By Brooke Constance White
The impact of a movement is always more powerful when people join forces and work together—the fight against a warming planet and a challenged food system is no different. This is what drives RegenMarket, an online food marketplace, to continue finding and supporting regenerative producers who are improving food production methods for a healthier Earth, animals and consumers.
Regen’s partnership with Roam Free Ranch and its owners, husband-wife duo Jon Sepp and Brittany Masters, reflect these efforts.
Roam Free does everything with a strong mission behind it—leaving the planet better than they found it. It’s not easy to balance running a regenerative farm with the added legwork of finding new distribution markets and increasing awareness of why their products are different, and of higher quality. That’s where Regen comes in.
“Up until last fall, we had just been selling at a few organic grocers and mom-and-pop shops and then selling whole and half bison to locals,” Masters says. “Regen reached out to us and wanted to carry a local bison so we started cutting our animals a little bit different to support this partnership. We now offer New York strip steaks, bison tomahawk steaks, ground bison and bison patties through the market.”
This new partnership with RegenMarket is a win-win for both businesses: the market can offer Montana-based bison products to their members, and Roam Free, based out of Hot Springs, Montana, benefits from the added exposure in the Big Sky and Bozeman area. This collaboration really is at the heart of what Regen does—connect farmers with consumers for a healthier food chain.
Like all of Regen’s producers, Masters and Sepp use techniques to regenerate the land on which their bison roam, not just sustain it.
One way they do this is by rotating where their 200 bison graze and giving each pasture 365 days of rest after grazing. The way bison move and graze is naturally regenerative, Masters said. They naturally herd together and graze in smaller areas instead of spreading out as cattle do in an open pasture. They also bail graze with native grass hay in areas that need more restoration. During the process, the bison will stomp the grass’ seeds into the ground, creating more biodiversity.
Along with regenerating the soil and land, Roam Free focuses on animal welfare by using low-stress handling techniques and bait to move their bison between pastures. They also nurture the bison’s wild instincts by keeping the herd intact and not culling the herd when there’s an aggressive male. It’s these instincts that helped protect them in the wild.
Roam Free has wildlife-friendly pastures so native elk and deer can roam free, using a special type of fencing that wildlife can go over or under. This ensures that they are not preventing any migration corridors through their ranch.
Last, but certainly not least, Roam Free believes in creating a product that is nutritious for the consumer—none of their products contain sugar or any fillers.
“It’s all about putting back more into the soil than we took, more and more every year,” Masters says. “Giving it all back and more, and truly leaving it better than we found it.”
Finding and supporting regenerative producers like Roam Free is at the core of what RegenMarket is all about, said co-owner Ryan Kulesza.
“If you want to do the right thing and effect change, the first thing to do is support the people who are already doing that, and that’s what we do here at RegenMarket,” he said. “I’d say less than five percent of producers are regenerative so if you want a food system that betters the environment, betters the animals and betters you, you need to find the producers who are doing that and support them.”
Xan Jarecki, general manager and head of strategic development for RegenMarket, agrees, saying they’re excited to support a Montana-based bison ranch that’s both female and veteran-owned.
“We put a really strong emphasis on our producers,” Jarecki says “We don’t haggle with them and we do everything we can to emphasize their success.”
Aside from the benefits of supporting regenerative producers who are doing right by the food-producing agricultural land, the flavor profile of grass-fed, grass-finished animals like Roam Free’s bison is significantly more robust than the same animal finished in a feedlot that’s fed corn and soy.
Jarecki says that a grass-fed and grass-finished animal grazing on different varieties of grasses and herbs will not only offer a more flavor-rich product but will also be much more nutrient-dense.
Shopping at RegenMarket and supporting Roam Free is a great way to make a conscious decision with your money, Jarecki adds.
“Food is vital,” he says, “and the more we support producers who are producing nutrient-dense food the right way, the more we can work towards fixing a broken food system and reversing climate change.”