. “Our customers turned this desperate, catastrophic situation into a miraculous, customer-driven effort to save our farm so that we may keep this bison herd intact where they were once native.”

Sixteen years ago, Ken and Kathy Lindner abandoned corporate America to risk it all and follow their dream to create an alternative to feedlot raised bison, one that is based on humane animal practices and sustainable farming methods. Even today Lindner Bison and the Heritage Ranch in Northern California are one of only five bison producers in the nation to be certified by “Animal Welfare Approved” and one of the only ranches in this region dedicated to restoring North American Bison to Northeast California. Bison were extinct there by the 1800s, but now are grazing again in an area that was once native to the animal.

“This fund-raising experience has generated real hope for small farmers and has restored our faith in our customer base, who are completely counting on us to continue raising animals humanely, without chemicals, herbicides or insecticides,” says Ken Lindner. “While we have raised the money needed to rebuild the well, we must still feed bison 1600 lbs. of hay a day at a cost of $200 a ton which will likely go up to more than $300 a ton in 2014 due to the California drought. For this reason, expenses are triple and may possibly quadruple over the next two years while we re-establish our grass and hay pastures after the well is replaced,” adds Ken Lindner.

Lindner Bison and its customers-turned-volunteers, plan to continue the Water for Bison fundraising drive to raise funds to buy hay and allow for animal rotation while the pasture is re-seeded and re-established. Plans are in process to create a designated website for donations and outreach, as well as fundraising dinners and events. In the future, this site will also offer a portal for other farmers to appeal for support and can be found at http://www.waterforbison.com.

The campaign received vital publicity from individual blogs, radio shows and print and social media. And while the Lindners appealed for help to several established non-profit organizations dedicated to sustainable, small-scale farming, none were willing to offer direct aid or create awareness about Lindner Bison’s plight. “Sadly, many of these organizations seem to be administrative staff-heavy and too busy with their own fundraising campaigns leaving relatively few funds left for small farmers who actually need the help,” says Ken Lindner. “Most small farmers are struggling and can’t just go to a bank for money or get a grant from a government agency or non-profit when catastrophe strikes.” Adds Kathy Lindner, “For this reason, we listened to our devoted customers who joined willingly and in great numbers to save this ranch from closure. It was our last hope. We, and the bison, are forever grateful to each person who contributed; and as small farmers, we look forward to maintaining a sustainable family farming model that embraces earth-friendly practices and ensure that these animals continue to be raised with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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