Background image of Cory Carman puts a fence post back in place on a sunny day on her ranch in Wallowa, OR.

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Restorative ranching in northeast Oregon

Cory Carman is an Ecotrust board member and fourth-generation rancher in Wallowa County, Oregon. Along with others in her community, Cory uses her cattle as a tool to restore soil health. With projects like the Redd on Salmon street, we are working to build the infrastructure producers like Cory need to build their business.

By Cory Carman

Wendell Berry said, “Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.”

I live in a beautiful place among incredible farmers who are deeply committed to the land and community. We represent a growing group who take very seriously our responsibility to grow food in a regenerative way. And we are fortunate to live in a time when many consumers understand the importance of the conscious eating Wendell Berry is talking about.

But this hasn’t always been the case. My grandmother, who grew up on our ranch, saw incredible changes in how food is raised and how agriculture is practiced over the course of her 93 years.

When my grandmother was a child, people spent nearly half of their income on food and about one in five people were farmers. Today, we spend about 6 percent of our income on food and less than 2 percent of the population farms. And while she had smoked her own bacon and gathered her own eggs, Grandma saw the ability to buy these items at the grocery store as progress.

When I moved back to the ranch, eventually bringing the pigs and chickens back too, she saw that leaving those animals behind also meant a loss of taste and quality. But there was something else we lost along the way: the essential infrastructure farmers, ranchers, and fishermen need to get food to eaters outside of volatile commodity markets many of us still depend on.

Cory Carman is an Ecotrust board member and fourth-generation rancher in Wallowa County, Oregon. Along with others in her community, Cory uses her cattle as a tool to restore soil health. With projects like the Redd on Salmon street, Ecotrust is working to build the infrastructure producers like Cory need to build their business.

At Carman Ranch, we can’t grow our business until we have access to more freezer and cooler space, and we won’t become more profitable until we have value-added processing, which ensures that we can sell every cut in the animal for a good price.

As demand for local and sustainable food continues to grow, and with investments in projects like the Redd, that reality is changing.

There are two dreams in the Redd — the first is connecting the farmer with the consumer. The second is cementing the idea that what consumers choose to put on their plates has tremendous power. For our part, Carman Ranch plans to work with B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery and secure warehouse space in the Redd’s Marble building to keep more product close to our customers in Portland’s urban core.

As the Redd grows and evolves, Carman Ranch will grow. So too will the ecological and economic health of Wallowa County, and all of the producers we are proud to call business partners, neighbors, and friends.

Sustainable, regenerative models of agriculture only succeed only if we can break through the current barriers to infrastructure, restore the flow of dollars back to the people dedicated to staying on the land, and support their wisdom.