The donation was made near the end of February by Armin and Rita Mueller, owners of Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk.
The $4 million donation to Lakeland College will allow the college to buy land and establish a bison herd. This will help strengthen Lakeland’s two year animal science technology program at the Vermilion campus. It will also provide more student managed learning opportunities for those in the program’s livestock major.
Creating this bison herd will make Lakeland the only post-secondary institution in Canada where students, with mentorship from faculty, can manage commercial0sized bison, beef, crop, sheep and dairy enterprises.
Lakeland will also be able to take part in bison research projects with oganizations such as the Canadian Bison Association, along with other post-secondary institutions and industry partners.
“We’re honoured that Armin and Rita have chosen to support Lakeland College and our students with this donation to Leading. Learning. The Lakeland Campaign. It’s the largest single gift Lakeland has ever received,” said Dr. Alice Wainwright-Stewart. “I admire Armin’s passion for the bison industry and dedication to sustainable agricultural practices. I know Lakeland and our students will benefit from this visionary investment for years to come.”
The Muellers are originally from Switzerland and have lived near Bentley, AB for 40 years now, running a successful dairy for 20 years before transitioning into the bison industry in 2000.
“I’ve had a lifelong fascination with bison. I love everything about them,” said Armin. “For the students to learn more about bison and gain hands-on experience is going to be fascinating for them. It would be great if 10, 20 or 30 years down the road, we see a lot more bison in the fields again.”
The college is currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Student-Managed-Farm-Powered by New Holland (SMF). The donation from the Muller’s will allow the college to create a new unit to incorporate bison into the SMF model.
“During the past five years, enrolment in our animal science technology program has increased from 73 students to 163. Adding another SMF unit ensures students can be fully immersed in the management of a livestock enterprise which is key to them developing technical, business and soft skills they’ll use throughout their careers. Work-integrated learning is what makes the SMF learning model so valuable,” said Wainwright-Sterwart.
The college has already started looking for land and aims to have the bison production course available by September 2021.