Bissetts establish Crown B Bison here
It’s a cool morning at Derek and Kathy Bissitt’s ranch southeast of Holton, and the Bissitts have gone out to feed corn and “range cubes” to the herd in their all-terrain vehicle.
One member of the herd, named Caesar, walks up to the ATV and snorts as he’s fed range cubes from a bucket, as do others, like a young female named Cupcake.
“He’s our gentle giant,” Derek says of Caesar. “You don’t want to make him mad, though.”
Other members of the herd are referred to by the number of the tags on their ears.
“We don’t name dinner,” Kathy jokes.
Caesar, Cupcake and the others known to the Bissitts by their numbers are bison, or buffalo, and the Bissits’ herd of 32 animals make up a “starter herd” that they are looking to turn into a business that makes Jackson County more of a draw for agritourism.
Indeed, the purpose of Crown B Bison L.L.C., which the Bissitts established last year, is twofold, Derek said — one purpose being an agritourism outlet that offers tours of their farm and their bison herd, the other involving production of bison meat, which Derek said is a “very healthy” kind of meat.
“The meat is comparable to chicken and fish in health benefits, while tasting much like beef,” he said. “Since the pandemic, many people are more conscious about where their food comes from and how healthy it is.”
In the process, the Bissitts have found that the bison they care for are easier to take care of than a herd of regular cattle.
“There’s a kind of ease of working with them,” Derek said. “A lot of people raise both, and some of them have told me, ‘My cattle need me, my bison don’t.’”
The Bissitts, who grew up in Jackson County and still have ties to the area, returned to Jackson County last year after spending some time in Hawaii and elsewhere, their family being what drew them back to the area. Not long after returning, they decided to work with a small herd of bison, some of which came from the Plumlee Buffalo Ranch near Alma.
“They did tours for a long time, but they cut that back because of health issues,” Derek said of the Plumlees. “But they have given us some good, good advice, because they’d been doing it for about 30 years. It’s good to have a mentor who’s doing the same thing as you, and you can ask questions.”
After the first bison arrived at the Bissitts’ ranch in May of last year, Derek and Kathy added a few more bison from other area ranches and began to offer tours of their ranch last summer.
The one question they’re asked more often than any other about their herd, they said, is “Why bison?” To them, the answer is simple.
“Why not?” Kathy said with a laugh.
Derek added that while the agritourism and meat production aspects of running Crown B Bison are a big part of what they do, taking care of the official mammal of the state of Kansas and of the United States — and practicing conservation with a breed of animal that had almost been “wiped out” in the recent past — was just as big of a draw.
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