By about 10am on Wednesday June 4th (the day of the tour and the start of the conference), everything was in place. Fencerows were weed-eated, barns, porches and corrals were painted, bison were front and center, tables and chairs were set up, portapotties were installed and bison burgers and hot dogs were on the grill. We were set.
|Bison Shaped Burger Patties on the grill for lunch at the ranch.|
The whole Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch crew was sporting matching polos with our logo, and man, we looked sharp. All we lacked now were the buses full of NBA members. They showed up right when expected, and that was when my real lesson on the NBA began.
|The lunch buffet line went off without a hitch thanks to our catering partners at Club 60!|
|Loading the busses for the ranch tour.|
|Randy talking about our corral system during the ranch tour.|
Lunch was fantastic – and of course featured bison meat – and the tour went off without a hitch. It was a long day, but I was sad to see everyone go. After cleaning up, the question was “what the heck do we do now?”
The next day, Thursday, June 5th, was a day of conferencing at the Chateau on the Lake in Branson. It was pretty fancy – all the NBA members had breakfast together and there was a waiter standing by just to pour orange juice!
|One of the panels during the conference.|
Lunch was the next item on the agenda – bison short ribs donated by the president of the NBA. I don’t like short ribs. But these short ribs…they were magical. I’ve never had anything so good. The short ribs were rivaled only by the pecan pie the Chateau served for dessert.
The next presentation was made by Wes Olson, one of the premier bison experts in North America. He tackled the question of whether Plains Bison and Woods Bison are subspecies or ecotypes. His well laid out research findings said that Woods and Plains are indeed, subspecies. I found this particular presentation very interesting, since we have both Plains and Woods Cross at on our ranch.
The final class of the day was presented by Amy and Michael Billings of The Buffalo Lodge in Kingsville, MO. Their talk was of special interest for Caleb and I, because they were recounting their adventures in agritourism, something that we are starting to vamp up at Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch.
|A painting in the conference room at Chateau on the Lake.|
As the day wore on, it became apparent that several of the people Caleb and I had spoken with the previous day at the tour were big names in the bison industry – and we hadn’t had a clue. And that is something that makes these people near and dear to my heart – they are humble. We’re all connected by a pretty fantastic animal, and nobody plays the winning or losing game in this business. It’s all about support, sharing resources, and making friends. That is how we preserve the American Bison, and make memorable, lasting connections. I was moved to tears when a sweet lady named Marilyn, an association member and a vendor, found out that I was getting married in July and proceeded to give me a set of bison themed ornaments for my first Christmas tree as a gift. They are currently hanging in my kitchen until the holidays roll around, and I think of Marilyn every time I see them. A painting in the conference room at Chateau on the Lake.
All said and done, it was a pretty great event, and I’m rather sad that it’s over. But it’s nice to know that so many wonderful people are backing what we do here at Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch – and I can’t wait for the next NBA Conference to roll around!