Capturing a Piece of History on a Modern Farm
A fascination with American history started the Lieb family on a new venture in 2000 when the late Terry Lieb purchased a tame American bison from a farm sale. Before then, he raised cattle and hogs, with dreams to raise a buffalo herd. Today, sons Jake and Josh run the operation, which includes corn and soybeans in addition to the 50-head herd.
“Keeping bison contained is more challenging than other animals because they don’t respect human dominance,” Jake says. “They are good keepers overall unless you are handling them for something like ear tagging.”
Terry passed his passion for history onto his sons.
“When you look over the pasture, seeing a herd of bison in the tall blowing grass is as close as you can get to re-living American history. They’re the first bison on that grass in close to 200 years and it’s stirring to bring that back to life.”
The bison raised at Lieb Farms are as natural as their ancestors who roamed these lands centuries ago - free of antibiotics, vaccinations, and naturally bred.
“The biggest draw for consumers is knowing exactly what our animals have eaten or been treated with,” Jake notes. “Visitors from in and outside Illinois come to the farm to purchase meat and see the bison for themselves. We use the farm visits as an opportunity to educate them on modern food production from bison to field corn.”
As fifth generation young farmers, Jake and Josh try to stay on the cutting edge of technology - from GPS mapping to conservation tillage and cover cropping - equipping them to answer most questions consumers have while growing their business skills.
“Farmers must constantly evolve their practices and can’t be complacent. Farming requires initiative and foresight to know what could work today while sustaining the soils for future generations,” Jake says. “One day I want my grandkids to have access to the best soil on the planet, so I don’t want it to blow away or wash down the Mississippi. The land is not just ours to borrow; you have to leave some for tomorrow.”
As the Liebs look to the future for their row crop and bison business, they rely on advice from industry experts, including Farm Credit Illinois, and take advantage of learning opportunities through the FreshRoots young and beginning farmers program.
“Few young people have the opportunity to come back to the farm and of those who do, many may not be willing to risk everything on a rain when there isn’t much of a margin between a profit and a loss,” Jake says. “It’s a reality farm families are living in and that’s where Farm Credit steps in to provide the working capital we need to get through the year; it’s vital to have a good creditor on our side.”
The Liebs sell bison meat locally in restaurants, grocery stores, and their farm shed freezer. Learn more about their farm on Farm Credit Illinois’ Members Market at www.farmcreditIL.com/farmfresh.