Category Archives: General

Life is a Series of Callings…

anneagxc.jpgI believe that life is a series of callings.  Although my faith is deeply personal and generally manifests itself outside of church walls, my relationship with God leads me on the journey.  I followed my heart when I became involved in work to improve animal welfare for cattle and this same desire for positive change led me to coaching youth athletics.  Likely the only two things that these topics share in common is my passion to make a positive difference.

I had a brief foray into coaching immediately after graduating from college and moving to Nebraska.  I served in the volunteer role of assistant coach to the high school Cross Country team in the late 1990’s prior to the birth of my favorite brunette.  A busy life running a cattle feed yard and raising a young family took me away from coaching for about a decade, but life has a way of placing a person in the right place at the right time.

I had a wake up call the year that I turned 30 as I lost my health due to an autoimmune system disease.  The following five years provided a personal battle that reminded me how precious a gift each day truly is.  God has a way of putting life into perspective and, as I worked to regain my health, I found myself inspired to coach again — this time at the swimming pool.  Seven years later, with the help of the same awesome lady who guided me in my first foray of Haymaker XC coaching, our local community has a thriving recreational swim team where fitness and fun combine to teach life skills to almost 50 budding athletes.

This fall I took on an additional volunteer coaching gig — coming full circle back to the Haymaker Cross Country team.  Ironically, my favorite brunette is now a member of the team which makes me smile as I was eight months pregnant when I hung up my XC coaching hat the first time.  I am back on the Haymaker roster as an assistant which allows me to mentor just under thirty junior high and high school athletes on their quest for greatness.


Coaching refills my cup — it touches my heart as I see God in the young people that I get to mentor.


There is something so truly special in playing a leadership role in an athlete’s journey.  You learn to coach the athlete in the moment that they need you — filling each unique void — giving direction while also inspiring good independent decision making.  Athletics teach toughness, work ethic, empathy, and personal sacrifice.  They are about developing fitness: mental, emotional, and physical in order to work toward a common goal.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching a culture of greatness develop amongst teammates.

The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies all of these things, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it.  Like many coaches, I don’t coach for the win.  I coach for the athlete — focusing on developing personal life skills that create leaders.  The development of this positive culture brings the win, and it is so much sweeter when the athletes lead the way.

The calling of a coach is a special one.  It comes from a quest to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of the young people who will create the future.  When I see the athletes dig deep to persevere during competition or unselfishly reach out to teammates in need, I know that God is at work and my heart fills with optimism for all of those times yet to come.

Go Haymakers!



Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General, Rural Communities

“Anne Gates”…

Annegate3I 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…

annegate1.jpgWhen 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.





Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady…

I want to begin by thanking everyone who has reached out to me personally over the past week.  Please know how important it is to me to hear from you.  As many of you have guessed, this is personally a difficult time and each positive thought that I receive puts a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

Making “life decisions” requires both a leap of faith and a vision for the future.  My favorite farmer and I have packed our faith — looking forward to a future of continuing to contribute to agriculture in a meaningful and positive way.  Shifting our farm and my role on the farm is simply the product of two responsible farmers figuring out how to do the best thing for their family and their farm.  Change is never easy, but showing grace amidst change is a priority for me both as a farmer and as a mom.

MegKarynbunk2.jpgMany of you will remember a blog post that my favorite blonde cowgirl wrote about a month ago.  The Rainbow Ends At the Pot of Gold provides a list of things Megan reported learning “growing up at the feed yard”.  Not long after Matt and I told our girls that we planned to close the feed yard, Megan asked if she could write a blog post.  I have always encouraged the girls to take pictures/write/and generally contribute to the blog so my immediate answer was “yes”.  That weekend, I came home from working to find Megan and Karyn laughing as they compiled this master *list* — reminiscing and chronicling lessons learned taking care of the cattle.

It made me laugh — it made me cry — it made me incredibly proud as I watched them turn their grief and fear for the future into something beautiful and positive.  I love that blog post for a number of different reasons, but it truly touched my heart to watch my girls dig deep and choose to embrace the positive as they struggled with the thought of change.

Although we will no longer have a cattle feed yard, the girls and I are making plans to purchase some calves next spring to graze our grass pasture.  We’ll need to find a new feed yard to finish them in come fall, but this project will allow them to continue to participate in the cattle business on a small scale.  I’d hate to remove all character building exercises from their lives😉

June 13 2012 feed yard 009Despite the fact that I’ve announced my impending retirement, my life still revolves around the feed yard.  I am checking cattle health this week as my cowboy is on vacation, so I get to start each day with a beautiful sunrise and a large number of bovines…

I am toying with the idea of creating a category on the blog site for Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady which would enable me to stay organized writing during this time of transition.  I’m open to other ideas for the category name, so feel free to share your thoughts.


Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

Return on Investment…

annemattbale1.jpgLess 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.

Easterfamily2.jpgThis 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.




Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Family, Farming, General

A Proud “Mom” Moment…

AnneKarynAug2016My youngest daughter, Karyn, embarked on a challenging journey beginning the fall of 2011.  She contracted a severe viral pneumonia infection the week of Thanksgiving that left her hospitalized for 5 days and created lingering lung health issues.  Her time in the hospital was very challenging for me as a parent, and I will never forget what it feels like to sit there and watch your child fight to breathe.

In December of 2013, after little progress fighting her resulting “illness induced asthma”, I took Karyn to a pulmonary specialist at Boys Town National Research Hospital (three and half hours away from our farm).  I needed answers, and Karyn needed a better treatment plan.  It was the best decision that I have made as a “mom”.  Dr. Kevin Murphy not only brought pediatric pulmonary specialty skills, but also a belief that a combination of medical treatment and physical fitness could provide the answer for my budding young athlete.

After 32 months of naturally increasing Karyn’s lung strength using a combination of running and swimming activities, and carefully choosing asthma treatment drugs to remove the inflammation from the soft tissue in her respiratory tract — my rock star of a daughter is now boasting a lung capacity of 111% and is asthma free.  My “dream day” when Karyn could begin to maintain lung strength and good health without the use of a daily asthma steroid inhaler happened yesterday🙂

My heart is happy, and I am very proud of Karyn’s personal dedication to fitness.  Her hard work over the past few years brought one of the very sweetest kinds of success: good health.  While I am a “life long” athlete, I never quite imagined myself the “personal trainer” of a lung compromised elementary student.  Karyn and I traveled the road to good health together and I feel so very blessed that she begins middle school today able to chase after her athletic dreams with a healthy set of lungs.

When I think of all of the things that Karyn learned on this journey, likely the most important is realizing that positive improvement comes from positive action.  There are no excuses in life — there are simply obstacles that each one of us works to conquer — using faith and dedication to persevere with strength.




Filed under Family, General

Pick Your Battles…

Last week while I was moving cattle, I had a calf try to crawl through the feed bunk into a neighboring pen.  I adjusted my angle to the calf and encouraged him back to the rest of his herd mates.  Part way through the interaction, my cowboy became aware of the situation and starting barking orders at me and “loving Pete”.  I chose to ignore him as I had the situation completely under control.

AnneMeg.jpgMy favorite blonde cowgirl happened to be along that day and later asked me why I just quietly continued to move the calf instead of responding to my cowboy’s criticism.  I summed it up in three words, “Pick your battles”.

She looked pretty perplexed with my response so I decided that it was a good time to share a well learned life lesson.  I asked her, “Megan, did the calf respond appropriately and do what I asked him to do?”  As she nodded her head affirmatively, I pointed out that the goal was accomplished so there was no point in creating drama with my crew.

There are many kinds of leadership – passive, active, verbal, and non-verbal.  In regards to cattle handling, I choose to lead by example.  Cattle move best in situations where the handler maintains mental composure.  As the lead handler in this situation, it was in the calf’s best interest for me to continue to interact calmly.  I know my cowboy well (we have worked closely together for 20 years), so I also recognized that ignoring him while completing the task correctly was the best choice.

Sometimes it isn’t about who is right –

It is about completing the job well and doing the best thing for the animal.    

Over the last two decades, the words pick your battles have circled through my head tens of thousands of times.  Whether it is interacting with my own crew or sitting in a meeting with other folks involved in raising beef, I think that one of the most important lessons is learning when to speak up and when to bite my tongue.    I discovered a long time ago that life isn’t about pride and personal affirmation; it’s about doing the right thing to create positive improvement.

  • I am anal about cattle care.
  • I am passionate about always trying to be better tomorrow than I am today.
  • I stubbornly stick to my values even when the right thing isn’t the easy thing.

But, I have come to understand that meaningful change occurs when my idea becomes someone else’s idea.  Sometimes the best way to make that happen is to let my actions speak and keep my words where they belong – inside of my mouth…

Megan got awfully quiet at the end of our conversation, and I could tell that she was looking at the situation with my cowboy from a different perspective.  Perhaps the next time someone “yanks her chain” and she starts to fight back, she will stop and remember the art of picking your battles🙂


Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

Efficient Living…

cornanneOur family returned via airplane to Omaha from our trip to New England on Monday night of last week.  I got up Tuesday morning and got on a different set of airplanes to head to Springdale, Arkansas for a Animal Well-Being meeting.  Always one to find ways to be efficient, I jumped on the chance to combine the two trips and cut out the 7 hour round trip car ride from our farm to the Omaha airport…

It made for a long time to be away from home — 11 days — but my foreman and his son, along with my cowboy took care of animal chores for me while I was gone.  The summer months are the slowest time in the calendar year at the feed yard because Mother Nature provides grass pastures for cattle in June, July and August which seasonally limits the role of a Nebraska feed yard.

I traveled to Arkansas as a member of Tyson’s 3rd Party Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel.  I serve on the panel as the cattle/beef farmer specialist for the group.  I knew very little about Tyson as a company before I became involved as an Advisory Panel member in May of 2013, but this role has provided me with a tremendous personal and professional growth opportunity.

I love both the ability to make a difference in “food” animal welfare as well as the interaction with Tyson team members as we work together to brain storm ways of improving how we grow food.  Our Advisory Panel meetings fuel the “intellectual Anne” as we tackle subjects that encompass animal welfare, sustainability, and food safety for poultry, pork and beef.  The Tyson leadership team and the animal welfare scientists that make up Tyson’s Sustainable Food Production team are first class.  I am continually impressed by their intellect and understanding of the highly complex issues that surround growing food; and value their ability to work as a team to move forward in a meaningful way.

I have served on many different beef industry committees in the last two decades, and I can honestly say that being a member of the Tyson Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel is the one that I value most.  It is refreshing to spend time with a bunch of smart people that just want to figure out how to be better tomorrow than we are today.

I arrived back at the farm late Thursday night glad to sleep in my own bed.  I am reminded every time that I travel that leaving the farm opens my eyes to a broader perspective and offers me incentive to think outside of the box as I continue to complete the important task of putting nutritious food on the table…


Filed under Animal Welfare, General, Tyson Farm Check Program

Heading East…

My favorite farmer and I met my freshman year at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  Although we have only returned back to visit twice in the last 19 years, the school holds a special place in our hearts.  Matt is the best thing that Dartmouth gave to me, and our journey together reflects two decades of love and partnership as we work to create a meaningful legacy on our farm.

My dear friend, Karyn, is the 2nd best thing that Dartmouth gave to me.  I met Karyn when I visited Dartmouth on a swimming recruiting trip the fall of my senior year in high school.  As a freshman member of the swim team, she had the privilege of “hosting” me on my weekend trip.  She did such an awesome job that weekend that she became “stuck” with me for her remaining years at Dartmouth…  Although our lives headed in different directions (thousands of miles apart) after graduation, I still count on Karyn’s support and friendship twenty years later.

Last week our family headed east to visit Karyn and her family as well as look at colleges for my favorite brunette who thinks that New England is the region of choice for college.  While it seems hard to believe that I am old enough to have a daughter looking at colleges, the years tell a different story.  We had an amazing trip — catching up with good friends and discovering more about the 5 colleges that Ashley Grace picked to visit: Cornell, Williams, Dartmouth, Colby, and Harvard.


This photo reminds me of how much Karyn and I have to be proud of — 23 years after fate brought us together in the mountains of New Hampshire…

Karyn "squared" outside the library at Dartmouth College...

Karyn “squared” outside the library at Dartmouth College…

My favorite brunette enjoying the Williams College campus...

My favorite brunette enjoying the Williams College campus…

The girls took a brief moment to dig their toes in the sand on the beach in Maine -- remarking that there were likely more people on that beach than our entire town of Cozad...

The girls took a brief moment to dig their toes in the sand on the beach in Maine — remarking that there were likely more people on that beach than in our entire town of Cozad…

Matt and I felt the need to wear our Dartmouth shirts as we walked around Harvard's campus -- still feeling the competitive rivalry 20 years later...

Matt and I felt the need to wear our Dartmouth shirts as we walked around Harvard’s campus — still feeling the competitive rivalry 20 years later…

tripacaitlinI think that we even talked my favorite horse-loving God daughter and her big sister into coming out to the farm to visit next summer — with any luck they’ll bring their Mama with them🙂

I know that the trip reminded me how important it is to take a break from a crazy busy life to spend some time with those I love — refilling the cup giving thanks for all of my blessings.


Filed under Family, General