True Partners…

Thoughtful Thursday

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There is tremendous beauty in a true partnership marked by trust and devotion.  From it springs an unselfish desire to care unconditionally and love without reservation.

The Feed Yard Foodie

 

 

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Trading Drugs For Fitness…

My youngest daughter contracted a serious pneumonia infection during the fall of 2011. She spent five days in the hospital as an incredibly sick little girl. The severity of the illness led to a very slow recovery, and lingering challenges that were eventually defined as “illness induced asthma”.

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Karyn is naturally very stoic in nature which made properly diagnosing the ensuing period of diminished lung capacity a journey. Five months after the infection, it became obvious to me as I coached her on the track and in the swimming pool that her lung capacity was not normal despite her lack of complaining. It was a shock when further testing discovered that she was operating at just over 50% of normal capacity.

From April of 2012 to December of 2013, Karyn’s pediatrician steadily increased her asthma treatment medicines as I kept asking the question, “Will she ever fully heal?” Over the next year and a half, Matt and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the levels of steriods prescribed all the while Karyn continued to contract many additional respiratory illnesses and a second pneumonia infection. Ultimately, we decided to travel to Omaha to see a pulmonology specialist.

I did not know what we would find under the care of Dr. Kevin Murphy at Boys Town National Research Hospital, but my heart told me to keep looking and have faith. I read articles about using fitness training to strengthen lung capacity as a natural augmentation to regular asthma treatment. I thought that it might be a good fit for my sports-loving young athlete.

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In addition to being an esteemed pulmonologist, Dr. Murphy is the father of two competitive swimmers which enabled us to find common ground on the natural fitness component of a new treatment plan. He switched Karyn to an inhaler that more deeply penetrated the lungs in order to reach the damaged tissue while also instructing me to create a strenuous fitness program that included both swimming and running in order to naturally strengthen her respiratory system.

Eight months later, we have begun to wean Karyn off of the daily preventative QVAR inhaler with incredibly exciting results. Her overall health is excellent and her lung capacity and general immune function are strong. For the first time in almost three years, I truly believe that Karyn will fully heal. I am confident that there will be a day when daily drug treatment will no longer be necessary. I am just as confident that fitness will play a permanent role in Karyn’s life journey.

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Every day, I make decisions as both a mom and a cattle caregiver. I believe in the power of fitness — both for my children and my animals, and that governs my decision making process. There is tremendous beauty to be found in putting together the necessary pieces for well-being; and I love it when we can replace drugs with fitness in order to maintain optimal health.

 

 

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4th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare…

Thoughtful Thursday

The journey in search of excellence has no end --- it is marked by a continuous dedication toward improvement.

The journey toward excellence has no end — it is marked by courage and the continuous dedication to improvement.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Winston Churchill

Today I take the stage as a speaker at the 4th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare being held at Iowa State University.  While I am incredibly honored to be asked to stand up and speak, I am also looking forward to sitting down and listening.   With any luck I will come home smarter than I left… 

I truly believe that the search for excellence takes both types of courage…

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Food and Farm Radio…The EPA and WOTUS

Ray Bowman of the Food and Farm Radio Show hosted me today on the mid-day broadcast.  The recently released EPA rules provided the topic of conversation.  EPA Administrator McCarthy held a telephone press conference earlier this week to further explain both the proposed WOTUS rule and the recently implemented interpretive rule.  Ray and I discussed the information shared in the conference call as well as the consequences of the rules themselves.

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The broadcast runs for 13 minutes and you can click here if you would like to listen to it.  Otherwise, I hope that your weekend is filled with peaceful sunsets like this one that I snapped a picture of last weekend!

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Out Of the Mouths of Babes…

Thoughtful Thursday

My favorite farmer and I strive to raise our girls with a broad perspective of social and political knowledge.  Our family dinner conversations range from farming issues to World and American history and politics to random philosophical discussions.  The girls tend to groan when Matt or I take a comment that they make and turn it into an intellectual discussion, however, these cerebral sessions have become a family tradition :)

I think that it is important for young people to grow up with inquiring minds and a zest for learning.   Lengthy discussions and debates are a great way to foster this development, and also bring a new dimension to a family dinner.

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As part of the Duke TIP program at Trinity University that my favorite teenager participated in this summer, she was required to write four papers — all of which revolved around the general subject of Myths and Legends.  For this week’s Thoughtful Thursday post, I would like to share Ashley Grace’s Cosmology Essay for the class.

She was charged with the task of creating a story that explained the origin, evolution, and fate of her home state of Nebraska.  I think that her story draws on a full litany of topics that have highlighted our family dinner table discussions over the years, and I found it both enlightening and entertaining…

The Creation Story of Nebraska

In the beginning, before humans and animals roamed the earth, there was darkness. There were fifty gods, Flat, the god of a land known as Nebraska, was one. Flat was a good god, and had visions of a place where peace and happiness wore scarlet and cream. But, as in all places, good could not exist without evil. Flat’s nemesis, the god of Colorado, wanted the land all to himself.

Using the cover of darkness, Colorado stole the southwest corner of Nebraska, creating the panhandle. Flat and Colorado met slightly north of there and a great battle ensued. To this day, the Sandhills exist as a tribute to the fierce battle.

Flat, horrified at the destruction of his land, threw off the cover of darkness so that all the gods could see Colorado’s treachery. In shame and fury, Colorado fled, keeping his corner, back to his state. Colorado cursed one of the rivers Flat had created. The Plate River, for this reason, was split into two channels and is a shallow, muddy mess.

Now that his borders were secure, Flat turned his attention to matters closer to home. He was in love with the beautiful Dakota, and in an attempt to impress her, created the rolling hills of northeastern Nebraska. Dakota was not impressed, and showed that much by making the Badlands on the South Dakota, Nebraska border.

Flat became depressed and created a burning hot sun, and its opposite, a moon, made of the cold rock that was now his heart. Flat also made other terrors during this time. He created a howling wind, snow, famine, bugs, and all bad weather. After being sad, for so long, Flat forgot was it was like to be happy, and became an angry god.

In his rage, Flat made humans, doomed to forever fight against the unwilling ground for all necessities. The first humans, a male and female, created at the same time from more of Flat’s rock hard heart, had the five senses and not much else. All humans are descended from these beings. Flat poured all of his angry feelings into these humans, so that they were mean creatures, incapable of love.

But Flat, was in essence, a peaceful god. He soon realized what he had done to his people, and gave them great gifts. He gave them love, kindness, generosity, and most importantly, perseverance and the stubborn toughness they would need to farm the earth. He gave them animals, for his people needed meat and labor. He created flowers and rainbows and smiles to help them through the hard times.

When the first corn crop matured, Flat threw a celebration for the couple and their children. Flat took the corn kernels and set them in the sky as stars to forever remember the crop. Peace was brought to the land.

Colorado was not happy to see Flat’s state prosper, so he flew over the land at night, scattering seeds. These seeds grew into trees of all kinds, which were an inconvenience to Nebraskans, as they had to work harder to pull them out. Flat took all of the trees brought in by Colorado and placed them by the rivers to provide shelter to animals. Thus, this was not seen as a success on Colorado’s part.

Meanwhile, South Dakota had established a government and was bragging about her state to all the gods. Flat, remembering her rejection, decided to one up her. So, the thinkers of Nebraska were born. These intelligent beings created a government with a balanced budget and a unicameral to function more efficiently. They founded a college, UNL, and made the mascot the Cornhuskers, because the athletes had the same determination as the first farmers. The teams still wear scarlet and cream to symbolize the farmers’ blood and tears those first years.  Nebraska had begun.

***

Chimney Rock

Now, in Nebraska, there is a peculiar rock formation near Scottsbluff. This state landmark was created when Flat rested for the first time in his tumultuous reign. After creating his state, Flat was exhausted. He laid down on his heavenly bed and fell into a deep sleep. His snores sent burst of air down to earth, weathering away stone to create Chimney Rock.

Can you find possible topics of discussion at the Feed Yard Foodie dinner table amidst her story?  Please share them in the comment section!

Can you find possible topics of discussion at the Feed Yard Foodie dinner table amidst her story? Please share them in the comment section!

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Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General, Thoughtful Thursday

The EPA, WOTUS, and the Myth of Environmental Protection…

My favorite teenager arrived home last week after spending three weeks at Trinity University taking a course entitled “Myths and Legends”. As she walked out of the airport, she was quick to tell me that a myth “didn’t have to be based on the truth or science to be real, it simply had to be accepted as such by a subset of people.”

Her words have filtered through my thoughts many times over the past few days as I pondered the recent actions of the Environmental Protection Agency. On March 25th, the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers jointly proposed a regulation redefining what waters will come under Federal jurisdiction through a new definition of “Waters of the United States (WOTUS)” under the federal Clean Water Act.

The agencies have chosen to use the powers of the Executive Branch of government to redefine an already existing law, despite the fact that Congress refused to authorize a legislative change and the proposed rule goes against the definition of WOTUS upheld in the Federal Court system. A basic understanding of United States history would pull into question this action as it is a clear violation of the Checks and Balances System upon which our government was formed.

The proposed rule is a clear overreach of power by the Executive Branch of the United States government, cleverly disguised as environmental protection.

Our farm is diversified:  in addition to the cattle feed yard, we also have grass pasture land and crop ground.  This new definition would expand EPA's jurisdiction to include our pasture and farm ground...

Our farm is diversified: in addition to the cattle feed yard, we also have grass pasture land and crop ground. This new broad definition would expand EPA’s jurisdiction to include pasture and farm ground like ours (pictured above) because during times of heavy rains/flooding parts of this land are under water…

The 88 page document that likely requires legal counsel to fully understand makes many significant changes to expand the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency. Examples of them are as follows:

  • The rule effectively allows for federal jurisdiction over any and all water as the word “navigable” will be eliminated from the Clean Water Act. This means that ditches, ephemeral streams, rain water puddles or low areas of pasture or farm ground, as well as storm water conveyances in urban/municipal areas are now able to be regulated by the EPA. As such, federal permits may be required for “normal” practices both on farms and in the cities.
  • The rule usurps the jurisdiction of ground water protection from state agencies because the EPA and Army Corps fail to distinguish “shallow subsurface flow” from “groundwater” thereby opening it up for federal regulation.

    As part of my Nebraska State Operating Permit from the NE Dept. Of Environmental Quality, I test the ground water under my feed yard twice a year to ensure that there is no contamination.  Ground water protection has historically been regulated by state agencies...

    As part of my Nebraska State Operating Permit from the NE Dept. Of Environmental Quality, I test the ground water under my feed yard twice a year to ensure that there is no contamination. Ground water protection has historically been regulated by state regulatory agencies…

Additionally, an “interpretive rule” that was published alongside the proposed definition by the same federal agencies devastates the collaborative relationship that farmers and ranchers have built with the Natural Resources Conversation Services (NRCS) by turning the NRCS into an arm of the EPA and converting the NRCS scientists from professional consultants/resources into EPA regulators.

Together, these rules make the EPA the land-use planning agency for the entire country.

As a CAFO, my cattle farm is already under the jurisdiction of the EPA as the farm has held an NPDES permit through the agency for more than 20 years.

As a CAFO, my cattle feed yard has held an EPA–NPDES permit for more than 20 years.  Therefore, the feed yard part of our farm was already regulated by both the EPA and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality prior to this rule change…

I have had one direct exposure to the Environmental Protection Agency in my 17 year tenure on the farm, and it was clearly the worst single episode of my professional career. With no notice, two EPA agents arrived to perform a “routine inspection” despite the fact that my state regulatory agency normally performed this task.  They entered my office flashing badges and instructing me that I would go to jail if I did not cooperate with them.  Quite frankly, they treated me like I was guilty of a crime despite the fact that I was both innocent and fully cooperative.

As we toured the feed yard, there was a complete lack of civility in their demeanor augmented by an apparent ignorance of how my farm operated.  One of the agents stated “I’ve never been this close to a cow before” and mistook the dirt mounds of my cattle pens for manure.  They were clearly well versed in the words that appeared on my NPDES permit, but failed to have the basic knowledge of a feed yard in order to understand how those words were practically implemented to protect the environment.

Years later, as I have analyzed this experience as well as the continual political power-play in Washington DC, I have come to realize that sometimes the goal isn’t necessarily effective environmental protection, but rather a myth based power play perpetuated by a vocal minority to increase federal government control over the American people.

familypictureblkwhite.jpgI worry that it isn’t about the environment. Rather, it is about continually expanding federal government control into the grassroots areas of our country.

Preserving our Natural Resources is such an important task — Each one of us yearns to enjoy in our beautiful legacy.  Let’s work together responsibly to protect the Earth.  It is too much of a treasure to be used in political games.  The EPA and the Army Corps need to Ditch this Rule as it belittles the cornerstones of our country to egregiously expand federal government powers under the myth of environmental protection.

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, Farming, General

A Heavy Mind Filled with Heavy Issues…

While Mother Nature likely provides my biggest challenges at the feed yard, there exist a handful of other heavy issues that bring me frustration and pause as I manage my farm.  The past week or so, my mind has been filled with two of these issues as I debated the best way to write about them.

My dad always taught me to think before I spoke.  As a child, I remember him carefully choosing his words before he shared them.  As an adult, I now think of him and draw upon that example as I prepare to share with each of you.  My daughters will attest to the fact that “Mama always has an opinion”, but I am constantly assessing those opinions to further define my stance when I struggle with contentious issues.

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I had a plan to dedicate the next couple of weeks to two topics that both challenge and upset me in my journey as a farmer:

1. Combative and intrusive federal government regulation (as demonstrated recently by the Environmental Protection Agency).

2. Fear based marketing strategies (carried out by companies such as Chipotle).

I have dedicated time to researching the topics and rolled ideas around in my head periodically for days.  But today, I have to ask each of you to be patient with me as I am not yet at a place to share many written words on the topics.  Despite not being ready to publish a detailed blog on each of the above topics, I do want to share a couple initial thoughts as well as issue a promise that I will address them in further detail as soon as my brain finishes processing them…

  • America works when everyone works — preferably in a collaborative nature blending our goals and perspectives to make our country a better place.  A federal government who gains strength through bullying tactics both defies the Constitution and inhibits its’ citizens ability to prosper.
  • There is nothing more powerful to share than the truth — There is nothing more valuable than looking at the facts in order to make an educated decision.  Companies that market and increase value for their own products by creating unmerited fear and guilt in their customers take away from each American’s personal freedom of choice.

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This Friday, we celebrate Independence Day.  As we gather amongst friends and family to celebrate our past and provide hope for the future, let us all remember what makes our country strong —

Each individual American freely working with pride and integrity…

 

 

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1011 News and “Our Town Cozad”

1011 News out of Lincoln and Grand Island, Nebraska featured my favorite blonde cowgirl/chef and I Wednesday night on the evening news.  We participated in a series segment called “Our Town Cozad” where the news station spends a week focusing on interesting things relative to our small town to share with viewers.

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Over the years, our farm has hosted a number of different reporters, and I would like to issue a special thank you to Lance Schwartz of 1011 news for his genuine interest and kind demeanor during the interview.  It was an enjoyable morning as well as a great learning experience.

Click here to watch the 3 minute video of our farm story and my journey from the city to the cattle feed yard.

 

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