Summer is road trip season! We hope you’ll come along with us on AGW’s virtual…
Pierre Bélanger and family raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW bison at Bison Du Nord in Earlton, Ontario. The 570-acre ranch is located in northeast Ontario, right on the border with Quebec. The rugged landscape of fertile soil produces excellent grass, making the property’s pastures a natural fit for bison.
Tell us about your farm
We became bison ranchers in 1972, initially for the pleasure of owning and raising North America’s iconic animal. Over time, the ranch has become a full-time business. Our tendency to ranch in a natural way has become an intentional holistic enterprise. We’ve always been grassfed and animal welfare-oriented, but we were dismayed with the multiple claims of virtue springing up everywhere. We wanted a credible, recognized certification—A Greener World filled that void! Today, we raise around 300 Certified Grassfed by AGW bison on 600 acres of forested and open rangeland.
Describe a typical day
In winter, we feed the herd early every morning. This involves laying out large 4′ x 5′ haylage bales on clean snow or in feeders. June to October is grazing time on our pastures—we move the herd every 5–6 days through a succession of 80 acres of biodiverse pastures. Days are also taken up by maintenance, new fencing chores and marketing.
What do you love most about what you do?
The amazing combination of a peaceful natural environment and the constant challenge of implementing novel ranching practices. And doing it all with family.
Sustainable farming: why does it matter?
We are surrounded by intensive dairy farms and cash-crop operations. We know this is a catastrophe in the making for the animals, land, farmers and communities. We want to be part of the greener solution.
What’s the benefit of being certified by AGW?
Being certified by AGW creates strong discipline on ranching practices and makes us part of a like-minded community.
What are your business plans for the future?
We hope to stabilize our herd at 125 breeding cows, so approximately 300 animals on our land base. We also intend on being a multi-generational farm —we are now going into the third generation and have structured our business so that it can sustain our family in the future.
Who are your customers?
Our customers are retail butchers and farm gating bison ranchers. We also love to meet curious and informed consumers at food fairs and festivals.
Can we improve the market for sustainable food?
The challenge is to inform consumer values, attitudes and behavior and encourage them to adopt and support the greener way.
If I was Canada’s Prime Minister I would …
Use legislation to compel, motivate and reward consumers to support sustainable farming practices and know their food and their farmers.
Is there an important lesson life has taught you?
Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So is optimism!
AT A GLANCE
Farm: Bison Du Nord, Ontario
Certification date: October 2019
Size: 600 acres Soil type: Clay loam
Altitude: 830 feet
Annual rainfall: 32 inches
Enterprises: 300 certified grassfed bison