Category Archives: General

Our Farm and New York City

Over the years, I have made a couple of trips to New York City to visit college friends as well as to do some volunteer promotion work for the Beef Check Off.  My perspective of the world broadens a bit every time that I venture into the Big Apple as it is incredibly different from my family’s farm in Nebraska.

This week, as I traversed the Cornhusker State attending my oldest daughter’s basketball games, I did some math calculations with my favorite blonde cowgirl exploring population density using both census data and information from our farm.

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Meg and I in the field that makes up our “back yard”…

Here is what we found…

New York City, NY spans 302.64 square miles and is home to 8,405,837 people (2013 census) = 27,775 people per square mile

Manhattan, New York spans 22.96 square miles and is home to 1,626,159 people (2013 census) = 70,825 people per square mile

Our total farm spans 8.17 square miles where we grow alfalfa, corn, prairie hay (grass), soybeans, and cattle.

The Feed Yard (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) part of our farm spans 0.156 of those 8.17 square miles and is home to 2772 bovines = 17,769 cattle per square mile on the feed yard property.

An aerial view of the feed yard...

An aerial view of the feed yard…

The population numbers per square mile paint an interesting picture. 

The vast majority of the New Yorkers that I know are intensely loyal to their home city, and feel completely comfortable in the relatively crowded environment that makes up the Big Apple.  In fact, New Yorkers are often quick to brag about the unique blend that their city has to offer.  I have a similarly intense loyalty to my farm  — the crops, the cattle, the CAFO that houses my cattle, and the diverse harmony that they all create together. All of the different pieces of my farm come together to make a unique and sustainable whole.

I spend my days watching my cattle thrive — playing, resting, eating and living what I believe to be a humane life.  It is certainly true that they are more confined in a feed yard pen than they would be on a pasture, but I would argue that it is still possible to offer a decent life to an animal within a more crowded environment.

All living creatures adapt to their home environments, whether it is a loyal New Yorker living the city life or a calf living in a feed yard pen.

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We all have the unique ability to acclimate to our surrounding environment in order to live in harmony.

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Filed under CAFO, General

Prosperity Amidst the Absence of Population Growth…

High school athletics in rural America are incredibly unique. Not only does the home town come together to support its youth, but the community travels hundreds of miles for “away” games. Distance takes on a new meaning in the Great Plains region of the country, and the school bus drivers get my vote for the unsung hero award as they work hard to safely deliver our kids to competitions all across the state.sandhillsroad.jpg

Saturday, the Cozad Haymakers road tripped north 140 miles to take on the Ainsworth Bulldogs. My favorite teenager is a member of the JV Girls team. I love the drive to Ainsworth — it is just under 3 hours of peaceful beauty and showcases some of Nebraska’s finest views. Both the rolling Sandhills as well as the small towns nestled along its interior are perfect examples of prosperity amidst the absence of population growth.

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Outstate Nebraska (the 3rd Congressional District), covers 65,000 square miles and is home to approximately 570,000 people, and many, many more animals. The wide open spaces and abundant wildlife attest to a natural balance, and the friendly cultures of the towns show a beautiful but perhaps nontraditional definition of prosperity.

With each census that passes, rural Nebraska gives up population numbers relative to urban areas. Additionally, several investigative journalists involved in the current food movement seem to have a love affair with disparaging rural America — likening our communities to ghost towns (the antithesis of prosperity).

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But, as I drive the corridors of the Cornhusker State, I see a simple beauty that warms my heart and brings peace to my soul. I am surrounded with the feeling of coming home as my eyes witness a harmony between humans and nature that defines the essence of sustainability .

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Rural Nebraska (America) houses a unique form of prosperity that goes much deeper than population numbers and mortar. It is based on a culture that is rooted in community, governed by Mother Nature, and marked by a dedication to hard work and core values.

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  • We rally to support our youth and the one community school that they all attend together.
  • We volunteer outside of our families and jobs to continue to ensure that our communities are viable.
  • We work with the land to produce food and fiber that provides the foundation of our country.
  • We share the belief that it is the simple things in life that ensure long term prosperity.

We demonstrate with each day that passes that there is indeed prosperity amidst the absence of population growth…

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Filed under General, Rural Communities

How Can You Tell If a Group of Calves Are Acclimated?

 

A couple of years ago I took this video of my favorite blonde cowgirl at the beginning of an acclimation session.  Megan then edited the video by adding music (Fly Over States) by Jason Aldean.  The video remained up on YouTube for a couple of years but was taken down recently due to copyright infringement violation.  Apparently, Megan needed Jason’s permission to use the song :)

I noticed that the video had been taken down last week when I tried to use it during a presentation to the Kansas State Masters of Agri-Business students.  I fielded several questions from the group relative to low stress handling and cattle acclimating at the end of my talk.  Above is the video in non-edited form which I re-uploaded to YouTube over the weekend.

As a companion piece, below find the ways that I can tell if a group of calves are acclimated during their transition into the feed yard.

  • When asked, the calves will group in the home pen and move in straight lines around the pen.
  • When asked, the calves will exit the home pen in an orderly fashion, understanding where the gate is located.
  • Once down at the corral, when asked, the calves will calmly walk past the handler.
  • When asked, the calves will move back down the alley from the corral to the home pen with exuberance.  At the end of the acclimation period, cattle exhibit more excitement traveling back to the home pen than leaving the home pen.

The goal of acclimation is for the calf (group of calves) to become comfortable with both the home pen and a human caregiver, while learning where to eat and drink, and how to move off of alternate pressure and herd with confidence. 

An acclimated calf is comfortable in its environment, naturally curious, and accepting of a human caregiver.

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*On an unrelated note, for those of you Serious XM subscribers in the group, I will be featured on the Angus Journal Show — Rural Radio Channel 80 Saturday morning (January 17th) at 10:00am CST.  Check it out!

 

 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Building Trust By Farming With Transparency…

Thoughtful Thursday

Later today (after I exercise calves and ship cattle to Tyson), I will drive to Kansas State University to address the Masters of Agribusiness students at their annual banquet.  My talk will center on how we can build trust by farming with transparency.  As a companion blog post on this Thoughtful Thursday, I would like to share the five rules that I have developed and personally follow in my journey to:

  Build Trust By Farming With Transparency…

  1. To be effective, transparency must be coupled with validation of daily care on the farm.  Practice what you preach!  Audit what you do!
  2. Be prepared to explain what you do and why you do it.  Don’t do anything that you can’t explain!
  3. The who is just as important as the what and the why.  Farmers are people — People are the key to building trust — To be authentic, we must share of ourselves in addition to our farming practices.
  4. Understand that there is more than one “right” way to grow food.  Just as you explain the what, the why, and the who of your farm, embrace the what, the why, and the who of other farms that use different production practices to grow food with integrity.
  5. While you may not always believe that your customers are correct, you must always respect them.  A conversation is a two sided process and understanding and trust are built by sharing.  Gathering feedback from your customers leads to a broader perspective and positive change on your farm.

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I tell my daughters that the right thing is often not the easy thing, and I believe that statement applies to building trust by farming with transparency. 

However, choosing to journey down this path will lend both integrity and sustainability to your farm.

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

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

Freezing in the New Year…

Central Nebraska is ringing in the New Year with frigid temperatures.  Yesterday, the thermometer reported -18 degrees when I read bunks at just after 6:00am.  This time of year, I tend to reflect back to my high school days — sitting in a warm Florida classroom and reading Jack London’s To Build a Fire.  Since learning how to winter on our farm in Nebraska, the words of the story take on a much fuller meaning…

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When it turns this cold, we rely on technology — common sense — instinct — and basic care standards to protect both ourselves and our animals.  In times of harsh winter weather, survival becomes intrinsically tied to the above things, as depicted eloquently by London’s story.

  • Any vital equipment (feed trucks, tractors, pay loaders) is parked inside the heated shop or next to a building where we can plug in an engine heater to better ensure its likelihood of working when it is needed.
  • Special fuel is used to run the equipment that makes it less likely to “gel up” and quit working.
  • Crew priorities focus on the basics: feeding the cattle a special storm ration during both daily feedings that helps them to generate heat from within, frequently checking all water tanks to make sure that a constant supply of water is not disrupted by a tank freezing over, checking cattle health, and preparation for the next day to ensure that morning feed delivery (breakfast) occurs on schedule.
  • Any extra time is spent working on inside paperwork/chores.

Crew members working outdoors are fully covered with multiple layers of clothing, and take frequent breaks either in the shop or in a warm pick up truck to protect against frost bite.  My guys all tend to grow beards for the winter, I get out my ski mask and do my best bank robber impersonation.

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London’s protagonist perishes in To Build A Fire due to his lack of common sense and employment of poor survival skills.  Conversely, his dog companion depends on instinct and survives.

I think that it is fair to say that good farmers use a combination of modern technology and instinct to ensure survival and productivity during times of winter challenge.  After all, it is our job to care for the animal, not be bested by him!

 

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Filed under CAFO, Farming, General

The 12 Days Of (Christmas) Fitness…

I have a habit of making up words to songs that I enjoy.  Over the years, my family has picked up this same tendency which ensures much laughter in our daily lives.

Our family also has a habit of fitness.  Matt and I are lifelong athletes, and keeping physically fit is important to us.  We often sing when we exercise — sometime the correct words and sometimes our own funny remake of a song…

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My favorite blonde cowgirl took her daddy to the community wellness center a couple of days before Christmas.  After running a bit, they did a circuit exercise set that Megan devised to the old favorite song, The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Unfortunately, I missed out on the fun as I was tied up working at the feed yard, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the retelling of the session and figured that I would share Megan’s Twelve Days of (Christmas) Fitness with each one of you.

  • On the first day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 1 Pull Up
  • On the second day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 2 Knee Curls
  • On the third day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 3 Single Bounces with a Heavy Jump Rope
  • On the fourth day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 4 Tosses with the Medicine Ball
  • On the fifth day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 5 Wheel Rolls
  • On the sixth day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 6 Sit Ups with a 10# Medicine Ball
  • On the seventh day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to  me: 7 Step Throughs with a Jump Rope
  • On the eighth day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 8 Jumping Jacks
  • On the ninth day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 9 Push Ups
  • On the tenth day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 10 Lunges
  • On the eleventh day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 11 Toe Touches (with straight legs)
  • On the twelfth day of fitness, my favorite farmer gave to me: 12 Double Bounces with the Jump Rope

If you remember, the song goes through each day of Christmas repeatedly as it goes from 1-12.  I am happy to report that by the end of 12 pull ups, 22 Knee Curls, 30 Single Bounces with a Heavy Jump Rope, 36 Tosses with the Medicine Ball, 40 Wheel Rolls, 54 Sit Ups with a 10# Medicine Ball, 54 Step Throughs with a Jump Rope, 40 Jumping Jacks, 36 Push Ups, 30 Lunges, 22 Toe Touches, and 24 Double Bounces with the Jump Rope that my favorite farmer was breathing hard enough he was no longer singing out loud :)

I hope that each of you found some time last week for moments of laughter, peace, and share memories.  Each Christmas with my family reminds me of how truly blessed I am.

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Filed under Family, General

Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas from our family to yours...

A very Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

The trees whisper softly… their message rolls off the hills.

Snow softly blankets the cold, still Earth.

The slightest sound… a Cardinal tweets its song to the sky.

The tan tips of corn stalks peek up… barely above the soft snow.

 White lumps huddle together on the edge of fields.

Mother Nature throws her best at the farmers of mid-Nebraska.

A crackling sound interrupts the peace.

A single buck darts across the Platte River… the ice under his hooves breaks.

He nimbly jumps to the other side.

A geyser shoots from the cracked ice.. suddenly the sleeping Platte is alive again.

A light glow on the eastern side announces the new day…

Rays of pink and gold shoot out from behind a cloud in every direction.

The buck raises his elegant head… his racks rustle the icicles on a nearby tree.

The slight jingle makes a soft sound… almost like a message from the angels singing above.

As the gold of the sunrise drifts away with the wing, its speed picks up…

People near and far can hear the whistling… almost as if the sun must be blown from the sky.

This day is cold but happy… many families gather together to decorate and bake.

Soon far and wide, the smell of ginger and Christmas treats floats throughout the air.

The sun outside is breaking through the clouds, glistening on the fresh snow.

This picture seems untouchable.

The warmth of the sun heats the Earth, for a little while.

Little animals come out to play in the white powder.

Birds wrestle in the bare trees, turkeys scrounge around for food.

The evergreens, yet white with snow…

Sway in the wind, their needles playing with the pine cones.

It is midday by now… the sun is high but weak.

The animals now return to their caves, tunnels, and burrows… seeking shelter from the white snow that has begun to fall, again.

 Everything is hiding… keeping warm.

When night begins to fall… the golden sun turns to pink.

The beautiful clouds reflect its radiance… the snow is still falling,

And looks like powder puffs on the horizon.

A brilliant day is done.

By: Megan Anne

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Filed under Family, General