Greener Pastures

Alumni find success with cattle company

Written by Caitlin King
Photography by Heather Vincent and Jami Davis
March 23, 2012
As a young boy growing up in Maple Valley, Wash., Mike Vincent, ’94, looked forward to visiting his grandparents’ farm in Michigan. He spent a few memorable days each year watching the herd sink their hooves into the soil, grazing under the summer sun. He knew someday he’d be a cattleman too.

The dream sparked in his youth has been realized—and in a big way. Today, Mike Vincent is co-owner of Snoqualmie Cattle Company, alongside his wife Heather, ’93, and friends Mark and Sally Torres. The families together tend to a herd of gregarious Texas Longhorns on a 80-acre ranch in North Bend, Wash., east of Seattle.

During a recent visit to the ranch, Mike and Heather arrived fresh from a morning run. It’s no surprise to hear that both attended Seattle University on scholarships—Mike for skiing and Heather for basketball. During their free time at SU, they’d take ski trips to Crystal Mountain, every so often giving Father Jerry Cobb a lift, fastening a friendship with the SU Jesuit who later married the couple in 1995.

In 2003, they left the city looking for greener pastures, settling on a five-acre farm in the Snoqualmie Valley with a stunning view of Mount. Si. Close in proximity to hiking and the slopes, they knew it would be a perfect place to start a family—and perhaps a business.

They spent the next five years raising their three children: George, who’s now 10; Ellen, 8; and Campbell, 6. During those years, raising cattle became a family hobby. Heather, who had owned horses in her hometown of Walla Walla, was persuaded by Mike, who was interested in becoming a cattleman.

Soon enough they had two horses and seven cows on their plot of land. The Vincent family knew if they wanted to get serious about raising cattle, they would need more acreage.

That summer, Mike ran into Mark Torres. They had previously met serving on various wildlife conservation groups and by coincidence had attended the same fundraising picnic. That was the day they began discussing the Gardiner Family Ranch. “It was just pure dumb luck,” Mike recalls.

As it turns out, Mark’s wife, Sally, owned 80 acres of farmland in North Bend, purchased by her great, great-grandfather in 1883. The ranch, which also held a dairy and orchard, had been in the family for five generations. The soil had sat vacant, untouched since the 1950s.

The Torres’ were eager to jump on board. “Mark and Sally were inspired by the idea of producing a healthy product, but they also had an even stronger desire to return her family’s property to what it once was—a place where healthy, local food is produced for local families,” says Heather. Later that year, the Vincents moved their twisty horned herd onto the Gardiner Family Ranch, officially launching their collaboration.

Disease-resistant and able to withstand changing weather conditions, the Texas Longhorn breed is an ideal match for this part of the country. They’re also naturally lean and low in cholesterol, garnering a trendy following among health conscience producers and consumers.

Finding a feed model, on the other hand, proved more difficult. It took years of consulting industry professionals and experience raising their own cattle before they decided on a grass-fed model. They found that grass-fed is not only healthier and safer for the consumer, but it doesn’t compromise the health and humane treatment of the cattle, either.

Today, they focus their efforts on raising cattle without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics or processed grains, and grass feeding from start to finish. When summer rolls around, the herd feasts on fresh fruit, one of the many perks of grazing on an orchard. 

“All four of us are doing this for different reasons,” says Mike. “Sally really wanted to bring that community back, Heather loves producing a healthy, unique product for neighbors and friends and Mark and I enjoy taking care of the cattle,” he says.

The day-to-day duties of a working ranch includes feeding, pulling fence or moving the cattle through the chutes for branding and weaning. A process made easier by the herd’s gentle nature.

As for the children, George, Ellen and Campbell, they chip in a few ideas of their own, taking on more creative tasks and are particularly skilled at naming their four-legged friends.

Today, about 50 Longhorn graze the land on which Snoqualmie Cattle Company operates. Found commonly in Texas and Oklahoma, most of the SCC’s herd came from a high school agriculture teacher in Clarkston, Wash. Recognizable by their iconic horns, each member of the herd sports a stunning shade of black, brown or white, while the boldest of the bunch have spots. They spend most days roaming the region, exploring their many fields of green, satisfied both under the sun and in the shade.

While raising cattle can be demanding work, Mike continues to commute to his job in the investment industry in downtown Seattle. Heather handles marketing and the business side of Snoqualmie Cattle Company; both Sally and Mark hold down full time jobs also.

To keep things simple, Snoqualmie Cattle Company focuses on one product, premium ground beef. By grinding the best cuts—rib eye, tenderloin, sirloin—into one single product, they can provide families with a healthy and easy mealtime solution. “I call it healthy fast food,” says Heather.

As for finding Snoqualmie Cattle Company ground beef in grocery stores? Heather doesn’t foresee that happening anytime soon. “If we expanded to grocery stores, we wouldn’t be serving our local community,” she says.

Learn more about the Snoqualmie Cattle Company.
Meet the people behind the Snoqualmie Cattle Company: (back row, l-r) Heather, ’93, Mike, ’94, and George Vincent, Sally and Mark Torres; (front row, l-r) Ellen and Campbell Vincent with critters Agent 99, Clay and Rio.
Snoqualmie Cattle Company's Texas Longhorns are disease-resistant and able to withstand changing weather conditions, which makes the breed an ideal match for this part of the country.