Danny Johnson went from “shoveling shit to dishing it out,” as media mogul-billionaire Ted Turner likes to say. Johnson works as the Ranch Manager for Turner’s Flying D Ranch near Bozeman, Montana. He stands tall in brown cowboy boots, a Patagonia brand pullover and a large, clean, white-brimmed hat. He carries momentum in his voice. Danny has worked for Mr. Turner since 1993 in various positions from fishing guide to stable hand to the manager he is today, and he likes to talk about how he has evolved with his work.
Flying D is a 113,000 acre piece of land purchased just four years before Johnson first was hired by Turner, who has restored the place once trammeled by cattle grazing to a well-endowed conservation effort. The ranch has since been stocked with native species including fish, plants, and bison. Danny works to maintain this carefully balanced ecosystem.
Part of the job description calls on innovation to efficiently turn roaming bison into burgers. When Johnson first started work under Mr. Turner, the bison meat industry was just getting its start. As demand increases, Danny faces the challenge of balancing distinct aims of the ranch: economic sustainability and ecological health. Bison play into both as a profitable industry and as a native animal with far less impact on the land than cows. Ultimately, Johnson works for the best interest of the land, wildlife, and his boss.
By: Signe Lindquist