Less than a week after graduating from Dartmouth College, I put on my jeans and went to work at the cattle feed yard. I knew almost nothing about taking care of cattle, but I packed my integrity and my work ethic in order to learn the job. Looking back over the past two decades, I would like to think that I have transitioned into a savvy cattle caregiver — learning from my animals and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.
Last Sunday morning, as I watched the sun rise while cleaning feed bunks with a scoop shovel, I thought about that young girl and how she evolved into the woman that I am today. I pondered how things change, and I acknowledged that – despite my romantic nature – there are times when reality demands to be considered.
I went to work at the feed yard to continue the family legacy in cattle feeding. There was a need and I worked hard to fill it. It was to be my forever job as Matt and I worked together to grow what his dad and granddad started. My favorite farmer has done an exceptional job of ensuring that the crop farm prospered — evolving the farm to meet the changing markets and using his entrepreneurial talents to remain relevant in the world of agriculture.
I have struggled to do the same with the feed yard. While I truly believe in my business model and what I have worked to build, the daily struggle to remain viable in the ever-changing and often volatile markets has left me drained. Today when I look in the mirror, I fail to find the optimistic spark that plays a large role in making me Anne. My cup is closer to empty than full, and I am not able to effectively refill it.
My balance sheet tells me that I am not garnering a decent monetary return on investment, and my heart tells me that I need to rediscover my passion by taking an altered professional route. Recently, I made the decision to begin the process of closing down the feed yard. While I will remain a “feed yard boss lady” until Mid-February, I do not intend to refill the pens as they empty this fall and winter.
Matt and I plan to return the feed yard pen area to farm ground, and use the shop and feedmill buildings to further enhance our crop farming operation. My two long time employees will transfer over to the farming business continuing to work for our family. This has been a long and difficult decision to make, but I am confident that it is the correct one. I truly believe that fear of change should not dictate the future — rather looking for new ideas to improve your legacy should drive the long term decision making process.
This transition will be a long one — spanning many months to possibly a year — as I am determined to close my feed yard with the same integrity that has marked my twenty years of management. Our dedication to animal welfare, environmental responsibility, and quality beef production will continue to drive the daily care on our farm. I plan to share our transition story with each of you — continuing to blog and cataloging our shifting lives on the farm.
There are still many details to be worked out and much work to be done; but my commitment to transparency necessitates me sharing the news. I hope that each one of you will stand by me as I travel down this new fork in the road. Your support is important to me.