Friday, March 1, 2013

Cory Carman: Rancher

By Lee Lewis Husk & Jack Despain

Cory Carman amongst some of her herd (and their food supply) / Photo by Joni Kabana
Cory Carman amongst some of her herd (and their food supply) / Photo by Joni Kabana

Star chef Vitaly Paley walked in and Cory Carman's hopes walked right out.

"He said, ‘I will try your sample, but I will tell you, I don't like grass-fed beef,’" Carman recounts as Paley's opening sentiments. "Well, he tried it, and he's been a customer ever since."

Likewise the chefs at Beast, Laughing Planet, the University of Portland, Lewis & Clark College, and Oregon Health & Scienc University also began serving Carman Ranch's grass-fed beef after tasting it themselves.

Growing up on a traditional ranch run by her uncle, Carman set off for Stanford University and a subsequent spell in Washington, D.C. "I thought that I would come back to the ranch when I retired," says Carman, 33. "I thought I would be involved in agriculture policy and international development work."

It was under the tutelage of sustainable agriculture icon, Stanford professor Walter Falcon, that the traditional Eastern Oregon ranch girl had an epiphany. "I didn't know that there was such a negative perception about beef, but I realized that much of that was tied to feed lots," she says. "I became curious about what it would be like to graze cattle instead."

Once she was back at the family ranch in Wallowa, Carman began experimenting with grazing cattle on open lands. "My uncle really thought I was crazy and didn't think it would work," she recalls. "We grazed differently, we raised the cattle differently."

Now, a little more than five years later, Carman has not only changed the mindset of her uncle, she has transformed the ranch into one of Oregon's most desirable meat producers in the local food industry.

"Wallowa County is a great place to raise meat," says Carman. "Part of our future as a community is tied to the land." carmanranch.com

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