I think that it is impossible to pour your heart and soul into a business for 2 decades and not leave some sort of a *mark*. The running joke at the feed yard revolves around what my favorite farmer affectionately calls Anne Gates.
I’ve always been a small person with a higher than normal energy level. In short, I fit in small places and move pretty fast. Over the years, I have created a variety of small passageways that allow me to move seamlessly around our corral systems at the feed yard. Since I care for animals that are 6-13 times bigger than I am, I have the advantage of being able to fit through spaces that cattle would not even consider going through…Quite frankly, I can fit through spaces that my favorite farmer wouldn’t consider squeezing through🙂
My crew thoroughly enjoyed my three pregnancies laughing that, at least for short periods of time, I had to be normal and use the real gates. While I did not mind spending a few months walking in their shoes, I was always glad when my babies arrived and I could go back to using my own unique paths around the feed yard…
When I look back on the last 20 years as a beef farmer, my mind recalls many Anne gates — some of which are not physical passageways, but rather metaphorical bridges from my farm to the outside world. This blog is one of them. In 2016, agriculture in the United States faces many challenges. Quite likely the greatest comes from a lack of effective gates from the farm to the dinner plate. Less than 2% of Americans work as farmers, and most of our urban counterparts are more than two generations removed from the farm. Understanding where your food comes from is no easy task, and finding good information on it resembles the old adage of finding a needle in a hay stack.
Raising cattle takes a unique set of resources as well as a relatively long period of time. Beef farming epitomizes the newly popular slow food movement as breeding cattle live more than a decade, and cattle raised solely for the production of beef thrive for close to 2 years — grazing grass pastures and then spending a few months in a feed yard at the end of their lifetime. Doing it right takes dedication, patience, and a whole lot of hard work.
One of the things that I have attempted to convey with Feed Yard Foodie is the complexity of caring for cattle and growing beef. The gate of transparency challenges farmers, and figuring out how to explain daily animal care and business decisions to those that live outside of the farm is hard. I struggle with this, and I know that I am not alone.
After six years of sharing, I can report that I have likely learned more than I have imparted. I realized in the early days of Feed Yard Foodie that my social media experience needed to be bidirectional as relationships and trust (even virtual ones) are built not just through sharing but also by receiving. The good thing about a gate is that it doesn’t cost any more to travel two directions and you can build it as big as you need it to be😉
While I am closing the gate to my feed yard in about six months, I do not plan to “close the gate” to this blog. It is an Anne gate that I am keeping until I both run out of things to say and run out of things to learn…Many thanks all of you for taking the journey with me.