Category Archives: General

Why We Write — Pass Along Questions…

My blogging friend at Seasonsgirl sent an intriguing “blogging pass along” my way this week. It delves into the mind of a blogger in an attempt to explain the question “Why We Write”. The intellectual in me loves these types of things, so here are my thoughts on the four questions asked of me…

Thoughtful Thursday!

What are you working on relative to writing?  I like to laugh that my blog is a labor of love. Writing is not something that a cattle feed yard manager does with any frequency, so blogging provides me with an outlet for my creative/writing interests. Because I have a busy family life with three daughters in addition to a farm of thousands of cattle and crop acres, at this time, my blog is my only writing project. The fifteen year plan is to write a book chronicling my journey from South Florida city girl to Nebraska cattle feed yard boss lady.

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What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?  Blogging is a personal journey for me, a sharing of my family and my farm, so it is intrinsically unique because of its personal nature. There are also not very many cattle feed yard owners/managers that participate in the world of social media which further adds to my uniqueness.

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Why do you write what you do?  My desire is to mix personal family stories and pictures with practical/real life experiences that I have on the farm.   At its’ very essence, I want to dispel the myth of the “factory farm” and place my CAFO in a truthful light. I am also in love with Rural America and my town of Cozad, and want to share the beauty of a rural lifestyle.

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How does your writing process work?  I view writing as one of my life’s vocations. I write when I have something to say or share, and I like both the format of writing in series and writing individual posts that come to me spontaneously. Writing also serves as an act of catharsis for me — a way for my brain to process experiences as well as focus on the blessings that occur in my daily life. It helps me to remain positive despite the challenges that I face. In the three years of my blogging journey, a love of photography has also developed, and sharing visual images of my family and farm has become a great passion.

Blogging has truly been a journey for me — what began as a simple desire to dispel myths relative to cattle farming and feed yards has turned into a process of personal growth. I learn so very much by sharing my farm, and truly value to feedback that I receive from my readers.

And now I tag two other writers that I want to learn more about:

 The first is Terryn at FaithFamilyBeef. I first met Terryn when she was a college student, and have watched her mature into a talented cattle woman as well as a dedicated and loving wife and mother. Terryn and her husband ranch in Western Nebraska about three hours from my farm.

The second is Robyn at RanchWifeChronicles. Robyn grew up in Nebraska but has made a life with her husband on a ranch in South Dakota.   She has been very helpful to me as I have learned the art of blogging and picture taking, and has served as a great mentor and resource.  She even came to visit our farm a couple of years ago which was really fun!

A big thanks to Seasonsgirl for inspiring me to think about why I write — Also, a big thanks to all of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read my posts…

 

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Environmental Regulation…

Protecting the Environment and Caring for Our Animals To Bring You Safe, Great Tasting High-Quality Nebraska Beef..

The above is the mission statement for my cattle feed yard.  I drafted it many years ago when I wanted to create a simple, yet powerful commitment for my farm.  This statement brings together the three pillars of my personal pledge as a farmer:

  • Commitment to Environmental Responsibility
  • Commitment to Animal Well-being
  • Commitment to Food Safety

Interestingly enough, these are also the three pillars of the Progressive Beef program.  I guess that great minds thing alike!

karyncalf.jpgI view each pillar as a promise that begins with daily animal care and management of the feed yard, but also extends past my farm’s boarders.

When I began my tenure at the feed yard, I carried with me a deep seeded belief that doing the right thing was a universal philosophy shared by everyone.  It took me many years to fully understand why environmental regulation needed to be a component of environmental responsibility.  Perhaps I was naive, but I viewed regulation as an unnecessary step to protecting the resources of my farm.

Taking care of our farm seemed as natural to me as breathing.  The beauty of the land and our desire for long term sustainability to this day continues to demand that my favorite farmer and I are dedicated care takers.

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Our farm is both our livelihood and our home — Our pride and our legacy.

As I quickly approach 40 years of wisdom, I recognize that regulation is a reality.  There are times when I am filled with frustration, doing hours of tedious record keeping in order to satisfy government requirements.  But, there are also times when regulations likely push me to do a more comprehensive job on my quest for environmental responsibility.  Just like anything in life, there are both positives and negatives in every journey that we undertake.

I made a decision several years ago that I needed to be both committed to environmental responsibility on my farm, and also strive to collaboratively work with my state regulatory agency.  We share the common goal, caring for Nebraska’s natural resources, and likely can learn from each other because our perspectives are different.

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Last week, I hosted a group from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality at the feed yard.  This visit was a follow up from a talk that I gave at NDEQ’s annual field inspector retreat last April.  It gave me the opportunity to meet Blake Onken, the new Supervisor for the Agriculture Section of the Water Quality Division of the NDEQ, as well as Cay Ewoldt who is a section supervisor for the Field Services office.  Accompanying them was my NDEQ field inspector, Jerry Newth, who is in charge of auditing the feed yard on a yearly basis.

Following a tour of the feed yard, we visited for more than an hour about many issues and concerns, and how we can work to improve the collaborative nature of our relationship.  I appreciate the feedback that they offered to me and hope that I was able to give them a glimpse into the perspective of a cattle feed yard owner.  I am optimistic that we can continue to make positive improvements in our journey toward environmental stewardship.

While each one of us, in our own way, can pursue the common goal — I believe that it is likely that together we can get there more effectively. 

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I would like to thank Blake, Cay, and Jerry for taking the time to visit with me.  Additionally, I would like to challenge each one of us involved in both agriculture and environmental regulation to strive to attain a strong measure of collaboration. 

The future of both our country and our earth depends on it…

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Pasture Raised and Grain Finished…

Thoughtful Thursday

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Pasture Raised, Grain Finished, Responsibly Grown — From Our Farm to Your Table

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Random Thoughts From the Farm…

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind at the Feed Yard Foodie Farm.  Nebraska enjoys 17 hours of daylight each day during the month of June, but the days still do not seem long enough to get everything finished…

In light of the organized chaos that has permeated our routine recently, I thought that I would share some random thoughts from the farm:

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1. I took two different groups of fall born calves to our grass pasture to graze for the summer months.  They are belly deep in grass and are likely pretty close to being in bovine heaven.

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2. The Feed Yard had a Progressive Beef internal audit conducted by the Quality Assurance Director of the Beef Marketing Group.  Heather does a great job of keeping all of us on our toes.  The feed yard scored very well on the audit solidly qualifying for the Excellent Category getting 230.5 out of 232.5 points.

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3. My favorite teenager went south to Texas for a three week nerd camp through the Duke University TIP program.  She will spend her time taking a concentrated class on Myths and Legends (Greek, Roman, and Norse Mythology as well as Native American Legends) and the role that they play in the development of culture.

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My quarter horse, Dandy, came over to visit his new neighbors…

4. The rest of the family has picked up her chicken chores complete with finishing the chicken run so that the quickly growing birds could move into their new home.

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5. The Cozad Swim Team, which I help to coach and the family all competes for, won the first two swim meets of the season with a strong showing of physical and mental fitness!

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6. Finally, my favorite farmer and I celebrated our 18 wedding anniversary on Sunday.  We stole away for a few hours to water ski that afternoon.  I think that I likely found the only Nebraska farm boy with an incredible talent for water skiing that has ever attended Dartmouth College :)  Needless to say, skiing at the lake on a summer afternoon is one of the many things that we love to do together.

I hope to get into a more regular writing pattern over the next few weeks, but you all will have to bear with me during the swimming season as I spend 10-15 hours a week on the pool deck coaching which wrecks havoc with my blogging schedule!

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In the meantime, we are wishing you and your families fun summer times!

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Filed under Family, Farming, General

Living With Grace — Finding the Joy…

Today our community lay to rest a beautiful woman — A woman who quietly demonstrated the splendor of living with grace — Eternally radiating joy and optimism amidst her strong and steadfast faith.

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There is something magical about a person that radiates joy. Optimism serves as a magnet, and others naturally look to that special person for support and mentoring. I am not sure that I ever really knew someone whose heart and soul were so full of such unselfish joy before I met Judy.

My favorite farmer was blessed to know her his entire life — the mom of his close friend, Judy had a hand in gently guiding him down his early life path. In typical “Judy fashion” she extended this love to me when I moved to Cozad, and then to my girls when they entered the world.

I believe that there are many who are called “Mother” by a few, but there are a few very special people that are called to be a “mother” to many.

Judy was one of those special few, and she played this role with an exquisite blend of compassion and empathy. Her love for others was followed closely by a love of music. A talented piano player and organist, Judy shared her gift with many. My girls were blessed to have her as a piano teacher from the time that my favorite teenager started Kindergarten.

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Those almost 10 years of piano lessons taught my girls so very much more than music literacy — Judy passed on to them the joy and harmony that comes from a life based on faith. One that is celebrated by music and dancing, and centered in a strong love of God.

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The pot that the girls chose for Judy when she got sick — it speaks volumes toward what she taught them…

Judy had a way of “softening” those around her — reminding us to focus on the priorities of love and faith. It was in this capacity that she most affected my life. There have been countless times in the last 17 years that this “hard-nosed feed yard boss lady” needed a lesson in unconditional love and acceptance of others. It seemed as though whenever I needed this most, I would look up and see Judy smiling at me with a look in her eye that spoke volumes.

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As I sat in the church today, I could hear Judy telling me to look for the joy — The joy that comes from unselfishly sharing yourself with others. Through my tears, I could picture her encouraging me to live with grace—to strive to be the light that allows everyone else’s talents to shine just a little bit brighter.

I call the following mediation from Mother Teresa, “Judy’s Prayer”, because it describes my friend with a beautiful poetic clarity.

Joy shows from the eyes, it appears when one speaks and walks. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. When people find in your eyes that habitual happiness, they will understand that they are the beloved children of God.

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A Request…

Thoughtful Thursday

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As I drive across the Sandhills of Nebraska, I see the above image frequently.  I find peace as I look at the metal replica of a cowboy tipping his hat in prayer.

Today, I make a request more than providing a thought for Thursday.  I ask that each one of you take a moment to pray for a dear friend of mine who will soon take her place in heaven.

Judy helped to bring the words of Mother Teresa to me some time ago

– while there are many that I ponder –

below are the ones that I grasp for during these challenging times…

Yesterday is Gone.

Tomorrow has not yet come.

We have only today.

Let us begin.

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Diversifying the Farm…

My favorite farmer and I have been known to pontificate to our girls about the importance of diversity in the business context of our farm.  While both of us would argue that our pontifications frequently fall upon deaf ears, the girls obviously listen enough to be able to use our words to manipulate a situation!

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Normally our discussions about diversification revolve around cattle, traditional and organically grown crops, and learning how to market the fruits of our farm effectively.  About a month ago, my favorite teenager announced that “in order to further diversify our farm, that our family should get layer chickens.”  After all,

“Dad always says that we should be equal opportunity barnyard supporters.”

My immediate answer was “No” as I was not looking to add to my own chore load.  Because she is a product of two very stubborn people, instead of abandoning the idea, my daughter proceeded to fully research layer hens via the internet and asking questions of chicken enthusiasts.  She impressed me with her thorough research and plan development, and the next thing that I knew she had talked her Dad into going to the lumber yard for supplies to construct a coop.AGMattcoopconstruction1.jpg

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What began as a family joke metamorphed into a terrific “father-daughter” project.  The coop that Ashley Grace constructed is beautiful, functional, and should make a nice home for the 5 Rhode Island Red chicks that our family adopted Memorial Day weekend.  The “run” has yet to be constructed because the little chicks will spend the next few weeks growing in an old livestock water tank that she adapted for the chicks.

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I am laughing that the new screened in porch that we built last fall is now home to the chicks instead of the patio furniture that I intended to fill it with, and I am chalking this experience up to “the things that we agree to do for our children”.  I hope that this will be a fruitful learning experience for all three of the girls, as they will be the primary caregivers for these new “food animals” at our house.

You might wonder what my favorite teenager has decided to name her new chicks…

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In keeping with her “intellectual personality”, Ashley Grace named the chicks after Shakespeare characters and a Norse Mythology God:

  • Lady Macbeth (Macbeth)
  • Juliet (Romeo and Juliet)
  • Ophelia (Hamlet)
  • Moth (Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • Loki (Norse Mythology God)

My favorite farmer is having nightmares about what she may name our future grandchildren…

 

 

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The Future…

Thoughtful Thursday

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The University of Texas’s school slogan is:

“What starts here changes the world.”

The above is a picture of the 41 young athletes that attended our kickoff season swim team retreat over Memorial Day.

When I look at them, I see the future.

When I coach them, I teach them to work hard and to believe in excellence.

With each swim practice they become stronger: physically and mentally;

and I smile knowing that

what they learn will help them to one day change the world…

 

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