Johnson’s Buffalo Ranch

Dennis & Nancy Johnson, Farmer Owners

5735 Independence Avenue, Lonsdale, MN 55406 (farm location for meat sales)

7655 60th Street, West, Lonsdale, MN 55406 (mailing address)
507-744-4204 (home); 612-703-0944 (Nancy’s cell)

Product Overview: Johnson’s Buffalo Ranch provides fresh and local buffalo to Valley Natural Foods every two weeks. Jason Harstad, Meat & Seafood Manager, processes and packages it into ground and various popular cuts, including roasts, steaks and custom cuts as requested.  Dennis and Nancy Johnson’s commitment to raising their grass-fed buffalo humanely and chemical free translates to 90% lean, tender, delicious meat for satisfied customers.

City-bred and raised in Edina, high school sweethearts Denny and Nancy Johnson transitioned to a rural life in northern Rice County near Lonsdale in 1968. After seven years of commuting and renting their land, they took a leap of faith to become farmers. With two young daughters, they bought a few horses, some pregnant beef cows and soon added pigs. 30 years later the Johnsons managed 5,000 hogs. Unexpectantly, the hog market tanked in the late 1990s. As the landscape changed from family to corporate farms, the Johnsons faced hard choices, including contracting with bigger producers or getting into direct market farming.

With 100+ acres of pasture and ripe for a new livelihood, Denny and Nancy took another leap and purchased 15 buffalo from another Minnesota farmer in 2003. Commonly known as the American buffalo, bison are wild animals that once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds, with every part utilized by Native families. Denny and Nancy originally supplied buffalo for “cultural butchering,” replicating the way certain immigrants such as Hmong families butchered their animals in their homeland.

With consumer demand gradually increasing, Denny and Nancy enlarged their herd to sell buffalo meat to a larger customer base. They sold first at the New Prague Farmer’s Market. Sales to Valley Natural Foods followed soon after, and relationships developed with individual customers who enjoyed buying direct at their farm. Currently, their 150-head herd graze and feed on rolling grass pasture, supplemented by hay and organic oat screenings (a by-product of cleaning oats). Consistent with their deep respect for their livestock, the Johnsons humanely butcher each of their animals in the pasture, causing minimal trauma.

Ounce for ounce, nutrient-dense buffalo meat offers more protein, healthy iron and less saturated fat, cholesterol and calories than beef. Lower in fat and higher in moisture, buffalo cooks quickly. With little or no marbling, you are sure to enjoy tender flavorful meat if you do not cook it beyond medium done. Fortunately, for the Johnsons and other producers, the demand for buffalo meat now surpasses supply. However, as Nancy Johnson expressed, “We do not want to tinker with the fact that buffalo were slowly perfected by nature over thousands of years. This means that it will take time for Midwest bison producers to gradually expand herd size to meet consumer demand.”

As Denny and Nancy look forward to less work and more retirement, they are passing their herd to the care of their son-in-law, Al George. Al is ready to learn all he can about raising these exceptional animals. Everyone at Johnson’s Buffalo Ranch remains committed to pleasing new and return customers looking for fresh, healthy and delicious buffalo.