Where the Bison Roam: Ranchers Build Their Business with Bell

Dale Rengstorf, P.J. Breen, Rolling R Ranch - Pelican Rapids, Minn.

Dale Rengstorf can tell where his bison herd will likely be, just by the direction the wind is blowing.

“Bison like to be upwind as much as possible, so they can smell if a predator is nearby,” he explains.

Dale, who owns Rolling R Ranch with his wife, Beth, can tell you pretty much anything about bison. He’s raised them for more than 30 years – long before bison meat became popular with high-end restaurants, grocery stores and consumers.

It was a frigid, winter day, and Dale was raising feeder pigs when exasperation led to inspiration.

“I said to myself, ‘Man, this land isn’t good for anything but bison,’” Dale recalls. “It was like a light bulb went on in my head.”

He started looking into the possibility and spent about two years researching and learning from other bison ranchers. His operation has grown from 13 head when he started in 1987 to anywhere from 650 to 700 head of bison on 2,200 acres near Pelican Rapids, Minn.

“Ranching doesn’t have a day-to-day; it has a moment-to-moment,” says P.J. Breen, Dale’s son-in-law, who will eventually take over the operation. “It changes all the time, which is part of the fun of it. You never have to get to doing something for so long you get bored of it.”

“There have been a lot of hurdles to cross,” Dale affirms. “One of the biggest was distribution. It was really tough to crack that nut. Now we’re in high-end restaurants, grocery stores and regional grocery stores.”

Another hurdle was finding a bank that he could build his business with.

“I’ve been with Bell for about 10 years now. I like that it’s a local bank with local roots that hasn’t been bought by one of the big conglomerates,” Dale remarks. “They really got to know my operation well, which is important because we’re not a typical business. With Bell Bank, I’m able to build my business with people I know and trust, and that’s important to me.”

Dale, who typically banks at the Pelican Rapids branch, likes doing business with a community-driven bank.

“We’ve got a local economy that needs the banking infrastructure,” Dale notes. “When I see a big-name bank, that’s Wall Street investors, that’s money leaving the community. They’re maybe putting some back in, but not like the banks that are in the upper Midwest. They understand, they care, and I like that. I think we need more of that in this country.”

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