One Story at a Time…

How do we build trust with our urban customers?

I often receive this question when visiting with farmers or groups of students that plan to make agriculture their choice of career. I think that deep down everyone realizes the true answer, and yet there is always that same look of hope in their eyes as they wait for my response.

The look of hope soon becomes a look of resignation as I reply,

One story at a time.”

Reality dictates that there are no short cuts to building relationships. A basic understanding of psychology reminds us that trust requires a relationship. Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is also no such thing as a quick fix to the quagmire that agriculture faces in 2017.

Farmers spend their days growing food, while their urban customers ask for transparency to fill the great void of trust that exists in our country. While at times it seems that we come to the issue with very different perspectives, I am fairly certain that we will all make a strong team if we can bridge the trust gap.

Many years ago, in the early days of Feed Yard Foodie, I wrote a blog post entitled, It’s not about the trailerAlthough it was written in 2012 and I laugh at how small my girls were in the picture, I believe that the heart of the message stands the test of time.

We build trust by sharing of ourselves.

Over the past six weeks, I presented to students at three universities/colleges in Nebraska and Kansas. The title of my presentation was “Sustainability, Responsibility, and the Art of Balance”.

My hour long presentation held ten main messages:

  1. Success is a journey, not a moment in time. It should be driven by your core values and your passion to be better tomorrow than you are today.
  2. Live a story worth telling, and then tell it with a passion. Over time, others may begin to also tell your story — sharing is a good thing.
  3. Remember that as farmers we do not just grow food — we grow our communities and we grow the future. Be inspired to volunteer and share your gifts to help make the world a better place.
  4. Pack your FAITH — make goals and stay true to your core values.  Hold yourself accountable!
  5. Balance your commitment to people, animals, and planet by using science to judiciously use your farm’s resources, and your heart to help you build relationships.
  6. Engage in the food production conversation because the stability of our country is intrinsically tied to the availability of a safe, plentiful food supply.
  7. Realize that you can learn something from everyone. They key to building relationships is learning to deal with awkward moments with both grace and class.
  8. Understand that it is the courage to continue that counts. The journey is long and it is hard — learn how to refill your cup.
  9. Be KIND. It does not always matter that you are right, but it does matter that you are kind.
  10. Believers make good team members. Recognize that together we are stronger, and we must all be inspired to believe in order to be successful.

This week I discovered that my alma mater, Dartmouth College, picked up and shared a news article that resulted from my presentation at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. It made me want to laugh with the joy of victory, and cry with the huge bubble of emotion that comes from a long, long journey of hard work trying to connect the people of my past with the people of my present.

It only took one story to bring two vastly different college cultures together for a moment of time.

A relationship begins with a moment of time.

Can you imagine the impact of hundreds of thousands of those moments?

Are you ready to tell your story?

The team needs you.

After all, that’s how we build trust.

 

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

Chicken 201…

The Feed Yard Foodie family entered the realm of Chicken 201 this spring as we started our second flock of Rhode Island Red laying hens. After four years, the first flock suffered “laying fatigue” so it was time to replenish with young birds. The plan was to start all six chicks at once — After a cat defugalty, we ended up with two sets of three birds each about 3 weeks apart in age.

The first set of three grew too big for the horse water tank that we start the chicks in, so we spent some time Easter afternoon preparing the coop and moving the larger hens out of the chicken crib and into the big kid house…The smaller set will remain in the chicken crib for a few more weeks while they grow and become better able to keep themselves warm.

My favorite farmer has been fighting a nasty fever virus, but he cowboyed up and helped to fix a few things in the run. He seems to be pretty susceptible to the requests of his girls 😉 One of the things that I like most about the chicks is the projects that they make for Matt and the girls to do together. While on a smaller scale, they are similar to the cattle handling projects that the girls and I share.

Ashley Grace is currently teaching the hens how to leave and re-enter the coop so that they can enjoy the sun, food and water that we put out in the run. It is highly entertaining! We are looking forward to having a constant supply of eggs again.

Grandma spent the Easter weekend visiting from Florida. She got to play farmer a bit between the cattle at the pasture and the chick project at home.

Easter blessings from our family to yours!

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

Going To Grass…

After twenty years in Nebraska, I can report that the world turning green in the springtime provides one of the year’s greatest blessings. A little bit of rain, some sunshine, and warming temperatures brings the countryside to life after a long winter.

We celebrated the start of spring yesterday taking our first set of cattle to grass. These yearling steers shipped from a ranch about 25 miles from our farm and will grow on our pastures for the first part of the summer.

It is good to have some cattle on the farm again. The beautiful blue skies and 70 degree temperatures provided an awesome day to go to grass. My two blondes are looking forward to helping to care for the cattle while they graze our pastures.

After these cattle finish growing on grass, they will ship to Roberts Cattle Company in Lexington, Nebraska. My new job at the Beef Marketing Group allows me to play a role on the feed yard team at Roberts, helping them with their cattle care and responsibilities with the Progressive Beef program. I am looking forward to being able to trace these calves and their care all of the way through the feeding period and on into the packing plant.

Look for periodic updates on these yearling steers and the fall calves also born on the Lazy YN Ranch that will be spending quality time on the Feed Yard Foodie farm this spring/summer.

It’s always fun to see some awesome smiles accompany the green grass and great looking cattle 🙂

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group

ADR…

Sometime in the later part of the 90’s, not too long after I moved to Nebraska and went to work at the feed yard, I asked my consulting veterinarian to come out to the farm and help me diagnose a calf.  I knew that something was wrong with it, but I was not experienced enough at the time to figure out exactly what ailed the animal.

When the vet arrived, he looked at the calf and said, “Anne, this calf is ADR”.

I replied, “Doc, what does ADR mean?”

He responded, “Well Anne, ADR means ‘ain’t doin right’.”

At this point in the conversation, I found myself getting a little bit frustrated as I knew that the animal was having difficulties — I was smart enough to figure that out on my own. What I needed was help figuring out specifically what was wrong so that I could enable the calf get better. We eventually got to that 🙂 And, I spent the next decade using his advice, along with my growing knowledge of the bovine animal and pyche, to become a intuitive animal care giver.

Over the years, Doc and I established a truly meaningful relationship and I think that we each got smarter as we traveled down the cattle care journey together. Much to my children’s chagrin, I started bringing home his interesting verbal lingo. Perhaps more importantly, I also developed an innately acute awareness of the concept of normal and healthy vs. abnormal and sick.

Anyone who has children recognizes that their good health will be interrupted with bouts of sickness. The key to being a good caregiver is recognizing the point that the pendulum shifts from healthy to ill, and acting appropriately to help diagnose and treat the challenge. We take our kids to the doctor when they get sick, but we still play a critical role on their diagnosis and care team. It’s really not very different from the relationship that I had with my veterinarian caring for my cattle.

The observations that we (as caregivers) can offer to the doctor, and the intuitive awareness of what level of support those that we care for need throughout the illness helps to aid in their recovery.

This past week my favorite brunette was challenged by a nasty viral respiratory infection. Despite a trip to the doctor and a round of tamiflu, she progressed past ADR to a level of illness that made my “caregiver’s instinct” uncomfortable. After almost 7 days with a fever and nasty cough, I sent her back to the doctor as I feared a secondary pneumonia infection. X rays showed pneumonia in the right lung and she began antibiotic treatment.

When she and her dad got home from the doctor, my favorite farmer looked at me and said: “Well, I guess you were right. I should know by now to trust your gut instinct.” I am glad to report that the pneumonia infection appears to be susceptible to the doctor’s choice of antibiotics. After 10 days of misery, she was able to swing back past ADR to a much better part of the health spectrum.

While I know that I sometimes drive my family nuts with my cowboy euphemisms and diagnoses, I think that the knowledge that I gained working with my vet made me a better caregiver — both toward my animals and toward my children. Awareness, intuition, education, and a practical team based common sense approach sets both our animals and our kids up for success.

It is good to have my baby on her way back to good health. While her recovery is slow, hopefully in the next week or so she will be back to answering the call of the track as she is going a bit stir-crazy being banned from running and exercise…

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Filed under Antibiotics, Family, General

A Brief Recap…

The Burkholder residence has been it’s usual crazy self over the past couple of weeks.  Due to a variety of time constraints and an unplanned bout of influenza, this week’s Feed Yard Foodie post will simply be a brief recap of our wanderings…

Last week, my favorite brunette and her Oral Interpretation of Drama speech team garnered 4th place at the Nebraska State Speech Meet for their rendition of “The Bible in 30 Minutes or Less”.  I enjoyed watching these talented 5 high school students take their knowledge of the bible and turn it into an interesting and funny summation of the Old Testament. Outside of the normal speech season, the group performed for many different community audiences allowing for the great inter-generational engagement that often permeates small town America.

Last week also sparked the official start of track season in Nebraska. With two high school varsity competitors, there never appears to be a dull moment… Ashley Grace continues to compete in middle distance and distance events as Megan tackles the pole vault and both hurdle events. My favorite farmer and I are both track nerds so we are having a blast (despite the fact that Mother Nature creates vicious settings for Nebraska track meets in March). Last Friday, I became the favorite farmer fashion parent wandering around the track in her coveralls 😉

My youngest blonde athletic dynamo worked her way onto a traveling soccer team based out of Lexington, Nebraska this spring so she begins her journey of games across the state this coming weekend. We will travel to Lincoln to watch her play soccer on Saturday. The soccer team has been an awesome experience for Karyn, and I am so pleased with how the girls from the neighboring community have opened their hearts with kindness toward the tall blonde Haymaker.

My favorite farmer began the spring farm field work a couple of weeks ago. We received some very needed rain last week with a 2″ soaker permeating the ground. It is currently raining again and this seasonal moisture brings a tremendous blessing. Planting oats sits on the nearby radar screen, followed by alfalfa in the middle of April, and corn in early-mid May. Matt and his crew continue to prepare the alfalfa dehydration plant for its season start up the middle of May.

I am closing in on 60 days on my new job at the Beef Marketing Group and am enjoying both the people and the projects. I’ve made a couple of trips to Kansas as well as visiting all of the feed yards in Nebraska. It seems to be a good fit for me on this journey we call life 🙂 On the home front, we are preparing to take cattle to grass in about a week so bovines continue to play a large role in my daily activities.

Today we celebrate my favorite blonde cowgirl’s birthday.  I’m not sure where the years have gone, but I feel so blessed to be able to share my life with this awesome young woman!

 

Happy Birthday Megan!

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Filed under Family, Farming, General

A Feed Yard is Like a Home…

My favorite farmer and I moved into our house early summer of 1997 when we made the trek back to Nebraska from New Hampshire. The building sits on the corner of one of our family’s farms about a mile north of town.  We added onto it when my favorite blonde cowgirl was born, and built a large shop to complement the farmstead several years ago. As is the case for many people, our home has become more than just a building framework.  It is a reflection of Matt and I and the family that we have been blessed with over the past 20 years.

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In my new role at the Beef Marketing Group, I spend time in a variety of feed yards working on the Progressive Beef quality management system. While most of my efforts concentrate on the five feed yards located in Nebraska, I do sometimes travel to Kansas. As I was driving home from a feed yard in Kansas Tuesday night, it occurred to me that a feed yard is like a home. Similar to my house, it has structure from both a physical and management standpoint, but the sum of its total parts is much greater than that framework alone.

Each feed yard is a home — It carries a unique personality created by the families who work there.

All of our feed yards operate under the Progressive Beef program.  Just like the framework of my house, the required 42 Standard Operating Procedures build a healthy foundation. The accountability provided by the auditing process strengthens that foundation and verifies good daily animal care.  It is an incredibly successful system and makes for a solid “house”. I truly believe that it’s people, in combination with systems, that create culture and atmosphere.  What makes the Beef Marketing Group so successful is the combination of the Progressive Beef framework with the personal touch of the families that work in our feed yards.

The blend of our program and our people turns the structurally strong house into a comfortable home.

I prefer to live not just in a house, but in a home: a place that reflects my personality and core values. My girls would likely report that (at times) their mother acts similarly to a loving Drill Sargent. But, I think that they also would say that order is preferable to chaos, and that when everyone in the family plays an important role in maintaining the home that it is a pretty awesome place to live!

I have been a believer in the system of Progressive Beef for years.  It prioritizes the crew’s focus on the animal’s needs, and holds everyone accountable for their role on the feed yard team. The unique blend of both internal and 3rd party audits allows for a dual layer of accountability that leads to both teaching moments and continuous improvement as well as verification to our customers that feed yard team members provide the high quality animal care that is our trademark.

Verified. Trusted. Sustainable.

With each day that passes, I become even more of a believer in our people. When I was the boss lady at my own feed yard, I could testify to the awesomeness of my crew @ Will Feed.  In my new job, I am getting to know many more feed yard crews.  I can report that our people make me smile and give me hope for the future. It is truly a pleasure to help these great folks work for excellence in cattle care.  As I head home at the end of the day, it certainly inspires me to eat a great tasting steak 🙂

 

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Filed under General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group

Chores…

I was lucky enough to grow up down the street from my grandparents. Although they have been gone for several years now, when I think of them the word that comes to mind is devoted.  More than 70 years of marriage, the sun rose and set for them in each other.  As a little girl, I dreamed of finding a soul-mate — someone to build a life with just like my beloved Grannie and Dedaw.

Feb March 2006 017When I brought my favorite farmer to Florida for the first time, my Grannie loved him at first sight.  I still don’t know if she innately sensed that he was my one, or if she simply loved me enough to believe in my heart.  Either way, she showed me with her life that love required work — a good marriage necessitated diligently doing chores — and that the blessing of sharing your life with someone always topped the priority list.

One of the things that I love about Matt is our ability to work together in harmony.  After twenty years on the farm, I still love to do things with him. Whether we are checking fields, working on projects around the house, or building fence, we make a good team.  Matt figures stuff out, and I follow directions well 🙂

When you work well together, chores are not just a necessary part of life — they are part of what makes life fun.marchfence7.jpg

Last weekend Matt and I took down my winter horse fence.  Intermittent warm days inspire the alfalfa to green up and start to grow, so it is time to corral the horses and take them off their winter pasture. Since it snowed on Saturday, we opted to wait until Sunday to take down the electric wire fence. We traded the Saturday snow for a 35 mile an hour wind on Sunday. In hindsight, I’m not sure that we picked the correct day, but we bundled up and laughed our way through the chore.

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We brought along our favorite blondes as we’ve always maintained that families that work together find greater love together.

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We survived the wind, and finished the chore. I think perhaps the only ones pouting are the horses as they prefer their large winter grazing pasture to the corral 😉

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I spent much of the day thinking about my Grannie and Dedaw.  How my life on the farm is so different than their’s was on the Florida coast, yet how our days are actually so much the same.   When your better half provides the center of your world, love becomes much less of a chore and much more of a blessing…

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Filed under Family, Farming, General

Finding a New ‘Normal’…

Monday afternoon I spent time in a BMG feed yard before heading to Lincoln to the University of Nebraska.  That evening and Tuesday morning found me hanging out with graduate students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.   Tuesday afternoon I lectured on campus before driving back home in the evening.  It was a fun couple of days on the road, and I always find that I learn something every time that I leave my farm.

The topic of my lecture was “Sustainability, Responsibility, and the Art of Balance”.

  • Sustainability provides one of the biggest buzz words of 2017.
  • Responsibility often finds it’s way into current conversations about food production.
  • The Art of Balance applies to both the discussion of agriculture’s needed commitment to people, animals, and planet; as well as my own personal agricultural journey.

I really enjoy college public speaking gigs.  Our students are our future and if I can find a way to inspire them and aid them on their journey, then I am playing a positive role which refills my cup. While on campus, I fielded many questions about closing the feed yard and my new life and job with the Beef Marketing Group. My answer generally started with the words “I am finding a new normal…”  When you make a life change after twenty years, things look different on a daily basis.

I am happy to report that I am thriving amidst the chaos of change.  You’d have to ask my new boss about my performance on the job, but I can say that I am learning and finding my place as a new member of an awesome team.  I am spending some quality time in the five feed yards that I consult with relative to the Progressive Beef program.  This helps to fulfill the feed yard junkie part of Anne.  While I do miss the daily chore interaction with bovines, I am a short month away from moving cattle from a neighboring ranch to our grass pasture and sharing some of those chores with my foreman and my favorite pair of blonde cowgirls 🙂

Likely the best thing that I can report is that I have regained the natural optimism that makes me Anne.  This reclamation comes from attaining a better sense of balance in my life.

  • Time spent with family.
  • Meaningful volunteer hours spent with high school students who need support as they learn accountability and the art of making good choices… 
  • A healthy commitment to exercise that improves both my mental and physical fitness.
  • A work environment that leaves me feeling as though what I do is meaningful, while also allowing me the freedom from worry at the end of the day.

I believe that life is full of purposeful paths. Sometimes it takes some soul searching to figure out which fork in the road to take, but I believe that God has a plan. There is a sense of freedom that comes from packing your FAITH and following that plan.  Over the past few months, I have found a sense of peace that eluded me for several years. Two years ago, I wrote a post entitled “I Saw God Today”. I think that I am finally to a place where I can live George Straight’s famous song. I know that it is up to me to hold myself accountable to maintaining that balance on into the future; but I can report that finding it has provided a sweet spot 🙂

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Filed under General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group