Located in the heart of ranching country, Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA, is proud to support the work of grass-based ranchers like Cheryl and Robert Cosner of Upper Dry Creek Ranch.
Whitman Executive Sous Chef Julie Zumwalt, Dining Manager Susan Todhunter, and I recently had a chance to visit the Cosners. We stood between two grassy hills dotted with heritage apple trees in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in Weston, OR, where the Cosners raise lamb and beef on 2,200 acres of certified organic grassland. Cattle casually grazed on lush pasture while Cheryl and Julie discussed the coming season and what cuts of meat would be mutually beneficial for the ranch to sell. Cheryl talked about pasture management and livestock irrigation, while Julie revealed some of the experimental lamb dishes she’s been creating in Whitman’s kitchens.
Both women seem to be doing exactly what they were meant to do in life, exactly where they were meant to do it. I learned that Cheryl grew up chasing cattle on the back of a horse and that she graduated from Washington State University with a degree in agriculture — a program where only 3% of the students were female.
Julie, meanwhile, spent quite a lot of time just down the windswept, gravel road from Upper Dry Creek Ranch, with her family at her grandparents’ house. As the eldest daughter, Julie was responsible for cooking dinner every day for the family. She never served anything from a box or a can. She cooked with deer, elk, and game birds from her father’s hunt; trout from her grandfather’s catch in the Upper Dry Creek Ranch pond; wild mushrooms that she’d forage herself from the ranch lands; and even frog legs that her brother contributed.
Having access to Cheryl and Robert’s 100% grass-fed, organic, and Food Alliance Certified meats is a dream come true for Julie, and a relationship she nurtures carefully. It’s a relationship that is more than invoice deep.