Name: Cathryn Kerns
Where you work:
Truly \ Beef, Kerns Photography, Concept Z – Home & Property
What you do:
Owner and sales representative for Truly \ Beef. My husband Taylor Kerns and I are ranchers and raise our cattle on 60,000+ acres of the Bighorn Mountains and our family homestead on Pass Creek.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in California and spent the first eight years of my life living on the coast in Half Moon Bay, about 30 minutes south of San Francisco, but the apple orchards of Wenatchee, Washington, is home to me. I lived in Wenatchee with my parents from fourth grade until I graduated high school. I spent most of my free time backpacking, skiing and riding horses with my dad.
If you attended college, where and what did you study?
I graduated high school with an associate degree in arts and sciences from Wenatchee Valley Community College through a program called Running Start.
Then I went on to study at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana (mainly for the backpacking, skiing and horse riding) and later studied a year abroad at the Institute of American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France. I graduated from Montana State University in the spring of 2016 with a degree in French, education K-12 and global studies with the intention to teach.
How did you end up doing what you’re doing?
After graduating college, Taylor and I got married and moved back to the family homestead on Pass Creek. That first year in Sheridan I worked as a substitute teacher. I really loved incorporating French language and culture into whatever I was teaching and quickly built a reputation as “the French Lady.” Unfortunately, the spring I graduated from MSU was the same spring that Sheridan High School closed the doors on its French program, despite marching into the principal’s office unannounced in order to persuade him otherwise! Life rarely goes to plan, so you just adapt.
My time in France greatly influenced my perspective on the relationship between food and food producers. Every Tuesday and Thursday in Aix there is an abundant farmers market, where producers from all over the countryside flock to sell everything from bountiful flowers, flavorful nougats, fresh figs, ripe olives, pungent cheeses, to vibrant vegetables of every kind. Farmers knew their clients and clients knew their product. I knew people that would walk all over town to find the best of every type of product. Shopping at the grocery store was not the norm. When I came back to the U.S., I was struck by the stark contrast. There seemed to be more preference of cheap over quality and convenience over relationship. But then I realized that this was not necessarily from a lack of desire, but more of a lack of availability.
We spotted a niche we could fill with our beef. Our goal is to provide that farmers market type relationship as well as a convenient product.
Being a part of a ranching family and advocating for that industry must have its challenges. What are they and how do you plan to tackle them?
It is becoming more and more difficult for the family ranch to exist. There’s an old saying that “behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town” and there’s a lot of truth to that.
If you take a good look at family ranches, most have diversified themselves in one way or another in order to continue ranching. Unless you have a fortune or have inherited all your land and your cattle, you simply cannot make ends meet ranching. Even then, most large corporations invest in ranches as tax write off. Double Rafter Cattle Drives was Dana & Alice’s way of diversifying; Truly \ Beef is our way. Not only do we have roots, education and passion for the beef business, but we believe that there is a tremendous desire to know where your food comes, how it was raised and handled.
What has been one of your favorite or most memorable experiences being involved with ranching?
I joke that Taylor tried to kill me once. It was the end of the summer and Taylor and I were preparing to part ways and head back to college (Taylor to UW and I to Montana State).
We were searching for some missing cattle and were based out of the Kerns Cow Camp in the Dry Fork of the Bighorns. It absolutely poured rain the entire time, and still we trudged along, horseback and sopping wet, diligently searching for missing cattle. There were berries growing about chest height while horseback and, to me, they looked like huckleberries, only taller. Perpetually hungry, I called ahead to Taylor and asked him what they were and if they were edible. He said that they were sarvice berries and they were. So I ate a handful… Or two. Not 15 minutes later Taylor turns around to find me flushed beet red, heart racing, vision splotchy, fingers curling, throat closing. I squeak out “get the SAT phone. Call a helicopter.” AND HE CALLS HIS MOM. He will never live that one down. Well, turns out he needed our coordinates for a helicopter, which his parents had. In the time it took them to find our coordinates, I’m sensing my impending doom and manage to blindly uncurl a seizing finger and instinctually make myself throw up. Near instant relief. I was miserable, but alive, the rest of the day.
In case you were wondering, we did continue looking for cows afterward.
And the first thing Dana and Alice did when we returned home?
Offer us a big bowl of blueberries!
One of my favorite weekends.
There’s never a dull moment on the ranch. I suppose that’s what we love about it.