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His family have been ranchers since the early 1800s, and “delivered cattle to both sides of the Civil War,” as he put it in a recent interview with Forbes. His grandchildren are the eighth generation of Driskills to live in the shadow of Devils Tower, America’s first national monument, and in 2015 he registered 5,000 acres of his family’s land, called Campstool Ranch, for an agricultural conservation easement designed to protect its wildlife and open spaces in perpetuity.
But in other ways the senator, who earlier this year introduced a series of sweeping bills designed to recognize crypto-assets on a blockchain and more, is the perfect leader. Family members have been entrepreneurs for as long as they’ve been ranchers, having founded what is believed to be the oldest operating hotel in Texas, appropriately named the Driskill Hotel, in 1868. After trailing cattle from Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1868 his family bought Campstool Ranch and has called it home since 1910. The ranch is now a 10,000-acre commodity farm, managing 600 cow-calf pairs (1,200 heads of cattle), 30 bulls, 20 horses, sheep, goats and even “a handful of buffalo,” as he put it.
The problem is, Driskill’s style of ranching is expensive. Unlike more factory-style farms that tightly pack cattle in pens and feed them from a trough, many of the ranches in Wyoming graze their livestock in wide-open spaces and feed them with food grown right there on the open range.
“These cattle have never seen the inside of a building,” he said. “They live outside year-round and live on what mother nature provides: sunshine and grass.” It turns out that while expensive, raising cattle this way is also a commodity in its own right, with many consumers willing to pay a premium for animals that lived their lives outside and ate only natural food. But it’s also a commodity that’s difficult to monetize without giving incontrovertible proof to the end consumer that the cattle and other animals really were raised on a particular ranch, in a particular way and maybe even by a particular rancher.
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