Day five of On the Road with Oregon Bounty, and I’m in my favorite part of the state: Eastern Oregon. I’ve had a long-running romance with the thought of being an Oregon rancher. Not necessarily the hard work involved or having your livelihood tied to the whims of weather and commodity prices, but with the air, the open spaces, and the rhythms of the land. This summer, when I stepped inside Clair and Patty Pickard’s tidy farmhouse, located in a picturesque valley between Eastern Oregon’s Blue and Wallowa Mountains, I felt both at home and just a little jealous.

The Pickards are classic Oregon ranchers, and are part of a new movement in ranching that takes an old approach to raising cattle: ranches owned and operated by families raising sustainable, high-quality beef. In these days of massive corporate operations, the Pickards are proud to remain independent and true to their ranching history. They’re part of Country Natural Beef (CNB), a family-owned cooperative formed in 1986 that was founded on the principal of protecting open spaces and preserving the rural culture and the families that nurture them.

The Pickards, along with ranchers like John and Nancy Boyer, are a throwback to a time when multiple generations worked the land, and beef was raised naturally. These two families are the ranching mentors in our Oregon Bounty “Cuisinternship” contest, which will give seven lucky people the chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Oregon for an ultimate foodie getaway (that’s right, you could spend a week as a winemaker, chef, brewmaster, cheesmaker and chocolatier, distiller, rancher or fisherman). Check out the video about the Pickards and learn how to enter the contest.

Eastern Oregon has lots of foodie finds, like Bella Main Street Market in Baker City, where this time of year you can take your pick from a dozen varieties of fresh organic garlic, the Foley donuts during Sunday brunch at Foley Station restaurant in La Grande, or the locally grown buffalo burger at Terminal Gravity Public House in Enterprise. Go to Travel Oregon’s new culinary travel website to plan an Eastern Oregon getaway.

Check back Monday… “On the Road” will be in the Mt. Hood/Gorge region to learn all about craft brewing. Cheers!

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