David and Kathleen Ruhter

We see a unique variety of farmers using our FarmLink site – from ducks and dairy cattle to hemp and specialty grains.  But when Matt Ruhter filled out a profile for his family’s farm, their specialty stood out – bison!

David and Kathleen Ruhter began Ruhter Bison LLC in 2012 on their newly purchased central Illinois farmland with a herd of nine bison. David’s background in wildlife ecology and experience working with large mammals in zoos for over 25 years, including bison, spurred them to embark on this unique journey.  Interestingly enough, this is their retirement plan. David and Kathleen shared that “they found bison ranching to fit their vision of helping restore the prairie ecosystem while providing income from a healthy, sustainable product.” 

The farming has since become a whole family endeavor with the help of their two sons, including Matt, and their sons’ families. From engineering and conservation science to real estate and environmental toxicology, each family member contributes uniquely to the operation.

Demand for locally raised bison has quickly outpaced the growth of their bison herd, which now stands at 38 and which is the maximum their current pasture can support. So for the last two years, the family has been looking for additional acreage. This has not been easy due to the strict location criteria they have for these large mammals and the need for a long-term lease. Their search spans from southern Wisconsin to central Illinois but has focused on areas near to Matt’s current location in Will County.  

The Ruhters would like to find 100+ acres of non-wooded land they can establish prairie pasture on.  They are open to purchasing, but are also strongly considering a long-term lease, due to the substantial capital they will need to invest upfront in fencing and other infrastructure.

Bison Photo
Bison are highly social animals and are invaluable to prairie ecology.

If you are a farmland owner enthused by this opportunity, please reach out to us at jim@libertyprairie.org, and we can connect you with the Ruhter family. Please also share news of what the Ruhters are looking for with landowners you know. We’ve already connected them with a public farmland owner and a private farmland owner for exploratory discussions.