Member Feature: Michael Bishop

Michael Bishop, PhD, was born and raised in Ohio but has lived in several Midwest and Great Plains states as well as Zurich Switzerland as his career progressed from academia to USDA and then into industry all while maintaining strong roots on the farm.  He retired from the biotechnology field as a geneticist specializing in genomic sequencing and use of DNA variation as an additional selection tool for genetic advancement of animals and plants. 

On their Ohio farm he grew up raising cattle, row crops, small grains, a large family garden as well as a two-acre strawberry patch from which berries were sold at grocery stores, local food stands and direct-to-consumers.

Michael and his wife, Barbara, moved to Alexandria, S.D. in late summer of 2018 from Wisconsin to be near their daughter and her family in their retirement years.  They brought with them over 25 head of registered Southdown Sheep, 70 registered Angus cows and two dogs, one an Australian Cattle dog and the other a Scottish Terrier. 

They acquired an old farmstead (plus some acreage) with a hilltop view overlooking Lake Hanson near their daughter’s property.  They razed the dilapidated huge century house that graced the property and built a new home on the Thursday before Christmas in 2018. 

Since then, they have cleaned up the property and built all new perimeter and cross-fences. They were fortunate enough to be able to rent a farm near them to run the cattle and they combined their Southdown Sheep with those of their daughter and son-in-law’s. The Southdown sheep have been a 30-year breeding program that has produced numerous National Champion ewes and rams and is recognized for their consistent linebred breeding stock. 

The chief focus (and biggest challenge) has been in cleaning up the property, restoring soil health of the land and adapting to extreme weather from year to year (record moisture to near drought) since moving to South Dakota.  Their goal is to establish a rotational grazing system for the sheep and a small group of cows as well as an orchard consisting of apple and peach trees.

Thanks to the composted manure from the Southdown sheep, they have already begun to restore soil fertility in a few areas where they have established a productive vegetable garden and will be adding strawberries and some other specialty fruits in the next couple of years.  They have also worked with the S.D. Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation & Forestry specialist to renovate tree belts and plant trees where needed around the property for windbreak and landscape purposes. 

Dr. Bishop continues to explore the application of vertical farming using an environmentally controlled hydroponic system as well as connection with local meat processor(s) to continue to expand a direct-to-consumer beef and lamb market.

Since moving to South Dakota, the Angus herd has been sold to S.D. ranchers and a local farmer.  Still Bishop provides management guidance for the breeding program and focuses on direct sales of meat to the community and people he has met who recognize and want home grown quality beef and lamb products that are highly palatable and raised without use of implants and antibiotics. 

The Bishops are connecting with new friends and growing direct sales of vegetable and meat products in the local community while also involving their family (grandchildren), local FFA and 4-H youth in internship and hands-on educational experiences that provide opportunities for their personal growth and responsibility.

“I am glad to be involved with the South Dakota Specialty Products Association and help promote locally grown foods by entrepreneurs in the state.  In the next year, I intend to participate in many of the committees of the SDSPA and add value as a board member supporting the activities through member participation and growth of the SDSPA,” Bishop said.