On 3200 acres of rolling grassland in south-central South Dakota, Dominic Harmon and his sons, Phoenix and Forest, of White Thunder Organics, raise grass-fed and organic beef. White Thunder has been a part of the Panorama Organic network of ranches for a decade and was recently the first ranch to finish the certification as part of Panorama Organic’s partnership with Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Program.
Harmon began ranching in 2004 after living in Minneapolis installing fiber optic cable for a few years. “It’s always been a dream of mine to ranch, and I just got tired of living in a city,” he says. “My truck got broken into a few times, and I just wanted to get out of town.” But the change wasn’t an impulsive one. Harmon says he started looking for land and planning his ranch from the time he was 17 or 18 years old. During his growing up years, Harmon says his family had a sustainable logging operation and five or six head of cattle, so living in harmony with the land was a concept he learned from an early age.
From the beginning, Harmon has raised his grass-fed cattle organically and employed healthy pasture management practices. “It always just seemed to make sense to me to be more in touch with nature the way it’s supposed to be,” he says. In 2007, the ranch received an award for excellence in range management from the South Dakota Society for Range Management. Under Harmon’s stewardship, native grasses are flourishing, as is wildlife habitat. That made the Audubon certification easy for White Thunder. “I was already doing pretty much everything they asked for,” he says.
Harmon’s sons are 15 and 13, and while they may one day come back to the ranch, he expects them to spend some time away and gain life experience. “I really think it’s good for people to spend at least five years out, kind of be in what life’s about, and hopefully go to college,” he says. “They’re definitely not just going to go right out of high school and start working with me.”
In the meantime, Harmon plans to focus on fine-tuning his processes for efficiency, rather than making the operation any bigger. He’s proud to join with other Panorama Organic ranchers to provide American born and raised, environmentally friendly beef to consumers across the country.