Tag Archives: advocacy

One Story at a Time…

How do we build trust with our urban customers?

I often receive this question when visiting with farmers or groups of students that plan to make agriculture their choice of career. I think that deep down everyone realizes the true answer, and yet there is always that same look of hope in their eyes as they wait for my response.

The look of hope soon becomes a look of resignation as I reply,

One story at a time.”

Reality dictates that there are no short cuts to building relationships. A basic understanding of psychology reminds us that trust requires a relationship. Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is also no such thing as a quick fix to the quagmire that agriculture faces in 2017.

Farmers spend their days growing food, while their urban customers ask for transparency to fill the great void of trust that exists in our country. While at times it seems that we come to the issue with very different perspectives, I am fairly certain that we will all make a strong team if we can bridge the trust gap.

Many years ago, in the early days of Feed Yard Foodie, I wrote a blog post entitled, It’s not about the trailerAlthough it was written in 2012 and I laugh at how small my girls were in the picture, I believe that the heart of the message stands the test of time.

We build trust by sharing of ourselves.

Over the past six weeks, I presented to students at three universities/colleges in Nebraska and Kansas. The title of my presentation was “Sustainability, Responsibility, and the Art of Balance”.

My hour long presentation held ten main messages:

  1. Success is a journey, not a moment in time. It should be driven by your core values and your passion to be better tomorrow than you are today.
  2. Live a story worth telling, and then tell it with a passion. Over time, others may begin to also tell your story — sharing is a good thing.
  3. Remember that as farmers we do not just grow food — we grow our communities and we grow the future. Be inspired to volunteer and share your gifts to help make the world a better place.
  4. Pack your FAITH — make goals and stay true to your core values.  Hold yourself accountable!
  5. Balance your commitment to people, animals, and planet by using science to judiciously use your farm’s resources, and your heart to help you build relationships.
  6. Engage in the food production conversation because the stability of our country is intrinsically tied to the availability of a safe, plentiful food supply.
  7. Realize that you can learn something from everyone. They key to building relationships is learning to deal with awkward moments with both grace and class.
  8. Understand that it is the courage to continue that counts. The journey is long and it is hard — learn how to refill your cup.
  9. Be KIND. It does not always matter that you are right, but it does matter that you are kind.
  10. Believers make good team members. Recognize that together we are stronger, and we must all be inspired to believe in order to be successful.

This week I discovered that my alma mater, Dartmouth College, picked up and shared a news article that resulted from my presentation at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. It made me want to laugh with the joy of victory, and cry with the huge bubble of emotion that comes from a long, long journey of hard work trying to connect the people of my past with the people of my present.

It only took one story to bring two vastly different college cultures together for a moment of time.

A relationship begins with a moment of time.

Can you imagine the impact of hundreds of thousands of those moments?

Are you ready to tell your story?

The team needs you.

After all, that’s how we build trust.

 

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

Building a Dream…

At age 70, my mom devotedly continues her teaching ministry at Cardinal Newman High School.  Mrs. Gibson’s high school English classroom exhibits a magical culture of passion as my mom inspires her students to analyze literature, learn to write, and develop personal accountability.  Her vision of inspiring teenagers to greatness continually refills her cup and gives her life a special purpose.

anne-dandyMuch to my mom’s chagrin, I never developed a kinship with Shakespeare.  However, despite the fact that I chose animals over literature, I took a part of her with me as I internalized the belief that a healthy life vision revolves around fueling your passion to make a difference.  When I graduated from Dartmouth College and started my new life on the Nebraska prairie, a feed yard became my personal version of her classroom and I went to work looking for ways to understand the bovine brain in order to improve animal welfare and beef quality.

My cattle taught me patience and perspective.  They instilled in me a new level of maturity as I discovered a fascination with seeing the world through the eyes of a bovine.  Along the way, I developed long term dreams of helping to bring the concept of total fitness (mental, emotional, and physical) to the art of daily cattle care in order to improve both welfare and animal performance.

What started on my farm grew to hold a larger audience as I shared my ideas with other cattlemen in my volunteer efforts on Beef Quality Assurance, as well as hosting interested high school and college students at the feed yard.

When you believe in something, it is natural human tendency to want to share it.

The above video was filmed four years ago.  I had a potent moment this week when I clicked on it and heard myself talking about my passion for cattle, sharing the story of beef production, and realizing that the future would bring change.  In the fall of 2012, I had no idea that I would make the decision to close down my feed yard.  However, as I listened to myself on the video, I heard wisdom and foresight in my attitude toward the future and my role in it.

After this winter, I will no longer be the boss lady at Will Feed, Inc.  Despite that, I plan to continue to build my dream of improving bovine animal welfare and beef quality.  Beginning in February, I start a new phase with a new team as I join the crew of the Beef Marketing Group.

  • I have new goals for expanding the reach of my cattle care philosophy.
  • I have new goals for figuring out better ways to share how cattle are raised and where beef comes from.
  • I have new goals for refilling my cup of passion so that I can continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

I am really excited to be able to tunnel my energy and passion into my two favorite components of being a beef farmer: animal care and sharing the story.  I will work directly with five feed yards in Nebraska on the Progressive Beef QSA program focusing on high quality animal care.  Additionally, I have the privilege of expanding my social media reach beyond Feed Yard Foodie to write blog content and work on communications efforts for my new team.

I will get to do all of this while maintaining a more human friendly schedule that allows for time with family and for volunteer coaching efforts in my rural community.

While I will never have my mom’s talent for making poetry come alive to teenagers, I am confident that this new journey in my quest to build a dream will allow me the ability to make a difference in the lives of others — both two legged and four legged 🙂

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Advocacy…

bovinephotobomb-jpgI traded dirt roads for the Denver pavement this week in order to participate in the MBA Top of the Class Training.  While most folks think of an MBA as a business degree, in my world, the letters represent Masters of Beef Advocacy.  Sponsored by the farmer funded Beef Check Off, the MBA program exists to inspire farmers and other beef advocates to share their story. 

The core information learned in the MBA program creates a basis of necessary knowledge and skills to begin the advocacy journey.  The Top of the Class Training consists of a two day intensive seminar which enables MBA graduates to find a higher gear on their journey.  Top of the Class graduates are “super advocates” who consistently channel their passion in order to share the story of beef.

I was invited to provide the Keynote Address as well as mentor other bloggers in one on one learning sessions during the two day event.  The topic of my Keynote Address was “The Evolving Journey of a Beef Advocate”, and preparing the power point presentation for the speech was a bit like traveling down memory lane.  My advocacy journey began with public speaking events and routine media interviews in 2006.  It eventually lead me to creating this blog in 2011.

  • I became a farmer because I fell in love.
  • I became a farmer advocate because when you believe in something, you want to share it.

After more than a decade, I remain an advocate because I believe that the stability of our country is intrinsically tied to the availability of food.

A plentiful and safe supply of food relies heavily on eliminating the knowledge gap between the 98% of the population that consumes food and the 2% of the population that not only consumes it but also grows it.

  • Farmers need to share their story.
  • Others outside of agriculture need to engage and listen.

Together we create a meaningful dialog that leaves all of us smarter and ultimately protects the livelihood of our country.

Feed Yard Foodie is not just “Anne’s Story” — Feed Yard Foodie is a piece of Anne.  I sustain in my advocacy journey by remaining true to my core values and creating a revolving fountain of energy through the personal growth that I gain from living on a farm and writing about those experiences.  I tell my girls to always pack their FAITH. 

F ortitude

A ttitude

I ntegrity

T rust

H umility

These are the core values that make me “Anne” and they provide the heart and soul of my advocacy.  I may not always be right, but I always care and that’s what keeps me going…

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Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., General

It’s Not About the Trailer…

When I bought my quarter horse (Dandy) from Mike Coffman in the spring of 2005, I realized the childhood dream of being a real horse owner.  While I had a couple of work horses at the feed yard, their care was primarily provided by my cowboy and I only rode them sporadically.

He full-filled a dream…

To have my own horse in my own backyard fulfilled a very special and personal dream.  Dandy was a coming four year old when I bought him from Mike.  Lucky for me, God made him a big, gentle creature and we have spent the last seven years learning from each other.

Dandy taught me a lot about communication, feel and intent.  He taught me to be a strong yet compassionate leader.  He taught me that slow and steady is always true, and to never take anything for granted.

Most importantly, he taught me that “It’s not about the trailer”…

One day, a couple of months after I brought him home from Mike’s ranch, I wanted to load him on my horse trailer and take him down to our grass pasture to ride.  I had trouble that day loading him on the trailer.  I got frustrated with myself, I got frustrated with him, and it was not a good experience for either one of us.

In the months that followed, I learned that the more time and effort that I invested into our relationship—the clearer our communication became and the easier it was to get him to be my partner.  You see, that day early on in our relationship, it wasn’t about the trailer—it was about the lack of trust and lack of good communication that made loading him challenging.

Today, it only takes the pointing of my finger and the lifting of the lead rope for Dandy to happily load into the trailer.  In fact, I move him from pasture to pasture around my house with that same point of the finger.  Sometimes it seems as though he reads my mind and offers what I desire almost before I ask for it.  Conversely, I can also provide what he needs and desires at critical times in our partnership —that is the power of a relationship that is based on trust.

What used to challenge us is now easy because I took the time to lay a good foundation and invest in the relationship…

As a blogger and a beef farmer that believes in transparency, I am often asked by other cattlemen how we can reach out to our customers that live far away from the farm to explain ranching practices or products that are used to raise beef.  There is no simple answer because I believe that it is not about the ranching practice or the animal health product any more than my problems loading my young horse were about the trailer.

I do not have a job without someone who wants to purchase my beef…

It is, quite simply, about the relationship between the farmer/rancher and the customer.  Is this relationship based on trust and truth?  Or is it riddled with distrust and inaccuracies?  In short, it is about whether you trust me to offer good care to my animals and use the resources on my farm in the best way.  Equally important, it is also about whether I trust you and value your questions and concerns regarding the way that your beef is raised.

I believe that I offer good care to them, but I need to be open to explaining that care to those that are interested…

It is not about the antibiotic, the growth hormone, the beta agonist, or the feed yard…

It is rather about the quality of our relationship and our ability to have a respectful conversation about all of the things that are listed above.

  •  Can we empathize and have compassion for each other?
  • Can we trust that each one of us can learn from each other and do our own special part to work for the betterment of our country?

    My dream gets better with each day that passes…

I think that we will find that our lives are enriched by the knowledge that we can share with each other, just as my beloved quarter horse has enriched my life and taught me that the best communication skills are the ones that are based on love and respect…

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Filed under General, Natural Horsemanship

A Woman Of Many Hats…

To say that my life is busy right now would be an understatement.  My days at the feed yard are long as I bring in many new animals.  My girls are also busy with cross country, soccer, volleyball and swimming.  I coach two of the four sports and am an avid fan of the other two…

The sun seems to go down too early these days…

This week I added an extra “hat” to wear in addition to my cowgirl hat and my sports cap.  I also put on my beef advocate hat.  Yesterday, I left home at 4:00am to drive to Denver.  While most Americans are aware that there was a Presidential Debate last night in Denver, I think that it is also important to point out that there was a fantastic seminar for people that wanted to learn more about “where their beef comes from”.  Colorado State University, in partnership with the Beef Checkoff, put on a day long seminar entitled Beef + Transparency = Trust for chefs, dieticians, and foodies.  

Click here to read about the seminar: Beef + Transparency = Trust promotion

While I do not really enjoy the “travel” part of advocacy, I do very much enjoy sharing the story of how I raise cattle and make beef.  I love what I do, and I love to talk about what I do.  I am honored that I was asked to share in this experience.

My two favorite blondes were nice enough to draw a map so that all of you could see where my travels took me this week…

As soon as my portion of the meeting was completed, I drove back to Cozad because this morning I was expected to be on a ranch near Halsey, NE to serve as a cattle buyer and load new cattle destined for my feed yard.

Mike and Peggy are entrusting me with their calves—above is a picture of them visiting their cattle last spring at the feed yard.  I am sure that they will come down to visit this year’s calf crop as well.

I plan to leave the ranch right after the cattle are loaded and head north to Valentine, NE to watch my favorite 7th grader and her AWESOME Cross Country team compete in the Southwest Conference Championships.

I love to watch these kids run. They have so much heart and it is great fun to watch them compete and be successful…

I am likely to get home very late tonight a bit weary from all of my travels, but will rise early to begin the acclimation process on the new calves and give them vaccination shots that will help them to stay healthy…

I hope to also be able to share with you all the great success of my favorite Cross Country team :).  In the meantime, I will dream of taking a nap!

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

I Am Only Human…

I tell my own children and the children that I coach that I will never ask them to do anything that I do not fully believe that they can do.  I am notorious for challenging my young athletes, and we always end each swimming practice with 25 yard freestyle sprints where there is no breathing allowed.  It is amazing to watch both the strength and the confidence of my athletes build as they learn to believe in themselves.

My favorite 7 year old takes in some oxygen after a 25 yard freestyle race that she is able to complete without breaking her stroke for a breath!

As both a mom and a coach I have found that as I raise the bar higher, the kids always rise to the challenge and perform better.  I am training not only their bodies, but also their minds.  Self-confidence and the ability to work through physical and mental challenges to reach victory are vitally important life lessons that my athletes will remember long after each season is over.

If you look carefully at the back of our team shirt that I am wearing, you will read the caption “Oxygen is Overrated”. My favorite 12 year old (pictured here) knows that as she builds her lungs in the pool, she also builds her confidence and toughness…

In my own life, I also raise the bar pretty high as I juggle being a mom, a youth athletic coach, a caretaker of close to 3000 cattle, and an advocate for agriculture.  Most days I am at the feed yard just after 6:00am and am still going strong as the sun sinks below the horizon sometime after 9:00pm.  I fall into bed at night exhausted and wondering what the next day will bring.

Watching the sun rise over the feed yard is a beautiful way to start the day…

There is no doubt that entering the world of advocacy has lengthened my days.  I often find myself thinking of my swimmers as the mental challenge of adding one more thing to the list pushes the limits of my abilities.  There are days when I think to myself, I am only human, how will I get everything done?

My plate is pretty full…

My experience with popular media outside of agriculture and my blog site is limited.  I have spent most of my efforts connecting with people outside of my farm on a personal level. I rarely have allowed a reporter the ability to have a glimpse of my life and then given him the right to portray that glimpse to others.

Recently, I took a leap of faith and opened the door to my life, my family and my farm to a Washington DC reporter.  He spent about a day with our family, in addition to several phone interviews.  A consulting photographer visited our farm two different times to take pictures.  When I agreed to the interview, I never dreamed how vulnerable I would feel as the story was being written.

The reporter visiting with Matt about the business side of our crop farm…

It is one thing to sit down at my own computer and write about personal experiences.  It is something entirely different to allow a stranger to write about his perceptions of both my family and our farm.  Throughout the entire process, I have experienced a myriad of emotions.

It appears that this Friday the story will go to press…

  • I wonder if I was successful in conveying my life and my livelihood in a meaningful and understandable fashion?
  • I worry that the story that will go to press might not accurately portray who I am and what I believe in.

Throughout this process, I remind myself that I am only human and the story that gets told is now out of my hands.  It has taken personal strength for each member of my family to go through this experience, and I am very thankful that Matt and my girls were willing to rise to the occasion.

They make sacrifices so that I can do all of the things that I do…

I will post a link to the article once it is published, as well as offer my own thoughts on the contents of the article in a blog post next week…

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General