Dynamic Duos

(page 2 of 5)

EPIC Provisions

Taylor Collins & Katie Forrest

The word ‘epic’ isn’t reserved for the ordinary. It’s the rallying cry for the adventures that are too good to describe, those you-had-to-be-there experiences that still give you goosebumps years later. It’s for the people who’d rather live by doing than watching. To truly understand what EPIC means, though, you’ll need to meet Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest, the spousal combo behind the meat-based product line that’s challenging mainstream food trends and infiltrating supermarkets across the country.

It’s an unusually cold January morning in Austin, Texas (below 40 degrees, if you can believe it) and Taylor’s pacing in front of his South Austin home. But he’s not nervous, he’s trying to help his five-week-old daughter, Emory Scout Bear-Forrest Collins—‘Scout’ for short—fall asleep. “The best way to get her to fall asleep is walking her outside,” Katie explains. “It’s the only thing that calms her down.” Considering her parents are triathletes and avid nature junkies, Scout’s going to fit in just fine here.

The waters around the Forrest-Collins household are calm, but they weren’t always. Six years ago, Katie and Taylor’s lives were in flux as they tried to navigate their early-mid 20’s and find their callings. Taylor was working as a physical therapist in Austin, while Katie was in school for counseling psychology in Dallas. Both were miserable. 

But rather than standing pat and settling for more conventional—and more predictable—life paths, they decided it was time to shake things up. Katie dropped the doctoral program she’d spent years working toward and moved back to Austin to be with Taylor, who eventually followed in her footsteps and quit his job, too.

“It was terrifying, but we never doubted we were making the right decision,” Katie says as we sit at their kitchen table, their chocolate lab, Lakota, by her side. She’s wearing a white sweater and a black coat, her hair neatly pulled back. She’s only five weeks removed from pregnancy but somehow looks more put together than I have in years. “Happiness comes from being able to evolve and find what brings you joy in any given moment.”

Taylor’s standing close by, donned in a blue t-shirt and an EPIC snapback while gently rocking Scout in his arms. “We’ve always believed there’s no pathway or repeatable playbook to living a happy, prosperous life—whether that’s regarding a business or a relationship,” he adds, never taking his eyes off his daughter. “We’ve always followed our instincts and listened to our guts.”

Shortly after Katie moved back to Austin, they did just that. Stricken by crippling gastrointestinal pain and the anxiety that ensued when doctors couldn’t identify the cause of her ailments, she and Taylor—longtime vegetarians and raw food vegans at the time—decided to make their most drastic life change yet: eating meat. Almost immediately after adopting what is commonly known as the ‘paleo diet,’ Katie’s symptoms disappeared. They felt stronger and more energetic than they ever had. 

“Changing our diets and tackling that together taught us so many lessons about teamwork and open-mindedness,” Taylor smiles. “That was a huge challenge, but it was well worth the reward. Katie’s the healthiest she’s ever been since we made that change.”

This switch was an existential shift for both. Soon after, in 2013, Katie and Taylor founded EPIC Provisions with hopes of altering the landscape of food consumption, and placing grassland restoration at the forefront of conscious, healthy living. “We’re challenging the narrative that raising livestock is degenerating the earth,” Taylor explains. “We want to empower people to make better purchasing decisions while supporting ranchers who care for their animals, employ practices that sequester carbon through grasslands, and mitigate climate change.”

People have answered EPIC’s call for a food revolution. Over the past four years, their product line has grown from their staple meat bars to include a variety of trail mixes, beef jerkies, bacon bits, animal oils (like duck fat and pork lard), bone broths, and much more. This enables them to use every part of their animals—a key company value. But this belief isn’t isolated to Katie and Taylor, nor is EPIC part of a niche market. In fact, it was acquired by General Mills for an undisclosed sum early last year. Despite the big news, their company roles and worldviews alike haven’t been impacted by the acquisition. They’ve made it a point to live like they always have—modestly and without excess. “We still want Scout to grow up like we did,” Taylor explains. “We want her to struggle and have to overcome challenges.”

EPIC’s success hasn’t changed him and Katie, but parenthood certainly has. For much of their relationship, Katie wasn’t interested in getting married, let alone having kids. But as time passed, she realized if she were going to do those things with anyone, it’d be with Taylor—the boy she used to lock eyes with in the halls of Austin High School, before dating at Texas State University. She’s still getting used to the whole motherhood thing, but she loves it. “Scout has turned our work-life balance perspective on its head,” she grins. It’s obvious their daughter’s presence has changed them—a process they’re more than accustomed to. But this is different. It’s bigger.

This summer, they’re hitting the road for a trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. Taylor and Katie owe it to themselves after years of tireless work, but it seems more like a trip for Scout—a type of family initiation process. Beyond that, though, there’s still plenty of uncertainty in their world, which is just the way they like it. “We’d be really boring if we already knew what was coming,” Katie laughs. “Life should be unpredictable. All we know is she’s [Scout] getting bigger by the day.”

My prediction: Taylor’s going to be a hell of a lot stronger when he’s rocking Scout back and forth this time next year. 

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