|As Chief Executive Director and Founder of the Texas Tribal Buffalo Project, Lucille Contreras is committed to helping heal the generational trauma of native nations in Texas. The Texas Tribal Buffalo Project seeks to establish food sovereignty and reconnection to the buffalo by raising bison with good stewardship, offering quality bison meat that promotes the health and wellbeing of tribal members in Texas, providing Texans a chance to understand the buffalo, shared history and culture, and finally modeling regenerative agricultural practices. |
The project prioritizes the three pillars of food, culture, and sustainability in everything it does.
Lucille says that since arriving at the ranch in early 2021, a wider variety of native grasses such as wintergrass and bluestem grasses are already beginning to make a comeback due to the bison’s grazing patterns. Lucille explains that on her property they gracefully chew the tops off the grass instead of yanking, they don’t overstress riparian areas, and their stomping and defecating are natural soil biological stimulators. Their large and sharp hooves serve to aerate the soil, create pockets that hold water when it rains, and help in planting seeds. Lucille has seen bison grazing help control the Mesquite tree population; a native but thorny and persistent shrub-like tree that beleaguers ranchers and dominates disturbed lands in the south and southwest. Lucille has observed bison feeding on tender mesquite leaves which, she suspects, may be causing her Mesquite trees to become stunted, and in some cases, die back completely.
With a changing climate and more frequent droughts, the agriculture industry needs a new way of producing the food, fiber, and materials used to live. The Texas Tribal Buffalo Project, Lucille says, demonstrates the regenerative potential of working with bison to restore soil health and increase biodiversity for a more resilient food system. The Texas Tribal Buffalo Project allows people to learn about the bison’s history, their impact on the American landscape, and the indigenous cultures that developed with them. It provides a space that allows tribal people to reconnect with the buffalo relatives physically and culturally.
Lucille believes the spiritual and cultural importance the buffalo hold in the Apache tribe’s consciousness cannot be overstated. Bison are at the center of this cultural and spiritual reconnection for the Lipan Apache. According to prophecy, the return of the buffalo to Texas symbolizes native people of Texas regaining their strength.
“In taking care of bison, bison will take care of us,” says Lucille.
Currently the Texas Tribal Buffalo Project sells frozen meat for consumption, bleached skulls for ceremonies, and tanned hides for aesthetic purposes. To learn more about the Texas Tribal Buffalo Project, visit their website here. Learn more about raising bison in this free informational download published by NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program.
The views expressed in this featured story do not necessarily represent the views of NCAT.
TerraPurezza was founded by Tina and Orion Weldon in Spicewood, TX in 2015. It has grown to over 1500 acres of native Texas prairie on multiple campuses including the Shield Ranch on Austin’s Barton Creek and Willie Nelson’s Luck Ranch in Spicewood, TX. With backgrounds in nutrition, agriculture, and conservation ecology, the TerraPurezza power couple applies multiple approaches to rejuvenate the land for a more resilient food system.
TerraPurezza partnered with the Shield Ranch in 2019. Stewarding and protecting the Hill Country ecosystem is the sole purpose of the Shield Ranch. The TerraPurezza-Shield Ranch partnership focuses on producing nutrient-dense food while managing the ranch’s natural resources through rehabilitating soil health, rebuilding native grasslands, and restoring natural water cycles. TerraPurezza manages 65-acres of the 6,800-acre Shield Ranch with adaptive high-density multi-species livestock grazing, which includes pigs, sheep, and poultry.
The Stowers Ranch was established in 1904 by prominent Texas merchant and rancher George Arthur Stowers. The 11,800 acre operation is located at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Guadalupe River near Hunt, Texas. It is enhanced by over two miles of riverfront and a large beautiful natural lake. Today the Smith family, direct descendants of George Stowers, own and operate the ranch for livestock, hunting, and recreation.
The Smiths chose a small area of the ranch to try something new without major risk. Two transects have been established in a small 30 acre pasture at the Stowers Ranch. This pasture was divided further with temporary electric fencing to create one 18 acre and one 13 acre paddock. 250 head were allowed to graze in each paddock for eight and 12 hours. Grazing this size of a heard in these relatively small paddocks is a demonstration of high stock density for a short duration of time. One pasture will be rested for six months and the other will be rested for one year.
Katie Forrest and Taylor Collins’ journey to becoming ranchers began in an unusual way. They first developed the nationally marketed EPIC Bar, a jerky based protein bar; then sold their company and followed an inspiration to begin livestock production as a way to improve the environment. Located in the heart of the majestic Hill Country, ROAM Ranch sits on 900 acres of awe inspiring river bottom land on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, TX. Katie and Taylor shared a vision to positively impact large-scale agriculture through producing nourishing food that improves the lives of animals, enriches the health of consumers, and regenerates the land on which we depend. Like much of the world, this once-fertile region has been industrially farmed for the past 100 years.
Nestled in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, in Comal County, Pure Pastures is a 2,000-acre multi-species operation that practices 100% regenerative management. Pure Pastures is a collaboration between the Moorman family, the ranch owners and partners in the business, and the Eubank family, the operations managers and business partners.
Lew Moorman was introduced to regenerative agriculture after experiencing health concerns in his family. He realized that the food system needed changing, from the soil up, to improve people’s health. In 2018 Lew set out on a mission to regenerate the food system beginning with improving soil health on his ranch near Canyon Lake, TX. He partnered with Maggie and Jeremiah to develop their business Pure Pastures.
The Montesino Ranch not only borders the Blanco River, it also sits just outside of Wimberley, Texas, a popular destination for tourists. Montesino is a small 225 acre ranch that thrives via a multi-enterprise management approach. Income enterprises include weddings, B&B studio rentals, a small organic vegetable farm, and a herd of miniature Hereford Cattle.
The livestock enterprise is composed of a herd of 15 miniature Hereford cattle. They are a good match for Montesino due to the size of the ranch. They are intriguing to curious tourists and they consume less forage than an average 1000 lb cow. They also convert well to packaged beef that is sold directly to consumers.
The Fielding Ranch lies along the banks of the Pedernales River near Johnson City, Texas. Pam Fielding participated in Holistic Management International (HMI) educational events for several years growing an interest in a new paradigm for ranch management. She jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Soil for Water Program when it launched in 2015.
Since 1984, HMI has helped communities grow and thrive by educating family farmers and ranchers and pastoralists in regenerative agricultural practices that empower them to strengthen their businesses, produce healthier food, improve local wildlife habitats and protect the environment. The Soil for Water program partners with HMI regularly to host educational events and conduct research.
Birdwell and Clark Ranch, a stocker operation, is a 11,700-acre ranch of tall grass prairie, river bottoms and brushy draws located in north central Texas in Clay County. Emry Birdwell studied under Allan Savory in the 1980s learning the benefits of holistic management. Deborah Clark is a HMI Certified Educator. The knowledge of grazing and passion for the land held between Emry and Deborah makes the Birdwell and Clark ranch a unique regenerative agriculture operation that has received national notoriety.
Deborah speaks regularly at conferences such as the Regenerate Conference put on by the Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management, and The American Grass-fed Association. They have also participated in Executive Link an arm of Ranching for Profit. Emry and Deborah are a dynamic duo as you can see in the Soil Carbon Cowboy video at the bottom of this story.
Bamberger Ranch Preserve, located in Blanco County, Texas, is a powerful story of love and conservation. J. David Bamberger sought to realize a dream of land conservation, and in 1969 went looking for the worst piece of ranch land in the Texas Hill Country. J. David was inspired by author Louis Bromfield, who published a memoir in 1945 about restoring a run-down farm back to health and beauty. J. David has dedicated the past 50+ years to restoring this run-down 5500 acre ranch to a model of health, winning numerous awards along the way. The story of Bamberger Ranch has been the subject of two books – “Water From Stone: The Story of Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve” and “Seasons At Selah: The Legacy of Bamberger Ranch Preserve;” along with numerous videos documenting the extraordinary restoration and lessons learned from this amazing achievement. Soil for Water is privileged to include Bamberger Ranch Preserve in it’s program.
by Peggy Sechrist, Soil for Water Advisor
Hershey Ranch located in Gillespie County in the Central Texas Hill Country has a fascinating history. It is composed of property from seven land grants and patents that date back to when Texas was a Colony of Spain. In 1857, the property known today as the Hershey Ranch was once owned by a Scottish cotton factory owner which is unique because Gillespie County was largely settled by Germans. Jake and Teresa Hershey purchased the property in 1976 for cattle ranching. Good land stewardship was always a priority for them. They donated a conservation easement to the Hill Country Land Trust to protect it from future development. It is now the largest piece of protected land in Gillespie County.