Category Archives: General

The Story of India…

My favorite blonde cowgirl and I found a surprise at the feed yard early Sunday morning.


It is no secret that our family and our farm crew are known for being animal lovers. The need to care and nourish runs strong, and that provides for success on the farm.

When Megan and I discovered “India” Sunday morning, I did not realize the story that this little kitten could tell. As the day unfolded, my emotions ran from joy to sadness to anger and then back to joy.

Saturday afternoon someone threw India out the car window while traveling down one of Cozad’s main roads. Luckily she landed in a grass patch by the local softball fields and frantically climbed a tree. Even luckier, one of my favorite farmer’s crew witnessed the incident while driving past in a tractor and was able to turn around and rescue the scared kitten.


He brought the kitten to the feed yard to find it a home.

Whether she remains at the feed yard to be spoiled in the office, or takes the short trip down the road to the Feed Yard Foodie house, India will be part of a family that cares.

There is nothing like a baby animal to bring an instant smile and a moment of joy. The needy little face and the innocent desire to be loved pull at my heart always inspiring me to care. Our house is full of animals – most of whom have been rescued. I believe that providing for God’s creatures is the right thing to do.


It brings me tremendous sadness that not everyone shares my love of animals. It brings me great anger that there are some who also do not share my feeling of responsibility toward them.

It is shameful to neglect and abuse animals – they rely on us for survival and it is our responsibility to care. India’s story has a happy ending because people took the time to care – to right a terrible wrong—and provide a needed home.

Please take the time to care and be a responsible pet owner.


Filed under Animal Welfare, General

The Haymakers Rock the Pool…

The Haymaker Swim Team rocked the pool during the 2015 Plains Tsunami Swim League Championships.

52 Haymaker Swimmers competed garnering a total of 210 medal winning swims, and 13 individual swimmers earning High Point Awards for the meet. The stack of medals is indeed impressive – glittering brightly to match the smiles of the swimmers after they powered through more than 70 PR’s and secured the team victory.swimteam2015a

Words cannot describe how proud I am of the team, and it is my fervent hope that each swimmer finished the season stronger and more confident than they began. Many share my enthusiasm for our team’s success in 2015, but very few realize that I held an additional and very important personal goal for the 2015 Championships.

This year I celebrated my 40th birthday as well as my 10 year anniversary with Graves Disease. A few months prior to my 30th birthday, this autoimmune system disease racked my body – leaving me physically debilitated and mentally shattered. My anemic and painfully thin body refused to function and simple things like lifting my 12 month old baby or reading aloud to my children became nearly impossible.

As my physical strength deteriorated, my mind ran on constant adrenaline leaving my mental and emotional fitness devastated. My Graves journey was unique and I experienced some unexpected complications both from the disease and the treatment. I have few specific memories from those first 5 years of my 4th decade, but many regrets for the trauma that my family experienced as a result of the disease.

My biggest fan...

My biggest fan…

The last five years have been years of healing for me – finding new balance – and accepting that my flawed body (with the help of modern medicine) can indeed persevere. Losing fitness is difficult for anyone, but it hit me particularly hard as my identity was closely tied to athletics. Soul searching eventually led me to decide that I needed to come full circle in order to effectively “finish the Graves Chapter” of my life.

On my 40th birthday, I made a promise to myself that I would train and compete as a 19 and Over Swimmer for the 2015 season. While I have haphazardly swum for a few years, I had not set an athletic goal since getting sick. I have to admit that it scared me. I am naturally driven to accomplish personal goals and my flagging confidence worried that I would fall short. Despite my trepidation, I recognized that it was a critical step in my journey.

I too was personally victorious at the Championships. I completed the meet with a sweep of Gold Medals (200M freestyle, 100M freestyle, 50M Backstroke, and 100M Individual Medley) and a collection of very decent swims to mark the first year of my 5th decade. My healed body showed stamina and strength which brought a feeling of pride and closure.

This picture was taken about a month ago -- since then, my favorite 10 year old has passed me by and I am now the shortest two-legged member of the household!

My Graves journey was life changing. I look at the world differently today than I did 10 years ago. There are a few physical challenges that still remain, but I have overcome the heart of this trial. As a result, I truly understand that the road to excellence is not meant to be comfortable.  I would not be where I am today without the love and support of my favorite farmer and the three girls with which God blessed us.  We persevered together.

Every day is a gift — Every race is an opportunity.

Go Haymakers!


Filed under Family, General

Dear Swimmer…

As most of you know, I coach my community’s swim team.  Last weekend, we competed in the Qualifier Meet and next Saturday we will travel to Championships.  I used to think that the best thing that I got out of competitive swimming was the ability to study and compete at an elite Ivy League college.  While I truly treasure my time at Dartmouth, today I realize that the best gift that I received from competitive swimming was the skills and ability to coach the young people in my beloved town.

Each one of the swimmers on my team holds a special place in my heart, and I believe that coaching them allows me to do God’s work in a meaningful and unique way.  Below you will find a letter that I wrote to my athletes this week as we prepare for the final meet of the season.  I am sharing it here in the hopes that it will speak to you, and be an inspiration for you to do youth volunteer work.  Our children are our future — our greatest asset as well as our greatest responsibility.


Dear Swimmer,

We spend many hours together learning from each other as we journey through each season. As we approach the 2015 Championships, there are a few things that I would like to say to you.

  1. I am proud of you and I love to watch you develop strength and fitness. I know that there are times when you think that I am crazy because of what I ask you to do each day in the pool, but I know that those things will take you one step closer to triumph. I believe that “the only place that you find success before work is in the dictionary” (May Smith), and it is my job to teach you how to work. I created the Pitchfork Challenges that we do each week in practice to help you realize that personal victory stems from reaching above and beyond your capabilities in order to accomplish far more than your dreams. It isn’t meant to be easy, easy does not create meaningful improvement.
  2. My goal for you is physical strength and fitness, the development of a tenacious mental focus, and the creation of emotional confidence and personal belief in your own God given ability. I look at each of you at the beginning of the year – I watch you grow during the season – and I hope for improvement in each of these things by our final meet. I do not compare you to other swimmers, rather, I compare you to yourself as you continue down your own unique swimming journey.
  3. Please know that we share every challenge and success that occurs along this journey. When you stumble—I hurt for you – When you find success, my heart is filled with joy – We are in this together. I do my best to provide you with appropriate leadership. I promise that I will harass you when you do not give your best effort. I promise that I will push you to search for excellence, rather than settling for adequate. I realize that you may not always think that my actions are “fair” or “right”. I understand this, but please know that I have your best interest at heart. While I love to be your friend, it is more important that I be your coach.
  4. The most important thing that I can teach you is to believe. The weakest muscle in your body is your brain. To be successful you must learn to trust: acting as your own advocate, as well as an advocate for your teammates. There are no limitations in life, other than the ones that you place on yourself. Learn to open your mind so that your body can fly.
  5. I care. I care about you – not just the athlete, but the person that makes you so very special. I will always be your biggest fan and I will always believe in you. Realize that although sometimes it might be easier for me to do it for you, I care enough about you that I will back away so that you can learn to do it for yourself.

Next Saturday you will compete at the Championship Meet. You will represent yourself, your team, and your community of Cozad. All of the hard work that we have done will come together to help both you and our team to achieve greatness. I ask that you give of yourself – for yourself—and for the other 52 swimmers that proudly wear the Cozad Pitchfork on their caps. Be physically strong, mentally tough, and emotionally confident – It is these three things that will lead us to victory.

Go Haymakers!

Coach Anne


Filed under Family, General, Rural Communities

S.E.F.A — A Cowgirl’s HACCP Plan…

My 13 year old blonde cowgirl grew up at a cattle feed yard. She learned about cattle, Beef Quality Assurance and HACCP practices as she learned how to walk and talk — internalizing them during her formative years.  Megan lives life with an interesting blend of faith, quiet confidence, determination, and a never ending smile.  Her adventurous spirit blended with the practical skills learned on the farm create a unique package.

Although this picture is several years old, the look on her face as she lopes her beloved horse says it all...

Although this picture is several years old, the look on her face as she lopes her beloved horse says it all…

Some might say that Megan is a bit of a “wild woman”, but the truth is that underneath her outwardly exuberant personality is a calm problem solver.  She holds steadfast under pressure and always has a plan.  I attribute a lot of that ability to the hours that we spend together at the feed yard.  During those times, I expect her to focus, be tough, and make good decisions — constantly adjusting to the situation in order to ensure the best possible outcome.  This skill carries over into other facets of her life.


Sometime in the middle of track season this spring, I heard Megan refer to her S.E.F.A. kit.  I was focused on something else at the time so I did not ask her about it.  A few weeks later, I found a black cosmetic bag with bright pink duck tape on the front.  It was filled with first aid tools: neosporin, band aids, vasoline, q-tips, anti-itch cream, chap stick, and ibuporfen.

Printed on the pink duct tape was the acronym:

S: Super

E: Extreme

F: Freak

A: Accident Kit…


I have to admit that I laughed when I first saw the S.E.F.A kit.  It was just so Megan: Confident enough to always engage, but smart enough to be prepared for any outcome.  Megan knows that there are no guarantees in life.  She lives on a farm where life is sometimes very harsh and even the best plan can go awry.

I have taught her to accept that behind every adversity is the opportunity for improvement. To face life head on: confident enough to expect the best, but realistic enough to be prepared for the worst.

When I finally asked my favorite blonde cowgirl about her S.E.F.A kit, she smiled and said:

“Mom, it’s my HACCP plan”.


Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

Busy Times…

Over the past two weeks, I have failed at blogging.  The days passed in a hurry and my tired voice found little strength to share.  Thus, I put Feed Yard Foodie aside, pausing to put my thoughts together and hopefully find inspiration.

I plan to spend the rest of the summer figuring out the future of Feed Yard Foodie — whether to continue as it has been, modify it going into the future, or retire from social media for a indefinite period of time.  After 4 and a half years, I think that it is time to reassess and figure out a vision for the future.  I am open to all of your thoughts, so please feel free to share your opinions regarding the blog site in the comment section below.

In the meantime, I figured that I would update you all on the happenings of the farm.  About ten days ago, the feed yard had its annual third party audit.  June and July are also filled with maintenance work, and my guys taking turns being on vacation.  When you have a “4 man crew”, it is always a bit hectic when you run short on help.  My blonde cowgirl has stepped up to help fill in the gaps, and I have been glad to have her smiling face around.

Here are a few family tidbits from the last few weeks:

Our family adopted a student from Spain for the summer.  Carlos arrived just over a week ago.  My mom lived with his grandmother’s family in Spain more than 50 years ago, and our families have gone back and forth across the ocean visiting periodically for more than half a century.  My favorite farmer is very excited to have a boy living in the house and we look forward to the next month that he will share with us!

In addition to working on improving his English, Carlos has already learned to water ski and also been introduced to various farm chores :)


The end of June brings the harvesting of prairie hay to the Feed Yard Foodie farm.  Some of this hay is baled in large round bales to be fed to our cattle, and some is put up in small (60#) square bales to be fed to both our cattle and horses. The small square bales require some good old fashioned labor to transport them to the barn where they are stored.  I always view this as a great project for the kids to help with — They likely disagree, but I see it as a character building experience.  My favorite farmer still slings small squares like a teenager.  He commented after we finished the project that even though the girls are bigger than me, that I still unload and stack bales faster and better than they do.  I guess that means that I am not finished parenting them yet :)

Good life lessons are often taught amidst a robust session of manual labor...

Good life lessons are often taught amidst a robust session of manual labor…


June also brings on the main season for the Haymaker Swim Team.  I am proud to report that our team finished the regular season with an undefeated record!  Over the next three weeks, we will head to the Qualifying Meet and ultimately the Championship Meet the third weekend in July.  I have a great group of swimmers this year and we are well positioned for some awesome performances in the latter part of the season.  In addition to coaching, this year I am competing in the 19 and Over age group to celebrate my 40th birthday — I suppose that this is my “mid-life crisis”.  Thankfully, my body still remembers how to compete in the pool :)

This picture was taken about a month ago -- since then, my favorite 10 year old has passed me by and I am now the shortest two-legged member of the household!

This picture was taken about a month ago — since then, my favorite 10 year old has passed me by and I am now the shortest two-legged member of the household!

I hope that this summer finds you all making great memories.  Happy 4th of July to each and everyone of you!


Filed under Family, General

Seeing In Pictures…

If you have read one of Dr. Temple Grandin’s books or seen her movie, you will remember hearing that cattle see in pictures. What this means is that cattle view the world as a collection of images. They are not linear thinkers – rather, they live in the visual moment. Good cattle caregivers understand what it means to see in pictures because they spend their days doing just that in order to effectively communicate with their animals.

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session...

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session…

I believe that when asking cattle to move from one place to another, the handler not only needs to see in pictures, but also to envision angles within the images. Moving cattle calmly and correctly necessitates applying appropriate pressure from the appropriate angle to instigate orderly movement. Depending on the personalities of the animals as well as their past interactions with human handlers, this angled pressure can range from incredibly soft to strong in nature. Regardless of the level of life involved in the pressure, it is the release of that pressure when the animal or group of animals responds correctly that creates a healthy animal/handler learning moment.

There are two kinds of bovine movement: a frantic flight/fight response that is fueled by fear, and a deliberate thinking response that comes from an effective interaction. The goal is to accomplish the latter, and it always makes me smile when I am savvy enough to enable a calf to think. At that moment, harmony exists as the right thing becomes the easy thing.

While this short video is several years old, in it my favorite blonde cowgirl does a nice job of showing appropriate and angled pressure as she asks a group of yearling cattle to exit the home pen. In order to effectively communicate with this group of animals, Megan has to see the pen through the same lens as the cattle and then interact with them in a meaningful way. One of Megan’s greatest strengths as a cattle handler is her ability to see in pictures and accurately read and respond to cattle behavior. This sense allows her to respond with the appropriate level of urgency to each interaction.

In some ways, I think that it is easier for a child to develop this sense. Their unbiased perspective and simplistic view of the world enables them to more easily shift from “human thinking” to “bovine thinking”. Once a young person develops the attentive focus needed to interact, her/his brain is unencumbered and more open to a natural interaction.

It's always a good thing when the cattle handler wears a smile!

It’s always a good thing when the cattle handler wears a smile!

I am not a natural visual thinker and my linear tendencies sometimes challenge my cattle handling skills; but I recognize the importance of thinking like a bovine. Over the years, I have consciously re-programed my brain to view cattle and their surroundings in pictures. Moving cattle out of the home pen and down the alley becomes a series of images and angles that flash through my mind amidst the rapid fire pictures of cattle expression and behavior that combines to determine my actions as the handler. It takes a clear mind and a keen focus, but provides an incredibly interesting journey…


My favorite farmer read this post on Sunday afternoon and informed me that it was “marked by nerdiness” — I hope that someone other than Megan finds it interesting :)


Filed under Animal Welfare, General

4 Wheel Drive…

When my favorite blonde cowgirl was about a year old, her Granddaddy nick-named her “4 Wheel Drive”. Her smiling antics combined with an incredible natural sense of balance and lack of fear put a distinct twinkle in his eye. In the years that followed, it warmed my heart to watch them together: wading through trout streams, rock climbing along the river and playing with his beloved dogs.July_2006_114[1]

Granddaddy made a valiant effort to keep up with his 4 wheel drive despite the fact that she always seemed to remain a few steps ahead of him, looking over her shoulder with an impish grin. That grin proved to be contagious, and their times together left my dad laughing more than his serious and quiet nature normally allowed.


Cancer took Granddaddy out of our lives about 18 months ago. I remember a friend telling me shortly after he died that grief would come in stages, eventually settling into acute and distinct moments when his presence would be painfully missed. I had one of those moments on Saturday at the Nebraska State Junior High Championship Track meet.

My favorite blonde cowgirl aka 4 wheel drive decided last winter that she would compete in the Pole Vault her 7th grade track season. My favorite farmer Pole Vaulted during his high school tenure, so it seemed a pretty natural fit. In typical Meg fashion, she embraced the season with that big smile, fearless drive, and quiet determination that warmed her Granddaddy’s heart.


Her season of 7 regular track meets became augmented with a trip to the state meet. Megan ended the season clearing 8’ — earning 9th place overall, with a love of vaulting and a tremendous acquisition of new skills due to a talented young coach.

Every time that I watch her sail over the bar, I think of my dad and his 4 wheel drive. My heart hurts just a little bit because I know that we will never get to share that moment together. Instead, I have to imagine the twinkle, the big smile, and the victorious celebration whistle. While I am sure that the bleachers in heaven offer a great view, it just isn’t the same.


I grieve for myself, and for my blonde cowgirl who may never fully understand how proud her granddaddy would be. The focus, determination, and strength that are required for the Pole Vault epitomize the qualities that my dad held close to his heart. Combining those with Meg’s contagious smile creates a powerful package.

I am certain that each one of us has lost a loved one and finds moments of loss amidst times of great joy. The regret and disappointment that comes from not being able to share is strong. I think that part of the grieving process is learning to accept that a lost loved one’s role in making new memories is different. It requires an added component of faith – a peaceful acceptance that the love, pride, and presence can still be felt albeit in a less tangible way.


I struggle with this, but I also know that this journey is inevitable — happening regardless of my desires to change the past rather than to look to the future. My pole vaulting blonde cowgirl carries a piece of her Granddaddy with her each and every day.

Perhaps that is part of the reason that she carries a perpetual twinkle in her eye?


Filed under Family, General

Answering Questions: Responding to a recent comment…

I received the below comment on Friday afternoon from a blog site visitor. Over the lifetime of Feed Yard Foodie, many people have issued advice/comments similar to this so I decided that perhaps it provided a good blog post topic. When I receive notes like this, all that I have to go on are the words written because most people do not chose to introduce themselves or give me much, if any, personal information in addition to their advice.

“i understand this is your way of farming, and that’s your prerogative. but consider this:
if you have 3000 acres, why not put the cattle out on grass instead? you could even do rotational grazing (which makes the forage super nutritious in a very short time) with half or 1/10th of labor costs compared to labor in a feedlot operation, no feed farming labor and seed costs, fertilizer automatically goes back into the ground while grazing, no medicines, or very little medicine necessary in a pasture operation; no overwhelming manure smell either! it just seems healthier, simpler, better for the environment, cows do and eat more what they would naturally do and eat outside: graze on grass and forbs; and healthier meat is produced which equals healthier humans. win-win all around.”


Dear JG,

I believe that part of a farmer’s job is to consider all angles relative to natural resource availability. My favorite farmer and I have routine “brainstorming sessions” as we plan for the long term sustainability of our farm. While we have never chosen to go down the road that you suggest, it is not because of lack of consideration.

There are two main reasons that our farm remains diversified (with the production/growth of a variety of products instead of one grass/cattle product):

1. Farm use of natural resources is maximized under a diversified system, thereby allowing us to lower our total environmental footprint.

2. The long term economic sustainability of our farm is better protected under a marketing program that has a blend of products to be sold “off farm”.

The unique blend of traditional and organic alfalfa and corn production combined with a cattle feed yard allows a sustainable cycle of growth across the farm. The Platte River Valley provides us with a fertile silty loam soil that allows the growth of high quality feedstuffs that can be either used “on farm” or exported off the farm to feed a variety of animals.  The animals in our feed yard produce both beef/beef products to be exported, and also manure which can be agronomically applied to our farm ground to ensure healthy soil maintenance. The bottom line is that we can grow more animal feed and human-use products in this manner than simply growing grass.

The sustainability of rural America is rooted in both social and economic factors. Matt and I are proud to employ local members of our town, and do our part to stimulate the economy of rural Nebraska.  We also work hard to sustain the heart of our town by working as volunteers in the community. I encourage you to get to know us better by reading additional blog posts that detail our role as community members and mentors.

The diversity of our farm plays a key role in economic sustainability as it allows us to both use and produce more products that stimulate our local economy. As farmers and business owners, our primary job is to ensure that our farm can continue on into the future. When our farm sustains, then our community sustains — they are intrinsically blended.

Let’s look at a little bit of “cowboy” math to delve further into this…

Following your suggested model: Our farm currently consists of approximately 4000 acres. If our land was all planted to grass pastures, it would provide for approximately 800 head of cattle (in a year of average rainfall) in a 12 month cycle. Mother Nature only “provides” in Nebraska for about 5 months out of the year, so grazing nutrient dense grass pastures year round is impossible even using a rotational grazing plan. The winter in Nebraska requires feeding animals – whether they are fed a forage diet or a combination of forage/starch diet – they must receive supplemental feed in order to remain healthy.

Our diversified model produces 15,000 Tons of dehydrated alfalfa feed pellets, 600 tons of baled alfalfa, 120,000 bushels of corn, 400 tons of baled corn stalks, and grows 5500 animals for harvest each 12 month cycle. While we do purchase a portion of our cattle feedstuffs “off farm” from neighbors, and perhaps our method requires more labor, the output numbers still paint a very clear picture. Matt’s and my additional devotion to environmental protection allows us to produce this much animal feed and human protein while also being good stewards to the land.

Many thanks to Miranda Reiman for taking this picture...

Many thanks to Miranda Reiman for taking this picture…

Relative to animal welfare/ wellbeing: Our feed yard allows for the 5 Freedoms of Cattle just like a pasture operation. We offer large outdoor pens and consistent feed, water, and daily care. The established 5 Freedoms of Cattle are as follows:

  • Freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor
  • Freedom from discomfort – by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  • Freedom from pain, injury, and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • Freedom to express normal bovine behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animals’ own kind (herd mates)
  • Freedom from fear and distress — by ensuring conditions that avoid mental suffering

Additionally, I believe that my healthy farm produces high quality healthy meat, all while being a positive contributor to a healthy rural economy for my community. A win/win deal for all!

Thanks for reaching out to me.




Filed under CAFO, Farming, General