Finding the right words…

Today marks the third 5K race in 8 days for the Haymaker Varsity Cross Country team. We are into the “tough” part of the season where fitness is critical and mental determination creates success. As a coach, I sometimes find myself struggling to find the right words to help the athletes believe in themselves and continuously engage in the running journey.

Words are powerful.

When chosen carefully and delivered effectively:

  • They inspire.
  • They create.
  • They bring beauty to our lives.

In order for words to bring about positive change, they must be heard and they must be meaningful. The bottom line for us is that, as a team, we must celebrate our differences as we build team unity. A culture of hard work and excellence plays a critical role. And, it extends beyond the physical to include our ability to be good teammates.

What are the top 5 qualities of a good teammate?

Heart: Packing your FAITH to trust in both yourself and your teammates creates a team with heart. Building a positive culture inspires a unity dedicated to greatness.

Work Ethic: The road to excellence is never comfortable. Expect to work tirelessly under conditions that will be uncomfortable. Success is often found in the midst of challenge and surrounded by hard work.

Integrity: Truth in thoughts, words and actions creates a team worth fighting for. Love yourself enough to be true to your uniqueness – Love your teammates enough to embrace diversity – Love your sport enough to give it your all.

Leadership: Supporting and mentoring others inspires greatness. The team is bigger than any one individual or race. What you build together is infinitely greater than anything that you can build alone. Life is a journey – one that contains a vastness of joy that can only be tapped through community.

Passion: Race with passion. Give it your all, recognizing that you bring honor to your God, your team, and your sport when you dig deep to compete with perseverance.

Go Haymakers!

 

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Did you eat today? Thank a farmer!

Technology advances each and every day, providing more tools to help us create efficiency and prosperity. For example, larger equipment, GPS guidance systems, and improved computer software affect many different types of businesses today – and agriculture is no exception. We can move faster and with more precision, trace more things, and create reports that analyze our performance on a variety of levels. All of these things help farmers to be better today than we were yesterday.

Despite incredible advances in technology, I still firmly believe that it is people, not machines, that play the most pivotal roles in growing food. Behind that great tasting steak on the grill is a hard working group of men and women who offered care to the animal across its lifetime. By care I mean not just giving them nutritious feed, water, and a place to rest, but teaching the animal how to prosper in a variety of situations along the life journey.

I remember sitting in an animal welfare meeting several years ago and hearing someone remark, “We need to continue to make more things automated in agriculture because people are our greatest liability”.

While my head acknowledges that sometimes people make poor choices that negatively impact others (including animals), my heart still holds faith that integrity prevails.

I believe that the soul of agriculture is its farmers.

The occasional hurtful caregiver may make the evening news and go viral on social media; but at home on the farm are hundreds of thousands of others who are good caregivers and work with integrity to grow the steak that graces your grill.

I recently wrote about Finding Honor In Our Lives, and how work is part of God’s plan for humanity. Each of us brings honor to our faith when we honestly and fully engage in our jobs. Raising cattle for beef production requires a special type of person. Our animals are sentient beings – they don’t just need, they feel – and they are able to communicate with us. Good caregivers learn to understand animal feedback and use that information to individualize care.

Technology helps us to do that job, but even the best machine cannot provide the caring leadership needed to enable cattle to prosper.

If the soul of agriculture is its farmers, then the future of agriculture manifests itself in the young people who aspire to be the next generation of animal caregivers. I am often asked if any of my three daughters plan to return home to the farm after college. The honest answer to that question is, “I don’t know”. I know that our future necessitates farm kids like mine coming home to continue the tradition or at least remaining involved in agriculture; however, wishes and reality do not always find harmony.

Farming is a tough life. It is filled with long hours and many worries. In addition, over the past couple of decades, the connotation of a farmer has shifted away from something positive and trustworthy. That weighs on me as I have conversations with my kids about what life path they should take.

I believe that our country has a necessary call to action.

  • Humanity cannot exist without life.
  • Life cannot exist without food.

It is time for all of us to unite in the knowledge that there is honor in the profession of farming. Placing value on the people who tend the land, care for animals, and help to put food on the table creates a culture of honor that helps us to sustain on into the future. That might very well provide the key to inspiring kids like mine to choose a life path that involves agriculture.

Technology aids in the production of food, but it can never replace the men and women who pack their FAITH each and every day to put food on our tables.

How long has it been since you thanked a farmer?

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Keeping Our Cool…

I had an unwritten protocol at the feed yard for myself and the rest of my crew in the event that someone lost their temper:

  1. Make sure that all animals are safe in an appropriate pen.
  2. Walk away until you are once again calm.

The flip side of losing your temper is keeping your cool. Spending 20 years caring for cattle taught me the importance of rationally assessing a situation while simultaneously controlling my temper. For years, my girls claimed that I had twice as much patience with my cattle as I did with them. In all fairness, this was likely true as my steadfast mantra as feed yard boss lady was:

The cattle come first. They do not understand your brain but can sense and cue off of your emotions. Calm cattle caregivers lead to calm and well comfortable cattle.

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COOL!

Over the years, I periodically lost my temper with myself, my crew, and the occasional truck driver that serviced us at the feed yard; but I tried to recover quickly to ensure that my cattle did not feel my frustration. I think this was one of the keys to my success as a cowgirl. Sometimes, you just have to take a moment to collect yourself before continuing the journey. That is what I call being a responsible caregiver.

A month ago, my favorite brunette bet me that I could not go a week without losing my temper. She spent a good part of her childhood comparing me to Old Faithful, laughingly explaining to anyone who would listen that her mom displayed frequent and predictable displays of emotion 😉  It is 100% true that for years I placed a higher priority on keeping my cool with my animals than I did with the people in my life. The moment that she wagered the bet, I made the decision to strengthen this personal weakness.

I am proud to say that Old Faithful remains calm and has not erupted in more than 30 days. I’ve learned a few important things along the way.

  • Conveying your passion in a respectful way provides an effective way to inspire others to do the same.
  • The key (for me) to warding off anger is to take on a perspective of thankfulness. I’ve found that it is difficult to become angry when I focus thankfully on my blessings.
  • Patience and encouragement combined with a steadfast persistence helps to bring about positive change – both in yourself and in others.

At the bottom of the Feed Yard Foodie home page is a quote by quarterback Drew Brees from his book Coming Back Stronger. The book is a favorite of mine and it makes an important observation:

“Believing—there are several layers to it. There’s the surface-level type of believing, where you acknowledge that something is true. Then there is a deeper kind of belief–the type that gets inside of you and actually changes you. It’s the kind of belief that changes your behavior, your attitude, and your outlook on life, and the people around you can’t help but notice.”

I need to give credit to my favorite brunette for inspiring me to enable my beliefs to permeate to a deeper level in order to create an important behavioral change. I may occasionally revert back to bad habits; but I am confident that Old Faithful has been put to rest. I have become a believer in keeping my cool 🙂

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

The Best Part Of Me…

Tracking Hurricane Irma as it headed toward my home state of Florida provided for interesting introspection this week. Not only was the original path of the hurricane set to hit the Southeast Coast where I spent my formative years (and much of my family stills calls home), but the name chosen for the large storm was “Irma” which was my beloved Grannie’s name. I am not certain how the National Hurricane Service chooses storm names, but Hurricane Irma shares little in common with my quiet and compassionate grandmother.

My beloved Grannie lived a few blocks south of us and I spent many of my early years bouncing back and forth between our houses. I remember how proud I was when my mom decided that I was old enough to walk to Grannie’s all by myself, and I cherish the memories of the times that we spent together. My grandparents spent more than 70 years together – weathering a variety of storms – and positively touching the lives of many.

I wrote this blog post shortly after my Grannie past away in 2014. I re-blog it today as a tribute to the wonderful lady who taught me to give endlessly and selflessly in this journey that we call life. She will always be the picture of “Irma” that I hold in my heart.

Feed Yard Foodie

Anne Sally and Grannie picture Three generations: June 1996…

I tell my daughters that they come from a long line of strong women. 

There are many types of strength, but I think that a quiet and compassionate strength is likely the most beautiful.  It is this type of strength that allows for universal greatness. A person of quiet and compassionate strength spends her life as a people builder — inspiring others to greatness.

I was blessed to grow up down the street from my grandparents.  I learned so much from each of them individually, as well as from watching them as a couple.  My beloved Grannie was the quiet strength that held the family together.  Her unconditional devotion to both her husband of 70+ years as well as to her children and grandchildren defined her as a truly remarkable woman.

Today, there are very few people willing to sacrifice personal accolades in order to…

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Finding Honor In Our Lives…

My favorite farmer celebrates 46 years of awesomeness this week. With the last twenty of those years spent working on the farm, I find myself thinking that perhaps we aren’t as young as we used to be! Matt and I tend to draw very few boundaries in our lives, so it would be impossible to evaluate the last two decades of our lives without including the farm.

A couple of weeks ago, the sermon at church centered on finding honor in our work. The topic resonated deeply with me as honor is something that I personally value. It was a great reminder for me that work is part of God’s plan for humanity and we honor our faith when we honestly and fully engage in our jobs. For Matt and I, finding honor in our work is closely akin to finding honor in our lives as there is very little separation.

I think that one of the hardest things about being a farmer is finding and maintaining balance. You learn quickly to control the controllable in order to protect your livelihood from those things that threaten it. From Mother Nature –  to volatile markets-  to debilitating regulations: the list of things that keeps you up at night can grow lengthy. Maintaining a perspective that focuses on honor instead of fear/frustration provides the encouragement that refuels your cup and grants you a healthy outlook on life.

Cattle are masterful at sensing their caregiver’s attitude 🙂

The last twelve months have inspired me to reflect on this topic. The following are 5 personal habits that I have worked to establish in order to help me always focus on finding honor in my life:

  1. Let my faith be stronger than my fear.
  2. Look for gaps and be cognizant of the needs of others – Approach each day with the question: “How can I help?”
  3. Bring a constant element of thankfulness to my daily perspective. Thankfulness wards off frustration and anger, and increases the ability to live a life filled with joy.
  4. Create a personal focus on giving intentional encouragement so that my words and actions positively inspire others.
  5. Recognize that it is okay to take time for personal reflection and growth. While I am very much an “action” person, taking time each day to talk to God and develop a plan grants meaning to my actions in addition to helping me to refill my cup.

I find each day that I am still a work in progress – achieving differing levels of success with the above 5 habits.  But, I am confident that I am on the right track. Good habits bring about good daily choices.

And, making good choices enables us to find honor in our lives.

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Eclipse Totality Video…

Learning to make and do “videos” provided a significant challenge for me over the summer months. While I still have much to learn and improve upon, I am confident enough that I am starting to actually enjoy doing them 🙂

Monday, after the Facebook Live broadcast via Innovative Livestock Services, I remained in the pen with my cattle to experience the Eclipse Totality. The following video footage comes from that time — hopefully woven together in an orderly story to give you all a glimpse into what we experienced on cattle farms all across Nebraska.

I hope that you and your families were able to enjoy the awesomeness of Mother Nature last Monday!

What is your favorite eclipse story?

 

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Filed under Video Fun on the Farm

Eclipse Fun…

I hope that everyone had as awesome a day watching the eclipse as I did! The Facebook Live stream that I did with Brandon Sorensen at Roberts Cattle Company with our fall calves was a lot of fun. I am really enjoying building this new skill 🙂  You can see the livestream broadcast here:

We did the live broadcast during the partial eclipse leading up to the period of totality (when the plains of Nebraska briefly said goodbye to the sun). Watching the beginning partial stages of the eclipse reminded me of Cookie Monster taking bites out of his favorite cookie — it was fascinating to watch the “bites” get bigger and bigger until the sun was completely covered.

The live broadcast ended about 12:20pm which was 36 minutes prior to eclipse totality. I allowed my “cattle nerdiness” take over at the time and spent those next 45 minutes hanging out with the cattle. I loved being able to take the time to just stand in the middle of the herd — watching and interacting with them during this awesome event. It made me smile when “Freckles” the calf ambled over to stand next to me just prior to the decent of darkness and during the totality.

I was pleased to see my animals remain calm during the eclipse. By understanding the cattle and intuitively providing for all of their needs, the crew at Roberts set them up for success. It was a stress-free experience for the cattle which kept them comfortable and enabled them to thrive on a day filled with uncertainty. Cattle are creatures of habit so the occurrence of darkness in the middle of the day certainly provided a strange event for them. A big “thank you” to Greg, Brandon and all of the guys at Roberts who play such an important role taking care of my animals. You all are awesome!

I took some video and a few still pictures during the minutes leading up to the totality and during the short time of darkness. I am planning to put together a video of it for all of you that were not able to spend the eclipse surrounded by farm animals. Look for that later this week 🙂

Happy Eclipse Day!

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What happens each day at a cattle feedlot?

This has been a week of tremendous learning and growing for me. I did my first Facebook Live broadcast and increased my tech savvy by leaps and bounds. For those of you that do not participate in Facebook, I was able to save the Live Broadcast and upload it to YouTube. This enables me to share it here!

So, take a few minutes — grab a cup of coffee — and watch my favorite blonde cowgirls and I interact with the Lazy YN Fall Calves.

I believe that the Live broadcast was a solid first effort. I have many things still to learn and work on; but I enjoyed the experience. To date, the live video has reached more than 15,500 people — with more than 6300 of them choosing to watch it. It is a raw, from the heart, unedited look at our cattle at the feed yard. I am very thankful that Megan and Karyn were able to help me out — it created a fun experience for the three of us to cap off the summer vacation.

Having gotten my feet wet this week with Live broadcasting, I am going to take the plunge on Monday to do a second broadcast via Innovative Livestock Services. As many of you know, we live within the Path of Totality for the #SolarEclipse2017. The partial eclipse will begin about 11:30am central time, with the short period of total darkness occurring just before 1:00pm.

Brandon and I with the fall calves…

The live broadcast will occur at 12:00pm central time during the partial eclipse. I am going with a “Tail Gate” theme and will be joined by Brandon Sorensen who is the Assistant Manager at Roberts Cattle Company. We are going to hang out with some of our Lazy YN calves and talk about Mother Nature, the eclipse, and how we care for our cattle in the feed yard.

I think that 12 months ago if anyone told me that I would be doing live social media video broadcasts from a feed yard, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. But, life is an interesting journey full of twists and turns.

While live broadcasts are a little bit scary and the end result (at least for an amateur like me) is not professionally polished, I think that they create a necessary level of transparency between farmers and our urban neighbors. Unedited creates a level of truth and trust that is hard to otherwise obtain. For that reason, I am taking the plunge.

I hope that you all will be able to join in and ask questions during the broadcast 🙂

Click here to access the Innovative Livestock Services facebook page.

In order to view the facebook live broadcast, you need to “like” or “follow” the page. Then click the “following” button just below the cover photo and make sure that you click “see first” and turn your notifications “on”.

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