In 2010, Sarah Gleason discovered that she wanted to raise bison.
She was living in Durango and working as a marketing assistant for Zuke’s (yes, the dog treat company), and she became interested in agriculture and livestock.
“I visited a bunch of bison operations,” she says, “and I was hooked.”
Throughout the process, she discovered holistic management, which is a decision-making framework that works in sync with nature to raise animals in a way that is sustainable for the land, animals, and people. Shortly thereafter, Sarah was introduced to Holistic Management International—an organization based in Albuquerque that provides education and training for ranchers and farmers.
She began holistic management training, which is where she met the SBDC’s consultant, Cindy Dvergsten. “That connection launched me on the trajectory I am on now by opening my eyes to the world of managing land and livestock regeneratively.”
But, it would take 10 years for Sarah to make her dream a reality.
In 2012, she went on to work in marketing for Whole Foods before taking a position with the Savory Institute, which was started by Allan Savory, the founder of holistic management. “I traveled the world meeting with farmers and ranchers who were managing their land regeneratively and experiencing incredible results.”
In 2020, Sarah returned to Durango and started Gleason Bison, a 900-acre holistically managed bison ranch in Hesperus. It’s a cow-calf herd, so she sells calves and a meat label. Locally, Gleason Bison meat is sold at Sunnyside Meats and James Ranch. It’s also the only bison meat available from www.REPprovisions.com, where it can be purchased as a subscription and shipped nationally for free.
Sarah understands that relationships have been pivotal to helping her launch her business and overcome a number of obstacles.
“Anytime you make a career shift, it’s challenging,” she says. “And, livestock and agriculture is historically male dominated, so beginning brand new as a female in this industry comes with a unique set of challenges. Of course, the biggest barrier to starting a ranch is getting your hands on cash and capital for land and infrastructure. Partnerships are essential, and the SBDC creates and fosters those relationships.”
Recently, Sarah has been partnering with students at Fort Lewis College, and she was featured in FLC Voices, the campus magazine. She enjoys working with students and teaching them methods and best practices of holistic management.
For anyone who is interested in starting their own business or ranch, she offers this advice, “At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. With enough human creativity and the right partners, absolutely anything is possible.”