The Lady Haymakers…

The fall run continues in Haymaker country.  Outside of the feed yard, you will find me at sporting events cheering on our community’s athletes.  Lest you all think that I am “sitting on my laurels” and letting my writing skills grow rusty, today I share a letter that I wrote to our Lady Haymaker athletes.  These awesome young women are in the heart of their fall sports seasons.

girlshaymakersportscollage.jpgDear Lady Haymakers,

When I became an honorary Lady Haymaker in June of 1996, I brought with me a desire to see women’s athletics rise to a new level of excellence in our town. As a lifelong athlete, I recognized the importance of sports in the development of personal growth and confidence.

Two decades later, I now realize the additional role that young athletes play in promoting community spirit. Quite simply, you are our greatest blessing. I have had the pleasure of coaching many of you in T ball, soccer, track and swim team as you started your athletic careers; and it brings me incredible pride to watch each of you find excellence as young women on the athletic field. As parents and community members, I think that sometimes we forget to tell you how important you are — to yourself, to your team, and to your town. You are a joy to watch, and every effort that you put forth representing us builds the future.

The road to excellence is not comfortable, but it is an amazing journey. Every race, every game, every competition is an opportunity to attain greatness. The fatigue, pain, and challenges that you face during competition provide you with the ability to gain strength. Hard work, tenacity, leadership and compassion enable your team to thrive. The confidence that comes with each victory not only brings incredible joy but also provides a basis of personal faith that will help to carry you the rest of your life.

The next few weeks will provide the finale of your fall sports season. Your successes this season have been plentiful, and the time now comes to: Finish Strong, Dig Deep, and Always, Always Believe! You have the talent, the determination, and the power to raise the bar — It is your effort that builds a culture of excellence as a Lady Haymaker.

I believe in you. Whether on the Golf course, the Softball field, the Volleyball court, or the Cross Country course —

  • Aim high
  • Compete with passion
  • Recognize that you can attain far more than you ever dreamed.
  • Unify together to embrace the challenge and fight for the victory.

It is in giving of yourself that you receive.

Your biggest fan,


Filed under Family, Rural Communities

The “Chore” of Happiness…

After I conquered Graves Disease, I made a promise to myself that I would treat each day as a gift – always aware that life is a blessing. Despite that promise, I am human and sometimes find myself in the midst of small struggles that challenge both my commitment and my confidence.

Last week I read an article in entitled 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy, According To Neuroscience. The psychology major in me found the article fascinating with very practical advice for daily life.

The four rituals are:

  • Consistently ask yourself the question, “What am I grateful for?” The search for gratitude provides a positive mindset that plays a critical role in creating happiness.
  • Label your emotions so that you can define them, acknowledge them, and take control over them.
  • Make decisions – It is stressful to worry about possible outcomes, so make a decision and move on.
  • Give Hugs – Personal touch is a vital component to creating confidence, support and ultimately happiness.

Like any good wife and mother, I required everyone in the Feed Yard Foodie family to read the entire article :) It is a rather long one with a lot of nerdy physiological psychology terms which brought curiosity from my oldest, and plenty of grumbling from my two younger “budding intellectuals”.


In typical “Anne fashion”, I also put the advice to work the following morning…

I started the day getting my pinky finger squashed between the metal arm of the squeeze chute and the head of a calf. The calf tossed his head as I was manually reading a faulty EID ear tag that my wand reader refused to scan. I have a new crooked bend in my finger and it appears that my fingernail is likely to fall off, but the pretty blue/purple color does give my unpainted nails a nice flair. It was the perfect opportunity to remind myself how grateful I was for technology (at least when it worked).

I continued the day checking cattle health at the feed yard because my cowboy decided to travel up to the Black Hills to watch the annual buffalo roundup at Custer State Park. I am the “back up cowboy” so his daily chores fell to me for the long weekend.


We received 2” of rain Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. Having just completed a dirt rebuilding project in Pen 12, we moved cattle into the pen a few days prior to the rain. When it came time to check those cattle, I stepped confidently off of the concrete pad behind the water tank all while looking carefully at the nearby cattle. I promptly sunk down to my knee in watery mud, quickly discovering that my crew had not packed the new dirt in properly.  As the moisture seeped into the top of my Bogg boots, I realized how grateful I was that the rain had “settled the dust” at the feed yard.

It was about 1:00pm by the time that I finished checking cattle health (sloshing around in my wet boots with a still throbbing finger), and I have to admit that I was pretty well wearing my “grouchy pants” by that time. But, I spent the car ride home (to change my clothes) lecturing myself on gratitude, labeling emotions, making decisions, and thinking where is the heck is my favorite farmer because I think that I need a good LONG hug…

I found him at the office, and he was happy to offer a smile and oblige. By the time that I picked up my favorite ten year old, I was able to look Karyn in the eye – smile – and tell her that my day was much better now that I got to spend the rest of the afternoon with her.


Karyn and I arrived in Ogallala and hour and a half later to watch my favorite Cross Country running teenager have the best race of her budding career – earning the 1st place gold medal in the Varsity High School Girls 5K run. She ran with heart, perseverance, and strength gaining the lead in the final 150 meters of the race.

With tears in my eyes, I had much to be grateful for as I threw my arms around her for a post-race hug. Dozens of different emotions floated around in my brain waiting to be labeled as I made the decision to cherish the moment and thank God for all of the blessings in my life.

While it certainly was not a romantic day on the farm, happiness undoubtedly prevailed…


Filed under Family, Foodie Work!, General

The Feed Yard Foodie Farm Heads Into the Fall Run…

This week officially marks the beginning of the fall run at the feed yard. Cool nights signal the end of the growing season and grass quality begins to diminish. Many animals not intended for breeding stock move off of home ranches and into feed yards as the pastures can no longer sustain them. The fall months provide the busiest time of the year at the feed yard as we offer care to large numbers of newly arrived animals.


A couple of months ago, I wrote about finding personal balance and my search to figure out the best future plan for Feed Yard Foodie. After thoughts of retiring the blog site, I came to the realization that I was not ready to quit blogging. Instead, I needed to lighten the self-imposed pressure to write as frequently so that the work load became more manageable.

As we move into the fall, the frequency of blog posts will likely decrease due to my busy schedule. However, I am going to try to consistently upload pictures and short thoughts from the feed yard onto the Feed Yard Foodie Facebook page in between posts. I would encourage everyone interested in being a part of those messages to “Like” the page so that you can participate.  You can do this on the home page of the regular blog site or search Feed Yard Foodie on Facebook to find the page.

In the meantime, here are a few random thoughts from last week to share:annegwm2015.jpg

  • We completed our bi-yearly ground water monitoring to ensure that our farm is not negatively impacting the Ogallala Aquifer.
  • We also completed our 2nd Internal Progressive Beef Audit for 2015 to ensure that our farm remains dedicated to animal welfare, sustainability and food safety. This audit not only serves as an important “report card” for our daily care at the feed yard, but it also provides each of you the validation that my beef is raised responsibly.
  • My favorite Cross Country running teenager and her teammates are rocking through the first half of the season with an undefeated record. Each fall I am reminded how much I truly love the sport of X Country — I may well be the most enthusiast fan running around the course cheering for the runners :)
  • My favorite blonde cowgirl jumped right into her 8th grade Volleyball season when we returned home from Texas A & M. Her smile and leadership is contagious on the court, and she is a joy to watch.
  • My favorite 10 year old anxiously awaits the start of the fall soccer season as well as her 11th birthday. She and I continue to run and swim when we can in order to keep her lungs strong.
  • My favorite farmer will soon transition from dehydrating alfalfa to harvesting corn. Despite his long days on the farm, he takes the time to support and hang out with his girls – often providing a joke or a friendly “eye roll” when the estrogen levels permeating our house become too strong.


I hope that each of you is enjoying the transition to the fall run. It is indeed a beautiful time!


Filed under Family, Foodie Work!, General

Megan and Her Mom In Aggieland…

When I received an invitation to travel to Texas A & M University to speak to faculty and students, I knew that I wanted to share this experience with my favorite blonde cowgirl.  While the thought of my girls leaving home for college lodges my heart in the back of my throat, I want them to be aware of the world outside of our farm.  My favorite farmer and I also want them to be thinking of their life journey after high school so that their formative years hold a sense of long term purpose.


Part of my job as a “mom” is exposing my daughters to environments where they will have the ability to remain true to themselves and thrive.  My gut told me that Megan should experience Aggieland.  The tradition, the dedication to core values, and the engaged Animal Science department fit both her compassionate personality as well as her love of animals.

As our two days in College Station passed by, I could see my blonde cowgirl gain confidence and bloom under the compassion and positive energy that permeates the campus.  She was very nervous going into the trip. However, as each person that we met treated her as someone with something valuable to share — her smile got bigger and her eyes filled with excited wonder toward the “Aggie family”.

Learning about the diversity of cattle genetics and realizing that all cattle do not look like the ones that we care for in Nebraska!

Learning about the diversity of cattle genetics and realizing that all cattle do not look like the ones that we care for in Nebraska!

As a mom, it was a beautiful transformation to watch.  Megan loves “home” and the “farm”, and is hesitant to travel outside of that life.  It was truly a gift for her to be surrounded by positive mentors of various ages that simply were interested in sharing with her.

From the moment that Emily (a senior Ruminant Nutrition major and President of the Saddle and Sirloin Club) picked us up at the airport, we felt welcome and were surrounded by people who took the time to care. I could not have asked for a better experience for her first “college visit”, and am indebted to all of those loyal Aggies with whom we interacted.

Emily teaching Megan the tradition and meaning of the "Aggie Ring"...

Emily teaching Megan the tradition and meaning of the “Aggie Ring”…

A couple of days after we got home, I asked my blonde cowgirl what her favorite memories were.  The people, as well as the research center and “hands on” learning, hit the top of her list.  Mine was the spirit of giving that I witnessed on the campus.  My journey in the cattle industry as taken me all across the country and, until this trip, I do not think that I have ever seen a place where What can I do to help you? consistently superseded What can you do for me?

The inherent Aggie desire to serve others left a warmth in my heart and a ray of hope for the future.


As Megan’s mom, I was inspired by the universal compassion found both with students and faculty.  At our house, we call Megan our “sunshine”. Her kind personality and empathetic nature make her a blessing to all those she meets. I saw an environment at A & M where I could not help but think that my blonde cowgirl would thrive.

She has several more years before she makes a college choice, but I think that it’s safe to say that we both “drank the Aggie kool aid” in College Station, Texas :)

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Filed under Family, Foodie Work!, General

A Feed Yard Foodie in Aggieland…

Anyone working in agriculture recognizes the name of Texas A & M University. Over the past 18 years, I have crossed paths with many Aggie alumni and each encounter left me intrigued by the deep seated love and faithfulness to this place called “Aggieland”. Perhaps most endearing is the fact that although Aggies are fiercely loyal, they are also openly friendly and engage respectfully with others outside of their alma mater. This special ability to be proud of their heritage while also focusing on broad spectrum leadership and devotion to selfless acts of sharing is a beautiful combination.


Responding to an invitation to speak on campus, I traveled down to College Station, Texas with an intellectual curiosity and a desire to understand the culture of this unique land grant institution. I traveled back to my farm in Nebraska with an incredible respect for the faculty, students, and the core values that make Aggieland so exceptional. Honestly, I have rarely felt more welcome on a college campus, and the open friendliness that permeated the university grounds was inspirational.

It is no secret that agriculture in 2015 and beyond has many challenges. Outside of the regular need for continuous improvement that goes hand in hand with growing food, there exists a great chasm between farmers and their urban customers which is unfortunately separated by a rarely traveled bridge. As I look into the future, I recognize that our sustainability is intrinsically tied with our ability to interact respectfully.

texasa&mdignity and respect.jpg

The journey is marked by:

  • The innate pride and loyalty to our chosen field combined with an intrinsic interest in the “outside world”.
  • The realization that it is in sharing that we learn how to solve our most difficult challenges — relying on a diverse population of participators to find the best answers.
  • The knowledge that the success of our outreach is closely tied to our ability to create an organized team to cross that lonely bridge in order to share “where food comes from”.

As I walked the streets of campus and visited with students and faculty, it became apparent to me that the culture at Texas A & M could provide the template for agriculture’s public outreach and educational effort to increase the transparency of food production. The university pillars of: Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, and Selfless Service provide the foundation, the inherent positive attitude sets the stage for the engagement, and the “team mentality” and the Corps of Cadets coordination creates the movement that once again builds trust in the realm of food production.


  • Perhaps what agriculture really needs is a 12th man to selflessly give to the common good,
  • A good “Yell leader” to teach us a universal cheer that both celebrates our uniqueness as well as reinforces our common ground,
  • And a friendly “Howdy” to start the conversation…

At the end of the day it isn’t about any one group or individual, rather the meaningful answer lies in our ability create loyalty and trust—both on and off the farm.

*Many thanks to Emily Von Edwins, Dr. Russell Cross, Dr. Tryon Wickersham and all of the Aggies that welcomed Megan and I last week. I hope that we enriched your lives as much as you enriched ours.

**Stay tuned for the next post, “Megan’s Mom in Aggieland”, which takes a look at Texas A & M from a different point of view…


Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., Foodie Work!


Last fall, Tyson CEO Donnie Smith gave the commencement address at the National FFA (Future Farmers of America) convention. The positive energy radiating from both Smith and the thousands of high school students in attendance is nothing short of awesome. The 18 minute speech can be found here.

As a member of Tyson’s 3rd party Animal Wellbeing Farm Check committee, I am fortunate to interact with Donnie as we work to consistently improve food animal care. His dynamic personality and positive enthusiasm reminds me of a football coach pumping up his team for the big game. The coach in me loves to listen to him, and the farmer in me is thankful to call his team a partner in food production.Annegate.jpg

Smith’s theme, #myAGstory, provides an emotional reminder of one of the steepest challenges that farmers face today. The story of food production in 2015 often is not told by the farmers that grow it. Rather, we have allowed our food story to be hijacked by others outside of the farm gate. Smith repeatedly challenged the students to protect the future of agriculture by “Taking back the story of food production”.

There exists a critical bridge between “food” and “agriculture” and it is made up by communication. Smith asks the students,

“Are we going to drive the conversation or sit back and let someone else do it for us? — It is only in taking back the story that we can honestly share the truth of how food is grown in the United States.”

The leaders in this movement to reclaim the voice of farming will undeniably be our young farmers. They have the unique ability to share their talents by simultaneously growing food while also tweeting about it!

Two enthusiastic young ranchers brought the first "selfie stick" to my feed yard last spring.  It was great fun to watch them *share*!

Two enthusiastic young ranchers brought the first “selfie stick” to my feed yard last spring!

Each one of us has a vital and unique story to tell. It is in combining these stories in a respectful conversation that we all will find sustainability. As farmers and scientists, today we have the technique and the technology to feed 10 billion people. The question is, will we be successful enough telling our story in order to gain the consumer confidence needed to use that technology to feed the world?

Today, there are 1 billion people across the globe that are hungry — tomorrow that number will grow. It is not just people across the ocean – many, many Americans are food insecure. I would like to think that we all can be granted the Freedom To Thrive, fueled by the energy of quality nutrition. The start of that journey lies in farmers taking back the story of agriculture and sharing how they grow food.AnneMeg.jpg

Today, my favorite blonde cowgirl and I head to College Station, Texas to bring our story of beef production to Aggieland. We will visit with college professors, graduate students, and undergraduates in a whirlwind two day journey discussing how beef is grown. I will share #myAGstory with hundreds of Animal Science students as we discuss both the future of agriculture as well as the increasing role that women play in growing food.

I take Donnie’s message with me in my heart as I hope to make an equally positive impact on this next generation of farmers. We all need to eat in order to thrive, so growing food is everyone’s business.

Have you shared your story today?


Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts...

The Freedom To Thrive…

The popular sustainability discussion often holds references to animal care. From corporate statements made by McDonalds and Walmart to sensational allegations from news sources like Consumer Reports – the way that food animals are raised provides a veritable battle ground for today’s food debates.


  • What is the correct care?
  • Who defines it?
  • Is it based on science or philosophy – or a blend of both?

With each day that passes, dialogues regarding food production practices trend beyond the farm gate to include the thoughts and ideas of an incredibly diversified audience. In 2015, the general expectation of a safe food supply is constantly expanding to also include philosophical preferences for how it is raised. I am proud of the many different types of systems used to grow food. This diversity is a tribute to the innovation of America’s farmers. It is cause for celebration, not cause for persecution.

Rigorous debates inspire positive critical examination and can result in continuous improvement. However, I grow weary of the sensational drama currently permeating the conversations involving the topic of animal welfare. To me, good cattle welfare can be defined with one simple question.

Do the animals have the freedom to thrive?

Cattle are raised with the sole purpose of contributing to the food supply. Healthy animals make healthy beef – Cattle that are raised with the freedom to thrive are healthy. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not cause for battle. It also should not be sensationalized to instigate media coverage or personal gain. Animal welfare is not about the person who eats the beef, rather it is about the calf that is raised to provide it.

These 1300# steers at my feed yard exhibit exuberant play behavior demonstrating their freedom to thrive…

Many, many different environments exist in which cattle can thrive. The animal welfare debate should not be about the type of system, rather it should be based on whether the system is managed by the farmer to allow for the animals to have the freedom to thrive. Grass pasture or feed yard, organic or traditionally raised – the basis for quality cattle welfare lies in the ability of the farmer to create an environment in which the calf can prosper. A good farmer works tirelessly for this regardless of the label that he/she places on the package of beef.

Long term food sustainability as well as the integrity of the United States protein supply lies in the hands of America’s farmers. It is wrapped up in their ability to nurture – to blend science and practical daily care with the art of intuition. It is providing for the practical needs of the animal while also taking the time to be a compassionate good shepherd.

It’s not about the grass pasture or the feed yard pen, it’s about the culture of caring that exists regardless of the type of farm.

The current discussion of animal welfare has gone terribly awry because it is no longer about the animal. It is lost in a great pit of sensational and politically motivated confusion.

Isn’t it time that Americans once again focus on defining animal welfare from the point of view of the animal receiving the care?


It won’t be a sensational story, but it will result in food raised with integrity.


Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Food Safety Thoughts From a “Mom” Farmer…

I received a private email from a blog site visitor a few weeks ago asking a combination of questions regarding food safety and sustainability. While I feel as though I have hit the topic of environmental sustainability thoroughly over the past year, food safety plays an important role in the discussion and a post covering it seems appropriate.

girlsswim2015a2.jpgAs the mother of three daughters as well as a farmer, the topic of food safety relative to beef always occupies the forefront of my mind.

  • I grow it.
  • I eat it.
  • I feed it to my children.

BCItshirt.jpgWhen I think back to early lessons that my farm taught me, there are two that quickly rise to the top of the list:

  1. I cannot control Mother Nature. My savvy as a farmer increased when I realized that my “job” was not to control, but rather to work to build harmony – to bend and adjust my farming practices in order to positively blend with what Mother Nature gives to me.
  2. The world is not black and white. We all exist in the “gray area” and every choice that we make has consequences. Every day I use both practical skills and science to put “the pieces of the puzzle together” in order to best use the resources of the farm.  I want it to be on the “white end” of the gray, and I need it to both thrive in the present and to remain healthy to protect for the future. My farm has a footprint – my life has a footprint – everyone’s does. There is no perfect answer to any challenge– simply an array of choices that each has both positive and negative influences.

When I think of the topic of food safety, I think that both of those “life lessons learned on the farm” come into play. Mother Nature drives my farm. I cannot change weather patterns, nor can I change naturally occurring scientific evolution. What I can do is manage the resources and the animals on my farm to be as close to harmony as possible.  While I recognize that I will never be perfect, I do work resolutely toward continuous improvement.

Bacteria exists universally on the planet earth. Normal micro-flora live in the rumen of cattle that can be pathogenic to humans. Let’s use Ecoli 0157:H7 as an example. Bovines provide natural “host” environments for these bacteria – the bacteria does not negatively affect the animals, but we discovered in 1993 that they could negatively affect us. In the ensuing 20+ years, scientists and farmers along with government regulatory agencies have focused on improving the safety of hamburger utilizing a united food production chain effort.

System wide food safety mechanisms follow the structure of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points). They start on the farm, continue at the packing plant and retail distributor, and end with your kitchen. Let’s take a moment to look at all of the ecoli food safety mechanisms that occur with hamburger grown on my farm.

On My Farm

When bacteria are a concern, isolation and containment are critical. We know that many different strains of ecoli exist naturally in the environment (some are harmful to humans, some are not). These bacteria exist in pasture based growing systems (ranches) as well as feed yards — on conventional farms as well as organic farms.  Good sanitation programs are vital components in a holistic food safety system.   Clean water tanks, clean feed, clean living spaces, and clean equipment lead to a reduction in the spread of bacteria.

One of the three pillars to the Progressive Beef QSA is food safety. The majority of the 39 Progressive Beef Standard Operating Procedures that I use to manage my feed yard pertain to sanitation because the farmers in our BMG Cooperative recognize what a critical role we play in delivering a safe and healthy beef eating experience.

I also feed a direct fed microbial called Bovamine Defend to all of the cattle on my farm. This all natural product reduces both the amount of Ecoli 0157:H7 in the rumen (stomach) of my animals as well as inhibits the spread of the bacteria from one animal to another. My packing plant partner, Tyson, measures the amount of ecoli in the groups of cattle arriving at their facilities and reports that animals fed Bovamine Defend have ecoli levels 50-70% lower than animals not fed Bovamine Defend. There are multiple scientific studies that consistently report the effectiveness of this all natural product in reducing ecoli levels in cattle. I believe this to be a critical component to my personal “food safety” footprint.

At the Packing Plant

The last 20 years have seen enormous food safety strides at the packing plant level. New technologies such as: Hide cleansing, steam vaccums, organic acids, thermal treatments, as well as chilling and sanitation practices all provide multiple layers in a stringent food safety regime. You can learn more about these practices by visiting the Beef Industry Food Safety Council website (BIFSCO).

In Your Kitchen

You can also play an important role in food safety by using good sanitation and cooking practices in your kitchen. Disinfect utensils and counter surfaces as well as your own hands after handling raw meat. Cook your hamburger to 160 degrees which will eliminate/kill any bacteria that might be present.

Food safety is vital to all of us. We must eat to live, and we must eat safely to remain healthy. A team effort provides multiple layers of protection and ensures a nutritious and safe eating experience for each and every one of us.


Safe and Healthy Beef

It’s What’s For Dinner at my house!

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