Suzanne Roig
The Bulletin

What: Pine Mountain Ranch

Pictured: Alan Rousseau

Employees: One part-time

Address: 23585 U.S. Highway 20

Phone: 541-312-0185

Website: www.pmrbuffalo.com

Walk around the 41-acre ranch east of Bend with Alan Rousseau and you’ll get an earful about Zen and the art of yak and bison ranching. He’ll also talk about respecting and preserving the Earth.

As owner of Pine Mountain Ranch, a grassy spread on U.S. Highway 20 east of Bend, Rousseau, 54, believes in the cycle of life.

“I think of life as kind of retired and just flow with it,” Rousseau said. “We talk about this quite a bit. We’ve been fortunate. I want to do this until my 70s and 80s. We just love it here. It’s gorgeous.”

Rousseau bought the ranch in 2000 when he moved from California. Today he has 100 buffalo and yak grazing on his land, but at one time he had nearly twice that amount, plus turkeys and chickens. He’s raised water buffalo and sheep as well.

He talked to The Bulletin about the business of ranching. His responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: What does it mean to run a consciously uncertified organic ranch?

A: We make a living ranching. We raise the animals and do it in a consciously uncertified organic way. That means we don’t spray with herbicides and pesticides. We don’t use chemical fertilizers. It’s our choice not to pay the government fees to get them certified. There’s so many terms to identify organic. We sell the majority of our meat at farmers market.

Q: Would you consider yourself a spiritual farmer?

A: I’ve always had a connection to the land. As you become older and you read more and study and learn from the right people — culture and consciousness and awareness — it brings more enlightenment to you.

Q: Why raise yak and buffalo?

A: Of all the animals I have had, yak and buffalo are the most efficient and most profitable. We sell everything from the animals, the heads, the skulls, the hides, the hair. Every single organ, kidneys, heart. Nothing … goes to waste. Sell the bones for bone broth, the most nutritious part of the whole animal. We refer to our customers as patients because they come to us and want to heal themselves with yak bones. The knowledge of original medicine is powerful. You have a sick heart, you eat heart. Yaks are full-grown at eight years. A yak cow will weigh in at 600 to 800 pounds. Our yak cows tend to tip the scales at the higher end of the range. A yak bull will grow to as much as 1,800 pounds; the average bull weighs in at 1,200 pounds.

Q: Where do you market your products?

A: We have a store on the ranch during the summer that’s open on Fridays. And we are open Monday through Friday by appointment, but you have to spend $100 minimum.

We also do farmers markets in Portland and in Bend. Everything has to sustainably flow. In the old days, I did 11 farmers markets a week. I was working to work, not working to live. We’d go and split up and leave at 2 a.m. and drive to Portland and unload at these markets, and stay at a hotel and end up and do more on Sunday. Now I do at most four on a weekend, and it’s every other weekend. Do all of the farmers markets in Portland and Bend farmers market, which starts early on Wednesday.

Q: How many animals do you raise?

A: We employ rotational grazing. We have to be at maximum efficiency with a small ranch. This will sustain 100 to 110 head on 41 acres. I grew up on a farm as a child in New Hampshire. I learned by trial and error, reading books and from the different mentors throughout my life. It’s more about observation and awareness and watching the animals and finding out what works so the grass produces the highest amount of protein. We have found the sweet spot is 6 to 8 inches.

Q: What’s the future for the ranch?

A: We have interns now and tours now. Last year we had four interns. That’s a whole new aspect. That’s my next journey. We have these farm stays and people stay in a teepee. We want to encourage others to come and stay and learn our process in our weekly classes. We charge a fee. It has to be done sustainably. We don’t have a schedule yet for this year. We do private wagon tours Monday through Thursday and every other Sunday. The fee is $15 per person with $100 minimum. Our classes will be posted on our Facebook page in upcoming weeks, which will include starting a successful ranch business, marketing and livestock management. Classes will start at $20, depending on lengths and time.

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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