As a 20-year-old tinkering around on a ranch in Fortville, Indiana, Zach Martin found himself in “immediate awe” of bison. “They are majestic, huge, powerful animals,” says Martin. “It sticks with you, the awe moment.”

It took more than a decade, but his reverence for the majestic beast led Martin, now 33, to suggest starting a bison ranch to a group of friends. The opportunity presented itself, in the form of a 225-acre property for sale in Greene County, in 2014.   

“I came in with this idea to my friends about the ranch,” Martin says. “We all wanted to do something in nature, with animals. And we were all fed up with the food industry.”

Today, Red Frazier Bison has a herd of 61 bison roaming nearly 80 acres. The ranch, named in honor of Zach’s grandfather Lenville “Red” Frazier, has generated products for its store at 840 W. 17th St. since March 2015. Meat can also be purchased at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market and is served at restaurants such as Upland’s Bloomington Brewpub.

Martin and his girlfriend, Danielle Schafer, own the ranch. Longtime friends Jennifer Karnes and Marc Huffman and Colby and Jenna Miller run the day-to-day operations.

Karnes likes to explain why bison is a healthy protein choice. For starters, she says, the practice of using growth hormones, antibiotics, and steroids is strictly prohibited by the code of ethics of the National Bison Association. Bison is also lower in cholesterol and fat than beef, pork, chicken — even salmon, says Karnes. “It’s considered a healthy red meat. We thought that offering this natural, local product was a good fit for Bloomington.”

The store stocks cuts of meat similar to beef: filets, flank, roasts, ground. “Any recipes that use beef, you can use bison,” Karnes says. “You just don’t want to overcook it.” The key? “Low and slow.”

Red Frazier Bison is also on the go with a food truck that began operation this past summer.

“People consuming bison creates a market, so there will be growth,” says Martin, who hopes to use the entire 225-acre property for larger herds in the future and to open the ranch to the public.

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