What drives a successful, 7th generation knife manufacturer from Solingen, Germany to the high desert expanses of northeast Nevada? Just passion – and over 3,000 cattle!
Today Harald Wüsthof, who runs the family business together with his cousin Viola Wüsthof, has found his personal happiness in Nevada with Gwen Spratling-Wüsthof. Together with the other members of the Spratling clan, they run a ranch across 130,000 acres. "It is all so very different from Solingen" he says with a laugh "and it‘s why I enjoy being in my second home just as much as in my real home: it’s the perfect combination."
Harald met Gwen during a household goods fair in Chicago where, as a passionate knife manufacturer from Germany, he quickly got into conversation with the owner of a well-established steel-ware shop with a large specialist knife department. The two immediately realized that, in addition to mutual attraction, they had a lot in common: the same uncompromising attitude towards product quality, the same idea of entrepreneurship and sustainable business, the same attitude towards tradition and progress and how to bring both together. And the same refreshing impartiality in tackling things. The cowgirl with the steel-ware shop and the forger of premium kitchen knives: the perfect match.
Like Harald, Gwen represents the 7th generation of her family; the Spratlings on her father's side and the Cockrells on her mother's side, all with eventful family histories. The Spratlings have always worked in agriculture and have been involved in cattle breeding since long before their voyage across the Atlantic from England in the 1880s.
"We raise first-class cattle for first-class meat. And that requires first-class knives. A bad knife can ruin the best steak. When you have put so much energy, love and, above all, respect into raising animals, you also want your product to be processed and appreciated in the best possible way and with the same respect." Gwen Spratling-Wüsthof
The family farm treats its land just as carefully as its cattle: part of the summer work involves moving the herd regularly between pastures to avoid overgrazing. Hay production is also in-house and labor-intensive, beginning with maintaining the grass pastures in spring to hay harvesting in summer, but it means that in the winter there is enough hay to feed the animals without having to bring food in.
Cattle graze freely, from when the first signs of spring appear after a cold winter in the Ruby Mountains (a Nevada mountain range west of the Rocky Mountains) and the heavy winter snows begin to melt, until first snowfall in the autumn. Then the 3,000 or so cattle are rounded up again over several weeks – the cattle have a pace of their own – and are herded back down to the Spratling ranch where they spend their winter, on the snowy pastures around the ranch, eating the hay harvested by the family in the summer.
"It's good to know exactly what our animals eat. And we can only be sure of that because we produce it ourselves. So we have real control and are 100% sure that the end product is truly natural." Gwen Spratling-Wüsthof
So what's next for the family in Nevada? "This is really more for the younger generation," says Harald Wüsthof. "We both take it a little easier." Gwen and Harald have just bought a piece of land with a large orchard, more than 100 trees, over 80 years old: apples, pears, cherries, apricots and plums. They are currently restoring it. They also want to keep sheep and goats here. So there is still much to do in the vastness of northeast Nevada.