Category Archives: Rural Communities

Going to Grass, An Aggie in Nebraska, Summer weather on the prairie, Swim Team!

About ten years ago, our farm purchased about 600 acres of grass pasture south and west of the feed yard.  We use this grass pasture to graze lighter weight animals in the summer months as well as to harvest prairie hay to feed during the winter months.  After a cold and wet spring, the grass has finally grown enough to start grazing so we spent last Thursday going to grass with 134 fall calves.

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While I truly enjoying caring for cattle in a feed yard, I also love to utilize the unique resources on our pasture ground to grow calves on grass.  These animals will spend the summer season grazing and then will head back to the feed yard when Mother Nature begins to shut down for the year.  The animals typically weigh 600# when they go to grass and hopefully will weigh about 750# when they come home in August.

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In addition to going to grass, the Feed Yard Foodie family welcomed Emily, a graduate student at Texas A & M University, this week on the farm.  Emily hosted Megan and I when we traveled down to Aggieland last fall, and will spend three weeks in Nebraska with us this summer.  She arrived on the 16th and we spent the week learning to read bunks, shipping cattle, processing calves, and then taking these fall calves to grassEmily took most of the pictures included in this post as I am trying to inspire her to take up blogging during her remaining two years in the ruminant nutrition department at Texas A & M.

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Emily thinks that her sweatshirt is her best friend in Nebraska, and we are all hoping that she brought some of the Texas warmth with her 🙂  While the prolific moisture received in April and May helped to turn the grass green, the cold temperatures that accompanied it made the start of our growing season tardy according to the calendar.  My favorite farmer is antsy for a few heat units and drying days so that seeds will germinate and his alfalfa will grow.

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I am hoping to get Emily to write a “guest blog post” or two over the next couple of weeks — giving a glimpse into the Feed Yard Foodie farm from a different perspective.  We are laughing that she is very brave to join the general mayhem at our house which is likely to be more challenging than working at the feed yard…

On the home front over the past week, the girls finished up the spring track and soccer seasons.  Ashley Grace’s 4 X 800 relay team competed in the Nebraska State High School Championships, Megan garnered 3rd place finishes in Pole Vault and the 4 X 100 relay at the Nebraska State Junior High Championships, and Karyn earned gold medals in the 400 and 800 at a couple of local track meets as well as finishing up her spring soccer season.

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After 12 years, I hung up my soccer coaching hat last weekend.  Today, I put on my swim team coaching hat to kick off the start of the swim team season. Emily seems to be game to do anything as long as I don’t ask her to jump in the pool when it is 50 degrees outside…

The entire Haymaker Swim Team is hopeful that each of you will send warm weather out to the prairie as they have a really mean coach who makes them swim regardless of the temperature!

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Filed under Family, General, Rural Communities

Heading For the Hills…

My favorite blondes did not have school last Monday so I had company as I headed north to get feeder cattle near Halsey, Nebraska.  My girls spent many years traversing across Nebraska visiting ranches and getting cattle before they were old enough to be in school.  With my “baby” being a 5th grader, I have made many treks alone since those days.

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The drive from Cozad up to Halsey is a beautiful one full of wildlife and picturesque scenery.  I know that wherever their lives take them, my girls will take those memories of quiet beauty with them.  This vast land where cattle and wildlife greatly outnumber people brings a sense of peace that refills my cup.

As I drive around my farm and then head north to the Sandhills, I always wonder why our urban countrymen worry so much about sustainability.  The healthy ecosystem balance found in out-state Nebraska is readily visible to any passerby, and the farmers and ranchers that tend to the land do so with a blend of natural passion and stubborn pride.

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I think that perhaps many urban folks would feel better about where their beef comes from if they spent a day driving around rural Nebraska.  It might be hard to find the farmer/rancher in all the vastness of the countryside, but his/her hard work and dedication is apparent from the car window view.  If you happen to come across the human caregiver, his/her quiet manner and aloofness will give testimony to the fact that caring for the land is a solitary job.

The trip from Cozad to Halsey takes about 2 hours, and is full of deer, turkey, grouse, ducks, hawks and an occasional eagle in addition to the bovine population.  They all live in harmony with a bit of human help under the influence of Mother Nature.  Just as cattle are known as the great recyclers turning inedible plant products into vitamin rich (and tasty) edible protein, the people that inhabit my beloved adopted countryside share the same dedication to stewardship — wasting little and carefully managing the natural resources found on the land.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

Those of us that make rural America home are a small and unique group. Our pride in country is evident.  Our dedication to community shines brightly.  Our responsibility to stewardship drives a life filled with both challenge and fullfillment.

With each day that passes, I am coming to realize that now (more than ever) we need our urban counterparts to take the time to learn about our lives prior to judging the validity and sustainability of both our daily work and our legacy. Beef production is much more than the steak that creates a great tasting eating experience.  It takes care of the land and fuels rural economies, while its farmers bring a steadfast patriotism and a dedicated work ethic that provides a necessary pillar for our country.

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Perhaps it is time to head for the hills to learn about “Where your beef comes from”!  You might be surprised at what you find 🙂

 

 

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Filed under General, Rural Communities, Sustainable Spring

The Great Barn Quilt…

Business took me to Pender, Nebraska late this summer for a meeting.  I drove in the night before and arrived before sunset, so I put on my sneakers and went for a run around town.  Pender greeted me with a gorgeous display of “Barn Quilts”, and I left town the next afternoon enamored with the idea of a community wide Barn Quilt project.

Not long after my trip, I learned that my home county planned to participate in a Barn Quilt tour.  I quickly signed my favorite blonde cowgirl and her grandma up for a “how to” class.  Megan has loved to draw and paint patterns of shapes since she was old enough to hold a pen.

I believe in empowering my kids — coming up with projects that I know will fit their personalities — and then letting them fly.  No matter what the project, their work often leaves me in awe.

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We hung Megan’s first barn quilt at the feed yard on Saturday.  It is an 8′ X 8′ sign easily seen from HWY 30.  Anyone that knows Meg will see her personality in the sign, and I am confident that it will bring smiles to the faces of many travelers.

Apart from consulting with her engineer Daddy on the quilt layout (geometry) and spacing, Megan completed the project on her own.  I know that I am a biased mom, but the sign is just AWESOME!  I am looking forward to Barn Quilt #2 which is currently in the making and will hang on the shop/barn behind my house, and Barn Quilt #3 which will adorn our farm office building in downtown Cozad.

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I hope that Megan’s signs will be an inspiration to others in my community to participate.

  • How wonderful would it be to have each business in downtown Cozad hang a barn quilt in their window?
  • How beautiful would it be for homeowners all around town to place them in their front yards?
  • How magical would it be for groups of young people in Cozad to make signs for their neighbors and those that are unable to make their own?
  • How awesome would it be for area farmers to hang large barn quilts on their barns and shop buildings all through the countryside to showcase pride in our heritage!

For more information on making a Barn Quilt, please contact the Cozad Chamber of Commerce or visit with Julie Geiger at the Prairie Point Junction quilt store in downtown Cozad.

What an inspirational way to showcase rural America!

 

 

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Filed under General, Rural Communities

The Cozad Haymakers Embark On a Journey With FFA…

As a city raised “east coaster”, my first experience with FFA (Future Farmers of America) occurred as an adult several years after I went to work at the feed yard. As I became involved as a volunteer in agricultural advocacy work and the promotion of the Beef Quality Assurance program, my path began to cross with FFA instructors. Some of my favorite public speaking gigs have been with FFA students – sharing my story and answering questions from the best and the brightest that will soon be the future of agriculture.

I am excited to report that my home town of Cozad recently committed to building an FFA program in our school system. It is an honor for me to be involved in the process as a member of the community advisory group. While I truly believe that “it takes a community to raise a child”, I also believe that it takes a diverse blend of educators and community members to create situations where our young adults can increase their knowledge and skills in order to provide for the future.

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Where does my food come from? — appears to be the million dollar question in 2015. Food unites us: from the Nebraska farmer to the urban executive to the small town electrician. It unites us because, quite frankly, we all need to eat. The ability to create a program where students in my home town can both learn where their food comes from as well as how to grow it – today, and on into the future – is an incredible privilege.

Agriculture provides the heart of our town. The majority of our community members are involved in farming in a variety of venues. What excites the team builder in me the most is the ability to pair these savvy folks with the awesome set of teenagers that make up the Haymaker school community.  The journey involves a passionate FFA educator bridging together these experienced and skilled entrepreneurial tradesmen with the next generation of farmers.

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We believe in our designated journey. We have a calm and supportive ocean. We have a seaworthy ship. We just need a captain. The Cozad High School began taking applications for the FFA educator position last week. Please help to spread the word as we search for a passionate leader to navigate the journey. Contact Dustin Favinger at Cozad High School for more information.

308-784-2744 or dustin.favinger@cozadcityschools.net

Go Haymakers!

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Filed under General, Rural Communities

In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle…

A college friend introduced me to the book, In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle, by Madeleine Blais more than twenty years ago. Based on an Amherst Lady Hurricanes high school basketball team in the mid-1990’s, the book is a tribute to hope, respect, and dedication to team. My friend was a member of that team, and her story influenced me greatly as I began my adult life.

Prior to this fall, I had not thought about the book in many years, but the 2015 Lady Haymaker Cross Country team brought those memories back full circle. A small team, led by an awesome coaching staff, defied the polls and walked away with numerous titles. Their accomplishments included bringing home the Nebraska Class C State Runner-up trophy last Friday.

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In Nebraska, Cross Country teams run 6 and score 4. Due to injuries, the Lady Haymakers ran 5 and scored 4. Demonstrating an impressive display of “pack running”, the top four girls finished the 5k race within 15 seconds of each other. Despite the fact that none of the girls received individual medals, their accomplishments garnered them the Runner-Up team trophy.

While there are many things about the state race that I will forever take with me, it is the look of determination on each girl’s face that warmed my heart the most. They had a goal. They believed. They trained. They built the muscle of hope just as they built physical fitness.

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And they persevered with greatness…

My oldest daughter led the team as each member competed with character, love for one another, and a deep respect for the sport. While the trophy that brought tears as well as smiles will now live in a cabinet in the Cozad High School, the joy that comes from building the team will travel in all of their hearts for the rest of their lives.

Haymaker Cross Country personifies a culture of excellence. The positive mental development of the athletes provides the true beauty of the program. Somewhere in the thousands of training miles under the leadership of head Coach Dustin Favinger, a bond is forged among the runners that transcends the physical.

It is truly a joy to witness…

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Throughout the season, I watched the girls “fill in” for each other during the races. They packed up tightly, running together and feeding of off the muscle of hope that beat deeply in their hearts. The girls tenaciously battled challenges, always determined to accomplish the prized end goal: a state team trophy.

As a parent, I cherish the life lessons that Ashley Grace learns pounding the running trail in search of excellence. Comraderie, self-discipline, and confidence all tie together creating the realization that true success occurs when selfless individual efforts forge together to create a team.

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I will never forget the smile on her face as she proudly held the trophy. It is the smile that results when hard work, determination, and hope provide the promise of victory.

That is the recipe for excellence – That is Haymaker Cross Country.

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Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General, Rural Communities

The Team Builder…

I believe that there exists two types of “team builders”. Those that are gifted with an innate talent for radiating positivity and inspiration; and those dedicated enough to the cause that they strive to redefine their behavior in order to become one.  As a natural born introvert, I fall into the second category. Sometime during my adult life, I became enamored by the concept of team and began to redefine my values in order to make it a priority.

Team building plays a critical role in creating successful families, schools, communities, and businesses. It creates a positive culture where all are inspired to creatively contribute not just for individual gain but also for the good of others. Being a team builder creates the ultimate selfless gift, thereby providing the basis for excellence.

Tim Thramer was a natural born team builder. A stranger to no one, Tim radiated positivity. In a crowd, I always felt my eyes drawn toward Tim as I knew that his easy smile would bolster my confidence just as his creative joke would lighten my day.

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My girls got to know Tim when his oldest daughter, Molly, began to babysit for us more than 4 years ago. They gravitated toward Tim just as children excitedly gather around the Christmas tree – looking for him across the gymnasium at a basketball game — finding him during a community tailgate party – or hoping that he would drop by the house when they were with Molly. They actively sought him out because they sensed that Tim would always share a precious gift with them – the gift of cheerful compassion.

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After a two year battle with cancer, God brought Tim home last week. As our family sat in the church pew participating in the rosary service honoring Tim, I cried. I cried for his beautiful family: Cindy, Molly, Hannah, and Abby. I cried for my town of Cozad. I selfishly cried for myself. I cried because I will never again be able to search the room looking for that smile – that joke – that sparkle that Tim shared with everyone.

Although I worry that those of us left behind will falter as we try to carry on with the resilience and strength that Tim demonstrated each and every day, I know that he has faith in us and will be our greatest cheerleader going into the future.

I can hear him chiming his favorite mantra: Respect: Learn it, Live it, Love it!  And when I look into the eyes of both his girls and mine, I know that his lessons were well learned and his legacy will persevere.

We are forever #thramerstrong…

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Filed under Family, General, Rural Communities

The Lady Haymakers…

The fall run continues in Haymaker country.  Outside of the feed yard, you will find me at sporting events cheering on our community’s athletes.  Lest you all think that I am “sitting on my laurels” and letting my writing skills grow rusty, today I share a letter that I wrote to our Lady Haymaker athletes.  These awesome young women are in the heart of their fall sports seasons.

girlshaymakersportscollage.jpgDear Lady Haymakers,

When I became an honorary Lady Haymaker in June of 1996, I brought with me a desire to see women’s athletics rise to a new level of excellence in our town. As a lifelong athlete, I recognized the importance of sports in the development of personal growth and confidence.

Two decades later, I now realize the additional role that young athletes play in promoting community spirit. Quite simply, you are our greatest blessing. I have had the pleasure of coaching many of you in T ball, soccer, track and swim team as you started your athletic careers; and it brings me incredible pride to watch each of you find excellence as young women on the athletic field. As parents and community members, I think that sometimes we forget to tell you how important you are — to yourself, to your team, and to your town. You are a joy to watch, and every effort that you put forth representing us builds the future.

The road to excellence is not comfortable, but it is an amazing journey. Every race, every game, every competition is an opportunity to attain greatness. The fatigue, pain, and challenges that you face during competition provide you with the ability to gain strength. Hard work, tenacity, leadership and compassion enable your team to thrive. The confidence that comes with each victory not only brings incredible joy but also provides a basis of personal faith that will help to carry you the rest of your life.

The next few weeks will provide the finale of your fall sports season. Your successes this season have been plentiful, and the time now comes to: Finish Strong, Dig Deep, and Always, Always Believe! You have the talent, the determination, and the power to raise the bar — It is your effort that builds a culture of excellence as a Lady Haymaker.

I believe in you. Whether on the Golf course, the Softball field, the Volleyball court, or the Cross Country course —

  • Aim high
  • Compete with passion
  • Recognize that you can attain far more than you ever dreamed.
  • Unify together to embrace the challenge and fight for the victory.

It is in giving of yourself that you receive.

Your biggest fan,
Anne

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Filed under Family, Rural Communities

Be There…

Saturday the 15th of August marks the 2nd Annual 100th Meridian 10K Road Race. Our community (and runners from across Nebraska) will gather to celebrate a great man while raising money for a local scholarship that carries his name.

Claude Berreckman Sr., known for his proclamation Be There!, touched the lives of many during his tenure on earth. As his mantra denotes, Claude believed in living life to the fullest, engaging in his community on a deep level with a steadfast devotion to philanthropy.

Claude with his beloved wife and three sons...

Claude with his beloved wife and three sons accepting one of many awards that he received in his lifetime…

Claude took the time to care – the genuineness of his personality made him an inherent “people builder” inspiring those around him to think outside of the box in order to achieve greatness. Claude loved his community and worked avidly to achieve sustainability for our little corner of rural America.

Perhaps what endeared him most to me was his sense of natural optimism and honest interest which captivated the young people that he made it a priority to mentor. A staunch and universal supporter of Cozad’s “next generation”, Claude touched the lives of countless students as they traveled the journey of adolescence searching for their niche in the world.

#140 still smiling at the end of a race :)

#140 still smiling at the end of a race 🙂

The annual road race and scholarship, created by his family, reminds me each year that it is both my pleasure and my responsibility to be there: for myself, for my community, and for all those that I have the ability to positively influence. Claude loved running and held a life-long dedication to fitness.  He continually inspired me both as an athlete and a coach/mentor.

The FYF family last year at the 1st Annual 100th Meridian Road Race...

The FYF family last year at the 1st Annual 100th Meridian Road Race…

The Feed Yard Foodie family will be there on Saturday to run in his honor. We unite in support because we share his love of community and appreciate the positive culture that he worked so hard to build.

It is a momentous event for my favorite farmer to participate in a road race (a far cry from his preferred sprint performances on the track). There are likely very view people that can inspire Matt to run a race that is measured in miles – Claude was one of a select few.

It is my hope that Claude’s spirit will continue to inspire a be there culture – To motivate individuals to give selflessly in the name of community sustainability.

Will you Be There?

Click here to register or donate.

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Filed under General, Rural Communities