Two Worlds, One Lifestyle

Professionals David Uible and his wife, Cindy Cassell, raise buffalo in New Richmond.

Fall 2015

Buffalo-herd

Bison graze at Vista Grand Ranch, New Richmond, OH.

Two worlds. That’s where David Uible and his wife, Cindy Cassell, live. One is the professional world of business, politics and health care.

In the professional world is where Uible owns two businesses, serves as a Clermont County commissioner and is chairman of the Clermont County Republican Party.

That professional world is also where Cassell, a registered dietician, works for the University of Cincinnati and Kettering Sports Medicine, owns a private practice and is the incoming president of the Clermont County Farm Bureau.

Then there is the other world in which they live —the world of agriculture.

In the world of agriculture Uible and Cassell raise and grow all their own food on their 171-acre farm in New Richmond. That world includes raising all the typical farm animals such as cows, chickens, pigs and turkeys.

Oh, and buffalo.

You know, massive heads, menacing horns, thick fur, thundering across the Great Plains in choking rivers of dust in the early 19th century.

Yep, those buffalo. They’re in the couple’s backyard.

About 57 buffalo, including at least 12 calves born this spring, roam the pastures behind the couple’s main house. They’ve been here for 20 years, as long as Uible and Cassell have owned the property, which is named Vista Grand Ranch.

But raising buffalo and selling their meat wasn’t something the couple set out to do when they bought the property in 1994. It just made sense.

It made sense because the couple simply couldn’t afford to pay the residential tax rate on 171 acres, says Uible. That meant they needed to devote 10 or more acres of their land to commercial agricultural use in order to qualify for a substantially lower property tax rate under the state’s Current Agricultural Use Value assessment program.

But because of their busy schedules in the professional world they needed to find an agricultural activity that wouldn’t take too much of their time. After conducting research the couple concluded that buffalo fit that low-maintenance definition.

Buffalo, after all, were once prolific in North America with a range that stretched from the Yukon Flats in Alaska all the way to northern Mexico, says Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association.

How prolific were the American buffalo, scientifically known as bison, in adapting to the North American ecosystem? “It was estimated at the time when white men came to North America there were probably about 40 million [buffalo],” says Carter.

So buffalo, which had already adapted to the environment of the area and thrived by themselves, required very little maintenance. And that fit the couple’s busy schedule, especially Uible’s, since he was tending to his business interests in Switzerland and Russia. “I could leave for two weeks and they were fine, whether it’s winter or summer,” he says.

DavidCindy

David Uible and his wife, Cindy Cassell.

The couple initially bought 12 buffalo calves and began the process of raising them. After doing some market research Uible and Cassell decided that they wanted to be known for their ground buffalo meat. They sold the meat to the local IGA grocery store and then to the three Dorothy Lane Markets in the Dayton area.

Dorothy Lane Markets now buys about 70 percent of the buffalo meat from the Vista Grand Ranch, says Uible. Buffalo meat from the Vista Grand Ranch is also available at the Jungle Jim’s stores in Fairfield and Eastgate, and at the University Club restaurant and all of chef Jean-Robert de Cavel’s restaurants, says Uible.

That’s typical of the commercial buffalo industry, says Carter, where about half of the meat is sold to restaurants and half to retail outlets. “We are a very, very diversified business,” he says.

It’s also a business that’s in need of more people like Uible and Cassell. “My job consists primarily of going out and trying to find more producers raising bison just because we’re running so short,” says Carter. “The demand has outstripped our supply.”

Carter says the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent census shows there were 46 bison farms in Ohio with 849 animals, 41 bison farms in Kentucky with 1,411 animals and 58 bison farms in Indiana with 1,319 animals.

There are about 162,000 bison on private ranches in the U.S. and an equal number in Canada, says Carter. Those figures do not include the public bison herds in places like Yellowstone National Park or Custer State Park, he says.

Buffalofamily

Cindy Cassell, David Uible and their daughter Emma.

Demand for commercial buffalo meat has skyrocketed because more people have tasted it in restaurants or farmers markets, says Carter.

Demand for buffalo meat has also soared because of its nutritional profile. “This is an incredibly healthy meat,” says Carter. “It’s low in fat, high in protein, high in iron.”

But this story isn’t about buffalo, insists Cassell. It’s about the life she and Uible have carved in the country since moving from Mt. Adams 20 years ago.

“I am not a farm person and neither is David,” says Cassell. “So many people who live out here are. And many people that we associate with are. So I learn things every day.”

Whether that means learning which day the closest turkey processor is open, or how to string wire on an electric fence or where to take frozen meat when the power goes out for nearly a week, each challenge faced and conquered is rewarded with a nugget of knowledge.

But don’t call this agriculture world in which they live a job. “It’s not a job,” says Uible. “It’s a lifestyle.”

Cassell says, “I love gardening. I like knowing where my food comes from. I like raising buffalo. I like raising chickens. I like raising pigs. I like it. Nobody is making me do this. You know, I think it’s a good way to be.”

Uible and Cassell wouldn’t have it any other way.

They may live in two worlds, but they have just one lifestyle on top of this hill overlooking Clermont County’s 12 Mile Creek valley.

“It’s wholesome,” says Uible.

“It’s normal,” says Cassell. ■

As appeared in CincyEastsm

Written by Eric Spangler