For over 39 years, Wes Henthorne, Ranch Manager, has lead the ranch through its
evolution from a cow/calf operation to a direct-to-customer organic, grass-fed beef
supplier and land steward. In 1989, despite initial reservations about organic management, Wes sought creative solutions to the challenges of organic ranching from early work with researchers at Montana State University to control the spread of leafy spurge with biocontrol insects to recently adopting the application of compost tea to grazing lands for better soil health and production. His development of strong working relationships with other organic farmers and ranchers across Montana helped establish the Montana Organic Association as a lively community resource for organic producers. In 2015, his colleagues recognized his commitment to organic agriculture awarding him the MOA Lifetime Service Award. Still actively promoting organics, Wes serves a board member of the Montana Organic Advisory and Education Council that is dedicated to encouraging sustainable and responsible organic practices by providing funding and direction for organic agricultural research and education across Montana. In conjunction with seeking out better ways to manage the ranch’s land resources, Wes also lead efforts to adopt low-stress livestock handling at the ranch when he enrolled himself and three other ranch employees in a Bud Williams stockmanship seminar over 25 years ago. After trying the new methods, Wes’s enthusiasm was a catalyst for creating a culture of ongoing stockmanship training and education for ranch employees that continues today. In 2003, the B Bar recognized and committed to the importance of biodiversity and local food systems, and Wes led the revolution of the ranch’s business model to provide fresh and frozen beef directly to customers across Montana. Adapting grazing and feeding protocols to provide a healthy, delicious product required deep analysis of customer demand, animal health and development, and local supply chains. Growing the brand
from the ground up through establishing relationships with meat processors, grocers,
restaurants and direct consumers, gave him the opportunity to meet customers, answer their questions, and let them taste and appreciate quality beef. After hundreds of thousands of miles on the go by foot, four-wheeler and truck nurturing all phases of the B Bar’s evolution, Wes is now focused on the future by preparing the
ranch to be a resilient, dynamic resource for future generations to bring their own
dedication and innovation to serve the land, cattle, customers, and broader agriculture community while spending less time hauling heavy meat boxes, feeding cattle on cold winter mornings, and working cattle in the mud and manure.
Mihail Kennedy, our Production Manager grew up in the restaurant business in Billings, Montana. From a young age he was interested in where food came from and spent a great deal of time with a local ranch family that sold beef to his parents’ restaurant. In high school he worked on this ranch doing odd jobs, fencing, and whatever else he was asked to do. In college he worked at ZooMontana while completing his degree in environmental studies and this is where he fell in love with ecology. After graduation he went on to work as the environmental restoration manager for Montana Audubon, charged with restoring an old gravel mine to various native ecosystems. As rewarding as the work was for Audubon, his restaurant background was still calling. At some point it became clear to him that the best use of his restaurant and ecology backgrounds was in raising food and when the opportunity to work at B Bar arose, he jumped at the chance. Mihail approaches agriculture with his ecology background and believes that without a healthy functioning ecosystem, you can’t raise high quality food.
Throughout the last eight years he’s been able to learn a great deal about regenerative agriculture and see the results of these processes as he manages the day to day physical operation of the ranch. He’s always learning and is excited to try new things even if they seem a bit daunting at first. A natural educator, he’s always looking for opportunities to teach the regenerative practices he is working on. Ecosystems are in a constant state of flux and therefore one needs to be able to adapt their management to the present and future conditions. Every day is a new puzzle.
Shea Kennedy grew up in Billings, Montana. Son to a chef, he learned that food was not only a necessity to live, but also a joy to be shared. Brother to an ecologist, he learned the importance of ecosystem health to the vigor of plants and animals. Through his education in the field of forestry at the University of Montana, Shea spent many years romping through the woods of Western Montana. This fostered the importance of natural cycles and their effect on the landscape. B Bar offered an opportunity to combine his knowledge and drive to improve the landscape. Shea can most often be found in the field. Wind, more wind, or shine, he tends to the cattle, irrigates the land, and performs a variety of other duties around the ranch.
Driving across the plains of eastern Montana on the way to other life opportunities, Peter thought, “But what if I want to be a rancher here instead?” Four years later, he did just that, returning to work on a number of different cattle ranches across the southern part of the state before ending up here at B Bar.
Before working with cattle, Peter worked with vegetables. He enjoys caring for animals and being surrounding by grass, whether it’s blowing in the wind, covered in snow, or growing tall in the spring. But more than just enjoying the labor and sensory pleasures of ranching, Peter believes wholeheartedly in a life centered around agriculture. To be the source of his own food, to be a part of the passing of days and seasons, to be surrounded by people who care about each other and where they live: these are the values around which Peter orients himself and his work at B Bar Ranch.