The Gift of Giving…A behind the scenes glimpse of small town America

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from James 3:13

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.


I became a farmer when I fell in love with my favorite farmer. Just as I married into agriculture, I also married into rural America. For a wedding gift, some of my college friends got a large map of the United States, entitled it “Civilization: A Nebraskan’s Guide Out”, and marked lines from Cozad, Nebraska to their home towns thereby showing me how to get back to civilization on the East Coast 😉 . The gift was a tongue in cheek joke stemming from the fact that none of them could believe that I actually wanted to move to a tiny town in Nebraska and make my life there as a farmer.

Twenty two years later, the map (which I framed) is faded and blurred but I still smile every time that I look at it. I knew at age 21 that Matt and I were meant to be together, and I opened my heart to the community that welcomed us a year later when we moved back to the farm. I have never needed “A Nebraskan’s Guide Out” because my adopted home state still holds my heart just as firmly as my favorite farmer.

There is a statistic floating around social media right now stating that 53% of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers actively volunteer in their local and state communities (compared with just 7% of the general public). While I have not “fact checked” this statistic, I can say that my life experiences in Nebraska demonstrate the dedication of Rural America to giving back. I know that my community inspires me to actively volunteer as I view sharing of myself to help others as a top life priority.  

Over the years, I have learned the true gift of giving. It has two components and I truly treasure them both.

  1. An unending well of energy fills your soul when you reach out in faith to help others. Good works are a demonstration of faith — they are the Holy Spirit guiding your life so that your love is shared, your talents are used to honor your neighbors, and your actions provide a living display of God’s loving hand.
  2. Giving in love inspires gifts of love. Good works are contagious as they allow for the spread of faith. Random acts of kindness are not random. Rather, they are intentional acts of love that result from a joyful and faithful heart. God is on the move through each one of us as we intentionally share of ourselves to help others.

Last weekend, our family took a four day trip to Colorado. February is generally a quiet time for Matt on the farm, so we try to take advantage of it for some intentional family time. My favorite farmer loves to snow ski and my girls happily zoom down the mountain in his wake. The long weekend is a time for us to regroup as a family and is something that both Matt and I treasure.

Our second day gone, Matt received word that one of his storage buildings at the alfalfa mill had caught fire. Matt burns sawdust (as a means of recycling) for energy to run the alfalfa dehydration plant during the summer harvest months. It allows us to reduce the environmental footprint of the farm because it uses a “waste product” to create the energy needed to dry and pellet the alfalfa. It is necessary to accumulate and store the sawdust over the winter months to ensure the needed supply for the summer months. Matt’s crew was working in the building on Friday when equipment malfunctioned – sparked – and started a fire.

The local volunteer fire department, along with our farm crew, worked diligently to contain the fire. Their hard work enabled us to continue with our family weekend instead of packing up to rush home to an emergency. Matt spent some needed time on the telephone, and worried rather than sleeping most of the night, but we were able to salvage what will likely be our last vacation before our oldest daughter leaves for college next fall.

Our crew – Our community – banded together to give us a gift. We didn’t even need to ask for it. It was given freely and with generous hearts. To me, this is the exquisite beauty of rural Nebraska. When challenges come, a support network automatically assembles to fill the need. Our community is filled with neighbors – those that help with giving hearts and a dedication to James’ call for demonstrating faith through good works.

Matt and I would like to thank all those that gave of themselves to lend aid. Your selfless generosity fills my heart with the joy of faith, and humbles me with the knowledge that we are loved — cared for — and honored as members of our family of Cozad. The clean up will take time, patience, and much work but you all have given us a reason to be thankful in the face of challenge.

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Find your grit…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes via my favorite brunette who blessed me with this verse from Psalms on my birthday last week. Psalm 46:5

God is with her, she will not fail. God will help her at the break of day.


I love this verse for a variety of reasons. It speaks to the grit and determination that a successful life requires while at the same time reminding us that we do not travel the journey alone. I’ve experienced more than 20 years of sunrises on the farm. Each morning, I pause for a moment at the break of day to notice the beauty around me.

My memory book is chocked full of “dawn moments”, but likely the most poignant was the morning that I lost my steadfast partner. I arrived at the feed yard to read bunks and exercise calves a few minutes before six. My cowboy met me at the gate with a grim look on his face. I expected him to tell me that we’d had calves get out, — I never expected him to look at me with a tear in his eye and say, “Studly’s gone.”

There are animals that come into our lives and change our hearts. Studly was one of those. A big quarterhorse with a streak of loyalty that perfectly complimented his goofy personality, Studly brought a daily chuckle to my life. He was a bit lazy, but you could always count on him to take care of you while you were taking care of animal chores.

I loved that horse.

The day that I lost him was a hard one.

It’s been more than four years since that morning and I still blink back the tears every time that I think about it. The afternoon before, we left an apparently healthy and strong horse happily munching prairie hay. That morning, my cowboy found him lying dead in the pasture. With no sign of struggle, the vet diagnosed a heart attack as the culprit and I told myself that I should be glad that he didn’t suffer.

Life goes on — especially on a farm — where daily chores ensure that animals remain healthy and thrive. Death, even the death of a beloved partner, does not stop the chore process so I pressed on. I had a newly arrived group of cattle that I was acclimating, so I pulled my eyes from his unmoving body and forced my feet to walk away.

I exercised calves that morning with tears streaming down my face, telling myself over and over again to focus and move on. I wanted to crawl in a hole and bawl my eyes out, but I packed my faith and let God carry me through the day.


Dealing with loss and disappointment provides perhaps one of life’s hardest challenges. Learning to cope and press on provides a critical step on the journey. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to understand that I do not fail. I persevere because God has my back and faithfully fills the gap for me. He props me up on the hard days, and then sits back with a big smile on his face as I dig deep to find the strength to continue.

He is the master of balance — providing just the right amount of support — with a loving hand and a compassionate spirit.  

Each break of day brings opportunity.

Each sunrise brings the promise of peace and grace.

And as the sun crests the horizon, I remind myself that I only need to reach for it in order to fill my heart with the quiet strength of perseverance and the steadfast grace of walking with God on the journey.

It is particularly meaningful for me for my daughter to chose this bible verse to share with me. Her gift fills my heart with the knowledge that she gets it. And wherever her life takes her as she begins college next fall, she understands the need to grip tenaciously to the knowledge that God will never let her fail. He will help her at the break of each day and together they will persevere with greatness.

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It means more when you share it with a cheerful heart…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s thoughts come from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians Chap. 9:7-9

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all that you need. Then you will always have everything that you need and plenty left over to share with others. 


Finishing an ocean mile race as part of my training circa 1992

When I was a young athlete, I remember my dad telling me, “Anne, if you are going to do something then you need to do it well.” With him, there was no halfway, and I learned to work with diligence and dedication to make the most of my God-given talent. At 5’3″ and 105#, I was often the smallest backstroker in the pool. I think that some wondered how I found success, but I knew the secret — I found that hard work brought passion and passion brought hard work. It was a winning cycle that both brought honor to my sport and carried me through the majority of my athletic career.

While I possessed a keen grip on the notion of bringing honor to my God-given talents through dedication and hard work, I had begun my journey into adulthood before I gave much intentional thought to the concept of “giving”. The idea of turning those talents into cheerful gifts to others came after trading the ocean for the Nebraska prairie. Over the years, there have certainly been times that my efforts benefited others, but a focus on daily giving with a cheerful heart is still a work in progress for me.

I think that one of the things that I love most about being a cattle caregiver is the simplicity of the relationship. My cattle need me for daily care, and I need them to turn the resources on my farm into beef which nourishes my body.

There are no games, there are no politics, there are no pretensions.

Very simply, there exists only an honest display of bidirectional giving.

I can’t honestly say if cattle experience the emotion of joy; but I can report that I gain a feeling of peace and contentment as I fulfill my responsibilities as an animal caregiver — giving from a cheerful heart to fulfill a noble calling.


For me, things become more complicated in my relationships with other people. My “cheerful heart” sometimes wants to place expectations on others instead of simply finding honor in the act of sharing and giving. I forget the point of sharing when I do not place my faith at the heart of my gift.

I believe that God desires us to give as He gives

cheerfully, generously, and without any strings

knowing that our hearts possess enough love for everyone and our actions are fueled by a divine power of unending goodness.

I know that with each day that passes, I intentionally mature in my faith as my heart builds a habit of sharing with gratitude — trading unhealthy expectations for empathy and love.

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Lean while pressing on…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today I pull from both the Old and the New Testament as I work to internalize the concept of leaning while pressing on.

The Old Testament reading comes from Hosea 6:3

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in the early spring.”

The New Testament reading comes from Matthew 7:7

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone that asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”


I’ll never forget the “Thanksgiving Blizzard”. It began the Sunday after Thanksgiving when Karyn (my youngest) was just a toddler. The day prior was 60 degrees and sunny, but the weather changed quickly as 70 mile per hour winds beat down on Central Nebraska for 36 hours piling snow into drifts taller than my favorite farmer.

It took us almost 24 hours to be able to get out to the feed yard to check on the cattle. My favorite farmer and my foreman got stuck multiple times trying to make the 3 mile trip west from our house. The cattle huddled together to brave the storm, and then took the liberty of wandering from pen to pen when the snow drifted higher than the fences. We were blessed that none of the animals left the feed yard facility to wander onto the nearby roads.

In addition to having cattle at the feed yard at the time, we also had a group of animals grazing the left over cornstalks just west of my house. We live about a mile north of town, and – at the time – the local community hospital was constructing an assisted living facility on the edge of town closest to my house. The facility had walls and a roof but no windows or doors when the storm came through. The cattle grazing by my house wisely walked over the drifted snow and headed south to the shelter of the building. Fences are not very useful when they become completely covered in packed snow! My favorite farmer serves on the local hospital board and was a bit sheepish when he had to relate to the rest of the members that it was our cattle hanging out in the unfinished assisted living facility as the storm raged through…

This storm served as an epiphany for me.

  • I am not naturally a person who leans on others — I pride myself in being strong and independent.
  • While I love to work, I shy away from asking for help.
  • I like to be in control.

I clearly had no control over the weather, and it took a lot of work by many different people to get our community back to a state of normality after the storm passed.


I’ve spent decades trying to figure out the balance of leaning while pressing on. 

  • What does it truly mean to “give it to God”?
  • What is my role as I look to find strength in Him?

I first started articulating the phrase “give it to God” as I read and talked about faith with my girls when they were young. Over time, it has become a reoccurring theme as well as a personal mantra for me as I try to worry less and do a better job of packing my faith to live with grace.

I think that learning to lean while pressing on occurs in stages:

  1. Recognizing that strength, joy and hope come from pressing on to develop a meaningful relationship with Jesus.
  2. Realizing that we are never alone on the journey.
  3. Internalizing that while God carries us through strength in faith, that we must still do our part — asking, seeking, knocking.

This lesson became clear to me as I trained and competed in my first half marathon in 2017

While giving it to God grants us the strength to press on, it does not absolve us from responsibility. We must put in the work in order to find success.

To me, faith is a symbiotic process. God brings dedicated love and support to us, we then must respond to His offer with hearts of gratitude and untiring efforts. 

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Cycles of giving…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s quote can be found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6:38

“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount that you give will determine the amount you get back.”


Life on a farm intrinsically teaches a lesson in the cycle of giving. As Howard Buffet notes in his book, Forty Chances, a farmer has approximately 40 chances (growing cycles) over his lifetime to use his efforts to bring meaning to the world. Whether its tilling the soil or caring for a calf, as adult farmers, we each have around 40 years of contribution.

Matt and I are firmly in the middle of our forty year tenure — far enough through the process to understand fully what it means, but with enough chances left that we are inspired to constantly strive to do it better. It takes a lot of faith to farm. Diligent care for the land and our animals provides the structure to our days, but uncontrollable forces like Mother Nature can undermine our success as caretakers. The process has taught me to tenaciously give, stubbornly packing my belief that God will never let the cup run empty.

Matt giving a young Megan a lesson in water quality

We honor our resources on the farm by always getting smarter about how to use them. We work, we mature in our knowledge, and we are renewed by our dedication to the goal. A tangible example of this is the move to shift from gravity pipe irrigation to pivot technology combined with soil moisture sensors which allows us to conserve water while optimizing crop yields.


As I travel into my third decade of chances, I find myself digging deeper to better understand what it really means to give. Jesus’s instruction, “Give and you will receive”, is a very basic one. However, it also holds complexity and depth. In order to fully give, you must

  • gather as a team
  • connect as a unified group
  • contribute unselfishly

I feel as though my life has been a series of experiences where God tenaciously tries to teach me the value of giving as a team. Jesus’s words, “pressed down, shaken together to make room for more” denotes the importance of we. Giving is not a singular act. It takes both a donor and a receiver. We bring honor to the act when we work together — creating a continuous cycle rather than one independent input. The cycle perpetuates as givers become receivers and receivers become givers — when the team comes together to fill the cup.

If we only have a finite number of chances, then it behooves us to make the most of each and every one. I may have learned that lesson on the farm, but it carries over to every aspect of my life. The Holy Spirit reminds me daily that #TogetherWeAreStronger.

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Wednesday Wisdom…

Today kicks off my new series, “Wednesday Wisdom” 🙂


I plan to spend the rest of the winter sharing a favorite bible quote each week along with how life on the farm reinforces the lesson that I find in the words. I hope that this will help you all to better understand how faith changes my heart as well as the role that it plays for farmers as we make our way along the journey of using God’s gift of natural resources in order to grow food.


Today’s quote can be found in Paul’s letter to Galatians Chapter 6:2-3.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”


I find Paul’s bluntness incredibly refreshing. Of the many lessons that I’ve learned on the farm, I believe the most important is the art of sharing responsibility. The list of daily chores gets long, and most are vital to the wellbeing of our animals. When you fully embrace the responsibility of being an animal caregiver, taking pride in completing chores well becomes the norm. Learning to work as a team not only increases efficiency, but also brings joy to the day as sharing a burden lightens it — not just in a physical way but also in an emotional way.

A constant supply of fresh water helps to ensure good health with cattle, so cleaning and checking water tanks lives somewhere near the top of the chore list. I’ve been known to tell my favorite blonde cowgirl that washing water tanks builds character. She’s been known to reply that her character cup is overflowing 😉

In all honesty, washing water tanks is not fun. It’s a hot, sweaty job in the summer and a bone chilling cold one in the winter — and bending over to scrub is always hard on your back. However, there is honor to be found in the task because it fulfills a basic animal need. Sharing the burden of the chore sets everyone up for success.

The Progressive Beef management program that all of our feed yards operate by requires regular water tank cleaning. It’s a big deal — and something that I am particular about as an animal welfare specialist. Clean water is just that important. One of our feed yards has a really awesome water tank cleaning plan. Once a week, the entire crew divides the feed yard into groups of pens and each crew member goes out after lunch to clean their assigned water tanks. Every member of the team (including the manager) washes tanks, sharing the chore in order to reduce any one team member’s individual burden.


To me, this is a beautiful example of how we implement God’s teachings on the farm. Everyone contributes to complete the common goal of providing for our animals. No one is too important to help, no matter how mundane the task. Humility blends with strength to bring honor to the journey 🙂

 

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Touching Base…

It seems that although I have been busy engaging on social media, that I have not done a good job checking in with each of you at Feed Yard Foodie. I am in the process of developing a new weekly theme to carry through the winter; but have not had the opportunity to get it completely lined out in my mind. I hope to have this started next week.

In the meantime, I figured that I would share links to my work on social media for Innovative Livestock Services and the Beef Marketing Group. For those of you that follow me on facebook, you have seen this content. For those of you that don’t, I hope that you will take a look at it. I found it very personally meaningful to create 🙂

2018 started with a video describing the Beef Marketing Group — who we are — and what we value. For those of you who wonder about the agricultural cooperative that I work for, this will give you a glimpse of the people and our focus.

This week premiered another video talking about “What is life like in a cattle feedlot?” This video appeared on Innovative Livestock Services as part of our educational series to provide accurate information to folks interesting in learning about “where their beef comes from”. The video is performing amazingly well on facebook with over 30,500 views in the two days that it has been up 🙂

For those of you that like to read words instead of watching videos, here is a link to a blog post that I recently wrote comparing living space in a feedlot to New York City.

I hope that each one of you experienced a blessed Christmas season and a Happy New Year! Thank you for all that you do to support me on this social media journey. #togetherwearestronger

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Good Idea! Poor Execution…

My favorite farmer and I played racquetball on Saturday morning. Temperatures were hovering around zero outside, so we headed for the indoor court after I got farm chores finished.  We both enjoy athletics as well as doing things together, so it’s a good fit on a cold day.

I’ve loved Matt since I was eighteen and we’ve been married more than half of my life. One of our strengths as a couple is our dedication to the concept of team. We both place a priority on the realization that together we are stronger, just as we also acknowledge that the key to this is using our blend of strengths and weaknesses to continuously work to make the team better.

Matt is, hands down, a better racquetball player than I am. He’s bigger – He’s stronger –He’s faster. In fact, he’s also ambidextrous so he doesn’t have a “weak side”. Playing the game could be frustrating for me with him acing the serve and never giving me the ability to participate; but that isn’t the case because of our unwritten rule of always working to build the team.

As we play racquetball, I have lots of good ideas with poor execution. I’d never played the sport before I met Matt, and our games are pretty infrequent with the responsibilities of family and farm chores. I know enough that I can envision what I need to do, but my body doesn’t always move with the precision needed to make the play. However, each time that we play, I get better. This happens for two reasons:

  1. I bring a positive and passionate attitude to the games.
  2. Matt holds strong to the goal of helping the team to get stronger.

There is a reason that there is no “I” in TEAM. The lack of “I” keeps the team going with universal hope for the future.

Life is full of times when we work to build different skills. It is also full of moments when a fresh set of eyes allows for the development of good ideas. I believe that the secret to success is in the team mentality.  It creates a culture which nurtures the teammates. New ideas are created and embraced, and a level of support exists to inspire the work needed to improve execution.

  • It takes good ideas to inspire continuous improvement.
  • It takes practice to develop good execution.

Common acceptance of the goal, good communication, an underlying level of respect, and a dedication to finding group success makes each individual teammate stronger just as it builds the team. The score board said that I lost all three racquetball games, but I had moments of success and lots of improvement over the two hour period. Matt broke a sweat and I only lost the last game by two points. We finished with smiles on our faces – looking forward to the next time.

Sometimes, that’s the biggest victory of all 🙂

How do you build the concept of “team” in your life?

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