Category Archives: Foodie Work!

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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…

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

I Saw God Today…

One of my favorite songs is George Strait’s classic I Saw God Today It speaks to me — warms my heart — and balances my perspective.

I’ve been to church
I’ve read the book
I know he’s here
But I don’t look
Near as often as I should
Yeah, I know I should
His fingerprints are everywhere
I just slowed down to stop and stare
Opened my eyes and man I swear
I saw God today

Late this fall, I struggled terribly to find balance in my life. There were so many requests — so many demands — so many responsibilities — that I became lost in a sea of chaos. I felt stripped of energy, tired of giving, and emptied out inside. When I looked about me, the world had lost it color just as I had lost my spark.

My equilibrium failed and I lost my natural tendency to:

  • Look for God
  • See the good
  • Count my blessings

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To recognize that just as I give, I must also receive — for if we fail to refuel our minds and our hearts, they run dry.

After my Turkey-Less Tetrazzini post in December, many of you reached out to me and shared similar struggles. It became quickly apparent that I was not alone in my battle to maintain balance.

I found comfort in that offer of comradery – thank you for that.

I spent the weeks following that post searching for an answer, a secret, to maintaining fitness amidst the endless tsunami of responsibilities.  I think best while exercising, so as I traversed up and down the swimming pool, and pounded the pavement walking and running; I slowly realized where I had gone amiss.

I remembered the words of George Strait’s song, and made a new resolution:

No matter how hectic the day, I will pause to look for God.

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  • I will see him on my farm which will refuel my desire to CARE: for my animals, for my crew, and for those lives that I touch with the gift of food.
  • I will see him in my home, in the eyes of my children, which will refuel my desire to SUSTAIN for the future that we will build together as a family.
  • I will see him in my community, in my neighbor, which will refuel my desire to SHARE for I know that together we are stronger.
  • I will see him in the natural beauty that creates the plains of Nebraska, which will refuel my desire to PERSEVERE – never faltering in my desire to pursue excellence amidst the awesomeness of Mother Nature.

At the end of each day, I will reflect on the times that I felt God’s presence – refueling for the next day – finding peace amongst the chaos of life.

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Did you pause to see God today?

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Filed under Family, Foodie Work!

Blogging Reflections…

WordPress sends out “blogging highlights” at the end of each calendar year.  Feed Yard Foodie saw 79,000 views in 2014 over the course of 94 new posts.  My longstanding goal is to get two blog posts up a week — I didn’t miss that by too much (average of 1.8 over the course of the year).

Perhaps the most interesting to me is to see which blog posts get the most “reads” and are earmarked as the most popular posts of the year.  Sometimes these align with my own personal favorite posts, and sometimes they do not.

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The below five posts are the most popular of the year determined by statistics…

5 Lessons that I want my children to learn before they go to college.

Why I prefer a cattle feed yard to a shopping mall.

Kindred Spirits

Setting the Stage

Chipotle isn’t any fun to write about.

On a personal note, the following posts are my favorites for 2014…

The Best Part of Me

I Am From

Out Of the Mouths of Babes

Alliances

Roots

I also have a personal affinity toward the most viewed post of the year (5 Lessons that I want my children to learn before going to college). 

This post came from a deep part of me as I struggled with a difficult situation.  Honestly, I wrote it as a way to achieve personal balance. I was pleasantly surprised that so many others identified with it.  This post ended up being as close to a viral post as Feed Yard Foodie achieved in 2014.

Do you have a favorite FYF post for 2014? 

If so, please share — I am always interested in which posts you all enjoy reading.

A special thank you to each and every one of you for taking the time to read my posts and share a part of your lives in 2014.

I am starting off 2015 speaking at Kansas State University this week, so I am headed down to Manhattan, KS to visit all of you Wildcat fans 🙂

 

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General

Americans Need To Engage…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…

Two hundred and twenty seven years ago, our forefathers created a document designed to guide our country to greatness. I believe that these savvy men realized that our country’s journey would be riddled with challenges. As such, they recognized that a broad diversity of intelligence and talents in addition to a governance system based on a separation of powers would be necessary to create a sustainable future for our young country.americanwindmill.jpg

The heart of a democracy lies in the grassroots involvement of its citizens. These citizens engage their government leaders and consequently have an important impact on the direction of the country. There is a responsibility that goes along with the privilege of living in a democratic nation — this responsibility begins with voting but extends far beyond this influence. It is a two way obligation between elected leaders and those that they represent.

Leadership of the people, By the people, and For the people…

The framework of our government allows for three branches (Executive, Legislative, Judicial) and, provided these branches operate within their given authority, a separation of powers offers protection from individual abuses of power. On paper the system works, and it provided our country with an effective framework for many years.

My parents raised me to value many of the same things that I believe motivated our forefathers: personal responsibility, integrity and hard work. I carry these principles with me each day as I raise my children and my cattle on our farm. I look for those values in the politicians that lead our country, as well as the governmental framework that they operate within.

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While today I strive to be a proud American, I struggle to find pride in the bastardized form of democracy that is currently running our country. The unprecedented growth of our federal government and its arrogant overreach into the lives of grassroots America leaves me saddened and frustrated.

While my crystal ball is not perfectly clear, I worry that my children will live in a land:

  • Where the federal government is the largest employer in our country…
  • Where the eternal flame of entrepreneurship is extinguished by regulations and bureaucratic red tape…
  • Where activist groups and a handful of politicians who cater to them rule with little care for the wishes of the vast majority of citizens…
  • Where the democratic government laid out by the Constitution is nothing more than a façade under which the President of the United States and the Majority Senate Leader rule with total power as they defy the system carefully laid out by our forefathers…

It is time for Americans to engage — the behavior of some elected officials in Washington DC mocks the cornerstones on which our country was built.

Our system is broken and abuses of power are rampant. We all have the opportunity to engage:

  • Contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives.
  • Offer comments to President Obama and the regulatory agencies that he uses to implement his selfish platform.
  • Vote on November 4th.
  • Uphold your responsibility as a citizen of the United States of America.

    Something this beautiful is worth protecting...

    Something this beautiful is worth protecting…

It is time to once again have a government:

Of the People, By the People and For the People…

 

Political engagement letters by Feed Yard Foodie:

https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-best-letter-that-i-never-had-to-mail/

https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/the-epa-wotus-and-the-myth-of-environmental-protection/

https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/did-you-know/

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General, Rural Communities

Connecting the Dots…

The vast majority of cattle have more than one address during their lifetime.  This occurs because of the long life cycle of a bovine as well as the diverse resources needed to grow beef.  Most of my cattle spend the first 8-15 months on the home ranch before traveling to my feed yard, and then ultimately a few months later to the Tyson Foods packing plant in Lexington, NE.

2011 Steers from the Denke's ranch...

2011 Steers from That A Way ranch…

About a dozen years ago, my father in law told me to design my own niche business model and start purchasing cattle that would enable it to be successful.  The model that I designed is based on tracing cattle from birth to harvest — focusing on building collaborative relationships all along the calf life cycle in order to work toward continuous improvement.

I soon discovered that building relationships with ranchers was much easier if I also acted as the cattle buyer, the person that orchestrated the deal between the rancher and the feed yard.  I perform this role in more than 85% of the transitions of cattle off of the ranch of origin into my feed yard.  I love the time that I spend interacting with ranchers — getting to know their families as well as their cattle herds — working each year to share information that will improve cattle performance, beef quality, and animal welfare.

The sunrise that gave a beautiful start to my day as I traveled to the ranch...

The sunrise that gave a beautiful start to my day as I traveled to the ranch.

I left home Wednesday morning at 5:15am to head north to Donita and Larry Denke’s That A Way ranch.  I met Donita and Larry through their son, Tony, who was a member of our Cozad community for a number of years.  Our children were friends, and Matt and I helped coach Tony’s kids on the youth track team.  Larry and Donita have a beautiful Red Angus cow herd, and their steers that I purchase are phenomenal beef producing animals.

Fall on the ranch is breathtakingly beautiful...

Fall on the ranch is breathtakingly beautiful.

The Denke’s hard work and attention to detail makes them a pleasure to work with.  My favorite farmer teases me that Larry is just as particular as I am, and that we make quite a pair.  Larry is Beef Quality Assurance certified and works carefully with his vet to ensure that calf vaccinations and health are excellent.  The Denke’s are also outstanding herdsmen, practicing the same cattle handling practices that I do at the feed yard.

Donita patiently waits on horseback for Larry to share his plan...

Donita patiently waits on horseback for Larry to share his plan while sorting and preparing to ship the calves.

Tony is there to help as well...

Tony is there to help as well.

The calves are soon loaded up on the trucks to travel to their new home at the feed yard...

The calves are soon loaded up on the trucks to travel to their new home at the feed yard.

Their dogs are just as well behaved as their calves, and obediently remain out of the way during the sorting and loading process...

The Denke’s dogs are just as well behaved as their calves, and obediently remain out of the way during the sorting and loading process.

The breeding herd remains on the home ranch...

The breeding herd remains on the home ranch…

While the steer calves, destined to make beef, travel to the feed yard where they find fresh grass hay -- water -- and a dry place to sleep their first night...

while the steer calves, destined to make beef, travel to the feed yard where they find fresh grass hay — water — and a comfortable place to sleep the first night at their new home…

 Connecting the dots in the cattle life cycle and beef farming is incredibly important.  When the Denke’s and I remain committed to providing high quality care all across the calf life cycle, each of you benefits by having access to having safe and high quality beef that is humanely raised.

*The Denke’s steers will call my feed yard home until April.  Look for periodic posts between now and then following their life as they prepare to make beef.

 

 

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, Foodie Work!, General

Loosing a Good Partner…

I purchased Studly from a cattle rancher near Dunning, Nebraska about 10 years ago.  He was a 7 year old gelding that had been used as a “stud” horse early in life, and then moonlighted as a general ranch horse.   I always purchase horses from cattlemen that I know because that helps to ensure that I will gain a good equine partner out of the exchange.

I think that I was always more excited to go to work than he was...

I think that I was always more excited to go to work than he was…

We normally have more than one horse at the feed yard, but Studly has always been my favorite.  I have never known a more solid or dependable horse.  I remember a few years ago when I dropped the chain to a pen gate onto the electric hot wire while Doing Gates.  Studly and I both got a pretty big electric jolt, but he still took care of me.

Riding pens...

Riding pens…

Early Saturday morning my cowboy greeted me with a solemn face and the simple message, “Studly is dead”.  I was so shocked that it took several moments for it to sink in.  Just the day before he was out grazing in our pasture and driving our other horse around playing his favorite game of herd boss.  It was difficult to believe that my strong and healthy horse was gone.

Doing gates...

Doing gates…

I exercised calves that morning with tears running down my face.  My horse was lying along the pasture fence line not far from our main alleyway never to get up again—As I walked the cattle past him my composure broke and the facade of the strong boss lady disappeared.

I loved that horse.  His loyalty was unwaivering and, like all good things, he will never be able to be replaced.

I console myself with the knowledge that he had a good life, and that he is now in heaven where the green grass is belly-deep and there are no annoying flies to ruin the pleasure of a beautiful day.  I try to remember that, deep down, Studly was just a tad bit lazy and he is likely happier now than he ever was working with me at the feed yard…

Horse heaven...

Horse heaven…

Today, I take my hat off to a great horse–a good partner–and a beautiful creature.  Thank you, Studly, for all of those good rides.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General