Category Archives: Foodie Fun!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

The Christmas tree that was once laden with ornaments no longer adorns the living room.  The carefully wrapped gifts are opened.  The thank you notes are written (hopefully!).  Christmas Day 2011 and the gifts traditionally given are now memories.

Many years at Christmas-time I worry that my girls will not remember all of the gifts that they receive because the day becomes a mass of activity and a resulting blur…This year was different.  This year, Matt’s parents gave all of us a gift that keeps on giving.

One of the rural airports that we flew out of...No air traffic control, no security, and a dirt runway.

Our family traveled to Kenya on a safari for Christmas.  This trip marked the first major family vacation in the almost 16 years that Matt and I have been married.  Worry about leaving my animals and my business for a significant period of time, worry about taking my children half way across the world, and worry about the safety and logistics of the trip all plagued me in the days prior to our departure.  I remember having a phone conversation with my mom a couple of days before we left where my stress-laden voice cried, “Is it worth all of this work just to go on vacation? It would be easier to just stay home!”.

This is my comfort zone...

I am a home-body.  I am comfortable in my world that consists of my family, my farm, and my town.  I am a creature of habit and normal routines are important to me.  While this trait is very helpful when managing a cattle feed yard where the animals need constant and consistent daily care; the down side is that I tend to develop a tendency toward tunnel vision.

When I think back on all of the gifts that I have been given over the years, it is the gifts that bring me additional knowledge and perspective that I cherish the most.  My life is a series of experiences, and each one has played a huge role in making me the person that I am.  From my background in competitive athletes, to my education at Dartmouth College, to my years of learning to care for animals and run a business-I am certainly a different person today than I was twenty years ago.  While I am very proud of the person that I have become, I also recognize that in order to benefit from continual growth that sometimes I need to go outside of my comfort zone.

In order to think outside of the box, I have to go outside of the box…

Straddling the equator--half on the Northern Hemisphere and half on the Southern Hemisphere...

The trip was absolutely amazing.  The culture and the animals both fascinated and captivated the psychologist and animal lover in me.  I filled half of a journal with notes and asked thousands of questions.  I am planning to write a series of posts to share my experiences and insights: agriculture, food and culture, and the beautiful and wild animals that call Kenya home…Perhaps by reading my posts your knowledge and perspective will be broadened just as mine was.  After all, it is not every day that a Feed Yard Foodie goes to Africa!

Perhaps my perspective is skewed, but there appears to be a cheetah on the top of the jeep that my two younger girls are traveling in... That can not be possible, can it?

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Filed under Family, Foodie Fun!

A Two-Legged Creature of Habit…Foodie Work!

Those of you that have followed Feed Yard Foodie from its inception might remember a very early post entitled:

Creatures of Habit: Two legged and four legged. https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/creatures-of-habit%E2%80%A6two-legged-and-four-legged/  In that post, I talked about the fact that I am a creature of habit and so are my cattle.

As a creature of habit, I find comfort in having a plan and doing my best to stick to it.  This becomes vital to my mental balance and the degree of success that I have managing my life, my family, and my cattle feed yard.

It's in the best interest of my family, my animals, and you (the consumer of my beef) for me to be organized...

Let’s face it—I am not a spontaneous person…My life is so busy that spontaneity throws me off balance.  I am at the feed yard shortly after 6:00AM (usually seven days a week) and, during the week, work non- stop until I pick my kids up from school at 3:20.   From 3:20 on, I blend work with providing my children with a taxi service to all of their after school activities.  Throw in some youth athletic coaching, and the ever present challenge of putting dinner on the table, and I’ve filled out a fourteen hour day.  The bottom line is that I am a “juggler” so my success is dependent on the balls falling in a relatively orderly pattern. I am sure that a good number of you are, at this point, empathizing with me (having realized that you are also a “juggler”).

I am blessed to have such a wonderful and talented family...They need me...

Given my natural tendency toward order, it is no big surprise that I also seem to gravitate toward a consistent and organized pattern with my blogging.  The few times that I have deviated from my set pattern have been the most challenging for me…I don’t know how many of you have noticed, but most weeks I have two posts come up—one on Tuesday morning and one on Thursday morning.  I am happy with that.  Every once in a while, I deviate to three posts or change the days that the posts come up in an effort to “mix it up”, but I generally find that unsettling.  It messes up my routine, and causes the (juggling) ball pattern to change.

He needs me too...

In an effort to maintain my mental and emotional fitness, this fall I am sticking with a routine.  I hope that this will provide you with balance and comfort as well.  For those of you that like to live your life “on the wild side”, I can only hope that the vitality and excitement of my posts will keep you hooked and entertained!

With all of this in mind, I would like to announce my next series of posts.  Yes, I am not only sticking to a schedule of posting, but also developing a plan for a new series… I really enjoyed the Calf #718 series, and am now going to embark on a series of posts describing daily activities at the feed yard.

What is it that I do every day and why do I do it?

I wear a lot of different hats, and would like to take the time to share them with you in this “Foodie Work!” series. Blended with these posts will be “Foodie Fun!” recipes and cooking tidbits geared for the busy family who strives to eat a wholesome dinner meal together after a crazy day…

Family + wholesome food = what life is all about!

I promise… It’ll be both a wild ride and a dependable journey!

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Filed under Family, Foodie Fun!, Foodie Work!, General

Teamwork…

Together we are stronger…

 As important as I believe it is to be strong and self reliant; I also recognize that teamwork is imperative for meaningful and long term success.

 How do we learn the skills necessary for teamwork?

 My daughter Ashley Grace has participated in a school sponsored program called Destination Imagination since the second grade.  Very simply, Destination Imagination is a program that teaches children team work and problem solving skills.  She has had the same seven team members for four years now.  They are a very talented and very strong willed bunch of young ladies.  Last year (as fifth graders), they mastered the skill of working together and, as a result, were highly successful and placed at the Global Finals Destination Imagination competition in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Great Brain Power!

 They learned to respect and use each others individual talents in order to make an incredibly powerful team.

 

I am good at caring for and feeding cattle.  I have done my homework, and I understand my animals and their needs.  I am willing to give 110% of myself everyday to my animals because that is what it takes to make the best beef.  I love what I do, and I believe that it makes a positive and lasting impact on the world that I am so blessed to live in.

 But I also realize that I can not make the best beef all by myself…

Being successful and delivering to you a great tasting beef eating experience each and every time that you purchase my product takes teamwork.

 For reasons based both on tradition and on practicality, the beef industry is not vertically integrated.  This means that most cattle will be owned or cared for by at least two different individuals or farms before they are ready for harvest.  Following harvest, the beef will be owned and handled by at least two other individuals or entities before it makes it to your dinner plate.

 What does this mean?

TEAM WORK IS ESSENTIAL FOR SUCCESS!

 I strive for vertical collaboration with all of the parties that own my animals and the beef that they produce.  By collaborating with each other we can ensure the success of the animal and its beef from farm to fork…We have talked extensively about the partnership that I have with my cow/calf ranchers (like Al and Sallie), and we have talked about the partnership that I have with U.S. Premium Beef and their packing plant (National Beef) in order to harvest the animals.

 So what happens to the beef that my animals produce and where does Certified Angus Beef fit in?

 Last quarter I harvested 1970 animals through U.S. Premium Beef.   85% of those animals graded Prime or Choice quality.   35% qualified for the Certified Angus Beef brand.  Why?

 To qualify for the Certified Angus Beef brand, there are very specific live animal and beef quality science-based specifications that must be met.  These specifications are challenging to achieve, and help to ensure that you have a great tasting beef eating experience every single time you eat it.

 Beef Specifications for Certified Angus Beef…

Modest or higher marbling (high Choice or Prime Grade)

Medium or fine marbling texture

“A” maturity—superior color, texture, and tenderness

10-16” Rib Eye Area

Less than 1000# pound carcass

Less than 1” fat thickness around the edge of the meat

No blemishes in appearance or color

In fact, only 1 in 4 Angus cattle meet all of the brand’s specifications.  While these specifications allow for a consistently juicy and tender beef eating experience, perhaps (to me) the most important part of Certified Angus Beef’s role is connecting the grocery store or the restaurant and their ensuing customers to my farm and beef farms all across the country.

 Certified Angus Beef builds this last invaluable bridge from my farm to your table.

 Are there other types of beef coming from other breeds of cattle that taste great?  Absolutely!  But, Certified Angus Beef leads the way in connecting the consumer to the story behind where your beef comes from…All of the way from farms like mine and Al and Sallie’s to your home so that you can feel good about choosing beef for dinner tonight and every night!

Matt and I receiving our award in Oregon...

 That is teamwork at its very best…Independently we master our roles, and together we are invincible!

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Filed under Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, Foodie Fun!, General

From Nebraska to Oregon, in search of more bridges…

The balance (precarious at times) that exists at our house was disrupted this week…

The kids went to school as usual Tuesday morning, but Diggie (grandpa) was in charge of the after school pick up.   At 3:20pm he dashed into the elementary school parking lot to meet his favorite blonds…

He was in charge of the gymnastics drop off and pick up until Demi (grandma) became available to relieve him from his taxi duties.

Demi and Diggie with their favorite blonds...

Demi and Diggie, the brave souls that they are, were in charge for a few days (at least as much as my oldest daughter allows anyone else to be in charge…).

Very organized and usually in charge...

It is unusual for Matt and I to travel and leave the kids behind, but this was an important trip.  We set off for the long haul from Nebraska to Oregon to attend the Certified Angus Beef Annual Conference.

A product display case at the conference. Great looking beef!

A few years after Al and Sallie Atkins (and several other ranchers from Nebraska) began working with me to trace our cattle from birth to harvest in an effort to improve the beef that we grow, Certified Angus Beef recognized my feed yard as a “feed yard partner” of their branded beef program.

Many of you will probably recognize their logo, as Certified Angus Beef has more than 12,300 licensed retail (grocery store) and food-service partners in the United States and 46 other countries.  Certified Angus Beef is known for quality and taste…

This week, Matt and I were honored to receive the Certified Angus Beef Feed Yard Partner of the Year Award in the “small feed yard” classification.  As part of the award, we spent a couple of days visiting with all of the wonderful retail and food service folks that help to bring our great tasting beef to your local grocery store or restaurant.

Certified Angus Beef helps to build a very important bridge:

From my farm...

To your plate...

Next week, we will take a closer look at Certified Angus Beef, and give you all some more insight into what makes a great beef eating experience.

In the meantime, I will be shoveling out my house and my desk at the feed yard in an optimistic hope of regaining balance “on the home front”.  I am pretty sure that Demi and Diggie will be trying to sneak in a few naps in order to recover from the whirlwind of a couple of days with my children…

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Filed under Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, Foodie Fun!, General