The Best Part Of Me…

Anne Sally and Grannie picture

Three generations: June 1996…

I tell my daughters that they come from a long line of strong women. 

There are many types of strength, but I think that a quiet and compassionate strength is likely the most beautiful.  It is this type of strength that allows for universal greatness. A person of quiet and compassionate strength spends her life as a people builder — inspiring others to greatness.

I was blessed to grow up down the street from my grandparents.  I learned so much from each of them individually, as well as from watching them as a couple.  My beloved Grannie was the quiet strength that held the family together.  Her unconditional devotion to both her husband of 70+ years as well as to her children and grandchildren defined her as a truly remarkable woman.

Today, there are very few people willing to sacrifice personal accolades in order to enhance the lives of those that they love —

Irma Winter McCall was that type of person.


She was driven by a commitment to compassionate empathy — devoted to nurturing those around her.

While I cannot even begin to describe all that my Grannie taught me, the following lessons are those that I hold closest to my heart:

  • Marriage is a sacred commitment. Honor it by cherishing your husband.
  • Family is the epicenter of life’s true joy.  Be a devoted nurturer.
  • True beauty exists when love is given unconditionally.  Love without judgement.
  • Real strength lies in your ability to support and inspire others to greatness.  Success is defined by how many people you quietly mentor.
  • Empathy requires an open mind, and the realization that others have something meaningful to give.  Look outside of yourself so that you can be a student of the world.


It was one of my greatest joys to share my children with my grandparents.  They routinely visited Nebraska — my grandfather to bird watch, and Grannie to play with her great-grandchildren.  My girls will make their life journey realizing the same lessons that I learned from this very special lady.  They will understand that although I falter at times in my own journey, that Grannie is truly “the best part of me”.

Our family will gather to honor her on Saturday.

January 2009 032

She will be there — her spirit holding us all together — smiling down from heaven while holding my grandfather’s hand.


Filed under Family, General

A Poignant Moment…

Thoughtful Thursday

I had a poignant moment yesterday morning when I opened up my email and saw a note from an older friend.  He wanted to share some thoughts with me after reading Tuesday’s post.  As I read his words, I was taken back almost 30 years ago when my Dad shared those identical ideas with me.  I had tucked Dad’s lecture somewhere in the back of my mind, but it somehow had become lost in the chaos of my life.

My dad was a history buff and critical thinker.  He frequently analyzed the workings of the government as he strove to fulfill his personal responsibility as a United States citizen.  As a child, I remember rolling my eyes when he would start a lecture — half paying attention and half wishing that I could remove myself from the pontification session.  I now laugh as an adult because my own girls do much the same thing.

As I read my friend’s words yesterday, I could feel my dad smiling down.  It was a great reminder to me that I should have paid closer attention to those childhood lectures —That I should have internalized them and taken them with me on my life journey.   Today I share the words of the email with each of you. I hope that you will read them and take some time to critically think about the path of our government.

Perhaps we all need to analyze the first documents of our country so that we can properly reflect on how far we have strayed from our forefather’s plan. I can think of no greater thought to ponder on this

Thoughtful Thursday.


The very thoughtful personal comment from a Feed Yard Foodie reader:

I believe part of the reason we are in the pickle we’re in today is because we consider our nation a democracy, and don’t know how a republic differs from a democracy.  By definition a democracy is “majority rule.”  In a democracy individuals are represented (yes, it’s a “representative form of government”), but the purpose of that representation is to determine the will of the majority and force it on the minority.  But we are not a democracy by design or Constitution.  We were intended to be a republic.   We are supposed to be a Constitutional Republic, not a constitutional democracy.

If you are fortunate enough to read what our founders wrote personally about the formulation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you’ll find that they didn’t think of our country as a democracy.  A democracy, by its very nature, has no need for “checks and balances” or a Bill of Rights – it’s only responsibility is to determine majority will and enforce it.  Our constitution, however, was written by men who knew democracies had this weakness, and gave us something better.  They chose instead to create a republic.

In a republic the sole function of government is to protect the God-given rights of every individual from majority rule.  Our founders were all students of history and knew the kinds of government they did NOT want.  They had seen them at work for centuries – kings, tsars, military conquerors, despots and tyrants, and the excesses of the French Revolution in the name of “equality” (the leaders of the French Revolution eventually were beheading people to force them to be free…).  This was happening at very nearly the same time our Constitution was being written.  ALL of our framing documents have the character of fencing in the potential for human abuse of power.  They were written to be preventative, placing limits and accountability between the branches of government (and even between the two houses of Congress).  What a huge difference from a democracy!

I’m convinced that this idea of a republic is “lost knowledge” today.  It hasn’t been taught in our schools for generations.  The media never refer to our form of government as anything other than a democracy.  Democracies are a form of organized mob rule.  Mobs are usually fired up by power-hungry bullies, and this is a flaw in democracy that can be exploited.  Democracies always gravitate to enforcing the will of bullies instead of the will of the majority.  Bullies who understand this (and they do) deliberately convince their followers that they are headed for the utopia of democracy, but their secret agenda and end game is a dictatorship.  Lenin, Stalin, Castro and Chairman Mao all understood this.  Their takeovers were always peddled to the masses as a “people’s movement” resulting in a “People’s Republic”, when in fact they all were just plain old power-hungry dictators and despots operating behind the thinnest of pretenses.  Surely their governments were republics in name only.

Once a populace buys into thinking of their form of government as a democracy (and has forgotten what a republic is or that they were one once), all sorts of crises arise.  For instance, there’s gridlock in Congress – a war between groups who each claim to represent the majority.  Rejection of any being higher in authority than the government, who bestows rights on individuals that are supposed to be impervious to majority rule and government tinkering.  There’s frustration among those who ascribe to long-held standards of family, marriage, stewardship – because democracy, which is all they know, seems to be unable to deal with it.  (Of course, it IS unable to deal with it – democracy is inherently a denial of any authority higher than majority rule.)  All the intrusive regulations and the agencies that promulgate them are products of a government that thinks its role is to enforce someone’s rules on everyone, rather than to protect individuals from the very same thing.  Each crisis presents a new opportunity for assumption of more power, and makes the majority more and more ready to accept a political savior at any cost. This is how Hitler (the ultimate power-hungry bully) came to power in Germany.

I believe the loss of this understanding lies at the root of all of our current problems.  It has been erased from our national conscience over at least three generations.  We are simply experiencing the unavoidable consequences of tossing out the Republic to gain a democracy.  Our leadership (yes, both Republicans and Democrats) should have been leading us back to a republic for decades, but instead have relentlessly been leading us to democracy.  Many wonder, “Why is my government so broken?  After all, it’s a democracy!”  It certainly is, and that’s why it’s so broken.

A very thought provoking comment as well as a reminder to me to always step back and look at the historical big picture when evaluating a challenging circumstance.




Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

Americans Need To Engage…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…

Two hundred and twenty seven years ago, our forefathers created a document designed to guide our country to greatness. I believe that these savvy men realized that our country’s journey would be riddled with challenges. As such, they recognized that a broad diversity of intelligence and talents in addition to a governance system based on a separation of powers would be necessary to create a sustainable future for our young country.americanwindmill.jpg

The heart of a democracy lies in the grassroots involvement of its citizens. These citizens engage their government leaders and consequently have an important impact on the direction of the country. There is a responsibility that goes along with the privilege of living in a democratic nation — this responsibility begins with voting but extends far beyond this influence. It is a two way obligation between elected leaders and those that they represent.

Leadership of the people, By the people, and For the people…

The framework of our government allows for three branches (Executive, Legislative, Judicial) and, provided these branches operate within their given authority, a separation of powers offers protection from individual abuses of power. On paper the system works, and it provided our country with an effective framework for many years.

My parents raised me to value many of the same things that I believe motivated our forefathers: personal responsibility, integrity and hard work. I carry these principles with me each day as I raise my children and my cattle on our farm. I look for those values in the politicians that lead our country, as well as the governmental framework that they operate within.


While today I strive to be a proud American, I struggle to find pride in the bastardized form of democracy that is currently running our country. The unprecedented growth of our federal government and its arrogant overreach into the lives of grassroots America leaves me saddened and frustrated.

While my crystal ball is not perfectly clear, I worry that my children will live in a land:

  • Where the federal government is the largest employer in our country…
  • Where the eternal flame of entrepreneurship is extinguished by regulations and bureaucratic red tape…
  • Where activist groups and a handful of politicians who cater to them rule with little care for the wishes of the vast majority of citizens…
  • Where the democratic government laid out by the Constitution is nothing more than a façade under which the President of the United States and the Majority Senate Leader rule with total power as they defy the system carefully laid out by our forefathers…

It is time for Americans to engage — the behavior of some elected officials in Washington DC mocks the cornerstones on which our country was built.

Our system is broken and abuses of power are rampant. We all have the opportunity to engage:

  • Contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives.
  • Offer comments to President Obama and the regulatory agencies that he uses to implement his selfish platform.
  • Vote on November 4th.
  • Uphold your responsibility as a citizen of the United States of America.

    Something this beautiful is worth protecting...

    Something this beautiful is worth protecting…

It is time to once again have a government:

Of the People, By the People and For the People…


Political engagement letters by Feed Yard Foodie:







Filed under Foodie Work!, General, Rural Communities

The Greatest Gift…

Thoughtful Thursday


When we brought her home from the hospital almost 15 years ago, she fit in the palm of her daddy’s hand.  Today, she and her teammates compete at the Class C District Cross Country Championships. 

I am reminded that one of my greatest joys is sharing in the lives of my children:  mentoring them, supporting them, and loving them on their journey.  There is no greater gift.

Go Haymakers!

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Filed under Thoughtful Thursday

Settling In…

There is stress associated with relocating. A trip in a truck, a new address, a new schedule, and new caregivers are just a few of the reasons that cattle may have elevated stress levels during the transition from the ranch to the feed yard. Weather can also exacerbate this relocation stress depending on what Mother Nature sends our way.

It took me many years to accept that I was never going to be able to completely eliminate stress from my cattle’s lives — Instead, I needed to work on reducing that stress to a tolerable level, and then teaching my animals how to effectively deal with it.

The goal = Comfortable and resting calves.

The goal = Comfortable calves.

We have a very specific acclimation protocol to follow at the feed yard when we receive new cattle. I believe that this is one of the most important things that I can offer to my animals during this time of transition. It takes time and dedication to implement, but I view it as critical.

The end of an exercising session -- the calves are returning to the home pen for breakfast...

The end of an exercising session — this time of year, it is predawn — calves are returning to the home pen for breakfast…

The main components of this acclimation protocol are:

  • Daily exercising prior to morning feeding for the first 4-7 days: Calves are asked to leave the home pen and travel down the alleyway to the main corral. There they are asked to walk past the handler calmly and confidently. As soon as the morning feed is delivered to the home pen, the cattle are then asked to travel back down the alleyway to the home pen.
  • Careful feed delivery: We have special rations (casseroles) that we feed to our animals during the transition period – they are high in forage and protein and particularly formulated to meet the nutritional needs of the animals. The feed is delivered 2X per day using a consistent schedule.
  • Vaccinating and deworming: All newly arrived cattle are vaccinated and dewormed. Vaccination needs are determined using the prior health history of the cattle, and our veterinarian plays a big role in helping me provide an appropriate holistic preventative health program for the animals.
  • Individual animal health is checked multiple times throughout the day.

The core components of bovine mental and physical fitness are clean, fresh water and feed; and a comfortable home pen that provides both safety and ample room for the expression of normal play behavior.

The calves excited to see the feed truck for the afternoon feeding...

The calves excited to see the feed truck for the afternoon feeding…

The care that my crew and I offer is both professional in nature, and fueled by compassion. It is not only the right thing to do for the animals, but also an important component to responsibly raising beef for you to share with your family.


The That A Way ranch cattle finish their seven day acclimation period today. During these first days at the feed yard, the cattle established a personal comfort level in the home pen as well as building healthy eating habits that will enable them to efficiently convert our farm’s resources into beef.

It is the little things that matter most when it comes to Settling In…


Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: That A Way Ranch Steers, General

Connecting the Dots…

The vast majority of cattle have more than one address during their lifetime.  This occurs because of the long life cycle of a bovine as well as the diverse resources needed to grow beef.  Most of my cattle spend the first 8-15 months on the home ranch before traveling to my feed yard, and then ultimately a few months later to the Tyson Foods packing plant in Lexington, NE.

2011 Steers from the Denke's ranch...

2011 Steers from That A Way ranch…

About a dozen years ago, my father in law told me to design my own niche business model and start purchasing cattle that would enable it to be successful.  The model that I designed is based on tracing cattle from birth to harvest — focusing on building collaborative relationships all along the calf life cycle in order to work toward continuous improvement.

I soon discovered that building relationships with ranchers was much easier if I also acted as the cattle buyer, the person that orchestrated the deal between the rancher and the feed yard.  I perform this role in more than 85% of the transitions of cattle off of the ranch of origin into my feed yard.  I love the time that I spend interacting with ranchers — getting to know their families as well as their cattle herds — working each year to share information that will improve cattle performance, beef quality, and animal welfare.

The sunrise that gave a beautiful start to my day as I traveled to the ranch...

The sunrise that gave a beautiful start to my day as I traveled to the ranch.

I left home Wednesday morning at 5:15am to head north to Donita and Larry Denke’s That A Way ranch.  I met Donita and Larry through their son, Tony, who was a member of our Cozad community for a number of years.  Our children were friends, and Matt and I helped coach Tony’s kids on the youth track team.  Larry and Donita have a beautiful Red Angus cow herd, and their steers that I purchase are phenomenal beef producing animals.

Fall on the ranch is breathtakingly beautiful...

Fall on the ranch is breathtakingly beautiful.

The Denke’s hard work and attention to detail makes them a pleasure to work with.  My favorite farmer teases me that Larry is just as particular as I am, and that we make quite a pair.  Larry is Beef Quality Assurance certified and works carefully with his vet to ensure that calf vaccinations and health are excellent.  The Denke’s are also outstanding herdsmen, practicing the same cattle handling practices that I do at the feed yard.

Donita patiently waits on horseback for Larry to share his plan...

Donita patiently waits on horseback for Larry to share his plan while sorting and preparing to ship the calves.

Tony is there to help as well...

Tony is there to help as well.

The calves are soon loaded up on the trucks to travel to their new home at the feed yard...

The calves are soon loaded up on the trucks to travel to their new home at the feed yard.

Their dogs are just as well behaved as their calves, and obediently remain out of the way during the sorting and loading process...

The Denke’s dogs are just as well behaved as their calves, and obediently remain out of the way during the sorting and loading process.

The breeding herd remains on the home ranch...

The breeding herd remains on the home ranch…

While the steer calves, destined to make beef, travel to the feed yard where they find fresh grass hay -- water -- and a dry place to sleep their first night...

while the steer calves, destined to make beef, travel to the feed yard where they find fresh grass hay — water — and a comfortable place to sleep the first night at their new home…

 Connecting the dots in the cattle life cycle and beef farming is incredibly important.  When the Denke’s and I remain committed to providing high quality care all across the calf life cycle, each of you benefits by having access to having safe and high quality beef that is humanely raised.

*The Denke’s steers will call my feed yard home until April.  Look for periodic posts between now and then following their life as they prepare to make beef.




Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: That A Way Ranch Steers, Foodie Work!, General

Local Food…

Although I spent my formative years in a large city, I am a small town girl at heart.  I fell in love with rural America as a young girl fly fishing the trout streams in Wyoming with my family.  Today, I raise my own daughters on the beautiful Nebraska prairie.  My adopted state boasts 77,300 square miles of land, 1,869,000 million people and 4,330,000 million cattle.  Agriculture is the single largest industry in Nebraska — quite simply, we are in the business of growing food.


I classify my beef as locally grown.  Most of my cattle are born and raised in Nebraska, and harvested at the Tyson Foods facility about 20 miles from my farm.  They are pasture raised on ranches and grain finished at my feed yard— with the feed that they eat also being grown in Nebraska.

While the vast majority of my cattle are traced from birth to harvest on the prairies of the Cornhusker State, the beef that they make likely travels a significant distance before it lands on your dinner table.  Nebraska produces much more beef than its local population could possibly consume.  Our state has the land and the resources necessary to raise cattle, but not nearly enough people to eat all of the beef that they produce. As a result, we export it out of the state for the benefit of others.


My beef is locally grown, but globally consumed.

Although it is a personal goal to one day be able to market and trace my beef as a branded product all the way to the grocery store/restaurant, today the specific traceability of my beef ends at the packing plant.  A significant portion of my beef qualifies for the Certified Angus Beef brand, so you may have the good fortune of eating Anne’s Beef if you purchase beef with the CAB logo. However, I cannot specifically tell you where the beef that is grain finished on my farm ends up (other than the one animal a year that ends up in my own freezer!).


The conversation revolving around local food is an interesting one.  While the origin of food obviously plays a key role in this discussion, I believe that perhaps the underlying topic is more one of trust toward the farmer that grows it.  The more local the food, the more likely you are to know the farmer that grew it — perhaps you even have the ability to visit the farm where the product is raised.

As our human population continues to concentrate in urban areas, food production will predominantly be limited to rural areas. This will, in particular, apply to beef production because cattle require larger expanses of land to grow.  The growing geographic distance from farms to urban dwellers will necessitate that food connections evolve virtually in order to meet the need for a connection between those that grow beef and those that eat it.

This calf was born on a ranch about 30 miles from my feed yard.  The white tag links the calf back to both the cow and the bull that were his parents...

This calf was born on a ranch about 30 miles from my feed yard. He is locally grown but his beef is likely exported out of Nebraska to more urban populations…

Perhaps the time has come to expand the definition of local food to include cattle that are raised locally, but the beef that they produce is shared globally.DSC03744

Most of you have never met me, do you trust me enough to grow your beef?




Filed under CAFO, General

I am From…

Thoughtful Thursday

This week’s Thoughtful Thursday post is a free verse poem written by my favorite twelve year old…


I am From…

I’m from hard work,
sports, and the Bible.
I’m from Ann and Dave, Herbert and Sally,
and Anne and Matt.
I’m from Sundays with
I’m a proud
Fishing with grandpa,
hiking, and swimming.
I’m from horses and
Sarcasm rules
my life.
I’m a swimmer, a runner,
 an animal lover,
and a basketball post.
I’m a farmer’s daughter,
who can hold her own.
Frogs, mud pies, and butterflies
spells out my childhood.
Cancer has darkened so many happy memories,
my grandpa is with GOD.
Pets have a special place in my
Cheeseburgers at the lake with friends,
Ketchup all over us.
Cracking open clams,
Finding a crawdad inside.
I’m from love and laughs,
Tears and regrets.
I’m from “Grace,” “Damn it,” and
 “Heaven Preserve Us”.
I’m from gardening with mom,
no allowance.
 I’m from shot guns, school work,
And books.
I’m from bruises, scars,
And sisters.
Trips… visiting
I’m from picking sweetcorn, climbing trees,
And falling off donkeys.
But most of all
I’m proud to live in small town U.S.A


Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday