A donation from an unexpected source will soon be opening up new programs at Lakeland College.

Armin and Rita Mueller, owners of Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk, have donated $4 million and a herd of bison to the post-secondary. The donation will go towards land purchasing to where the bison can stay as well as help with other animal science and agricultural programs.

President and CEO of Lakeland College Dr. Alice Wainwright-Stewart says the donation fits in nicely with the school’s vision of creating a ranch on their Vermilion campus.

“It opens up quite a vision on what we can look at. Armin talks about the bison and them being near extinction and their history and the opportunities that can happen now with how we look at sustainable practices.”

She says the donation will strengthen and build on their current programs such as the animal technology program and will create a new student-managed unit based around bison.

Wainwright-Stewart says the relationship between the school and the Muellers is a fairly new one. The two met for the first time last spring but she says the 20-year bison industry veteran is a visionary when it comes to the industry.

“Armin is a very astute individual who was quite aware of what Lakeland is doing with student-managed opportunities.”

With 80 per cent of bison being located in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Wainwright-Stewart says Lakeland is the ideal place for raising, research and training. It also opens new avenues for the post-secondary in building relationships with First Nations and bison producers.

“I think there’s opportunity going forward while looking at an animal we haven’t maybe studied like [others] and introducing it to the post-secondary world.”

Lakeland College claims with the addition of the herd, they are the only post-secondary in the country where students are able to manage bison, beef, crop, dairy and sheep at one institution.

“It tells the story of a fully integrated farm that students can come and get those experiences. A student coming to learn about different livestock operations from a commercial perspective then you can get it at Lakeland.” 

The post-secondary hasn’t purchased the land yet but have been looking at some possible locations for some time. The school is hoping to have a bison production course by September 2021.