Cowboy dreams come true in Black Creek

It’s Island Good: Rancher shows free range is best for bison and water buffalo

When Marc Vance – then working in custom closet and drapery design in Vancouver – suggested to his family that they take up ranching in Black Creek, they indulged him in the discussion, he recalls with a laugh.

Little did Marc’s wife, Lisa, know at the time that the two, with their five children, would soon be living Marc’s childhood dream. After getting lost while visiting a design client in the Comox Valley, Marc fell in love with the area, “and the next thing I knew, we had an offer in on a piece of land!”

Today, all are involved on the farm, with the children running the farmer’s market stands, and grandparents also also helping out here and there.

“It had been a childhood dream to be a rancher,” Marc says, recalling with a laugh how he’d ask his parents to call him “Tex” and make him cornbread, because those seemed like rancher things to do. “Now I look out the window in the morning and I can’t believe we’re actually getting to do this.”

From the start, the Vances’ wanted to approach their new livelihood sustainably, and Island Bison was the perfect solution. In fact, they offer a lot more than bison. In addition to the 150 head of bison, the ranch is also home to about 120 water buffalo, plus grass-fed beef, and Berskshire pigs. “Four years ago, we were the only place you could get water buffalo meat, but now the demand is growing,” Marc says, noting both bison and water buffalo are both lean, with lower cholesterol but lots of flavour.

The Vances’ also believe in providing their herds exactly what they need.

“We believe that raising our animals as 100 per cent grass fed, without the use of antibiotics or added growth hormones is not only what’s ethical, but also what’s best for all of us,” Marc says. “Our bison and water buffalo range free on our pastures, with natural spring water sources and stands of trees, plus mud wallows and dust pits they enjoy through the summer.”

It’s Island Good

Island Bison is one of numerous Vancouver Island producers and growers participating in Island Good, an initiative with four Island grocers to increase consumer awareness of Island-made and Island-grown food products.

The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance pilot project, in all Island Quality Foods, Country Grocer (except for Salt Spring), Thrifty Foods and 49th Parallel stores through August, aims to increase demand for products made or grown on the Island. Look for ‘Island Good’ stickers, posters and other signage highlighting these products in all store departments.

“We’ve been thrilled with the interest Vancouver Islanders have shown in the Island Good program since it launched and as we come into summer, those opportunities to shop local, source local and eat local will be even greater,” says VIEA President George Hanson. “Shoppers have shown us that identifying Island Good options is important to them and we know that will lead to increased production, more jobs and more production capacity.”

Look for the Island Good tags, enjoy local food and support our local economy: It’s Island Good!

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