Tag Archives: agriculture education

Who will be the Scott Frost of the beef industry?

I got to know Dr. Richard Raymond serving on Tyson Fresh Meat’s Farm Check animal wellbeing committee. A native of the Nebraska Sandhills, Doc served as Undersecretary for Food Safety at the US Department of Agriculture from 2005-2008. A blended background in medical practice, food production, and regulatory savvy makes for an interesting perspective and Doc has a natural ability to always leave me thinking…

Last weekend, I popped open my facebook account to find a Feedstuffs article that he authored. The title “Frost Returns to Nebraska” caught my attention as any true Nebraskan is aware that the Cornhuskers recently hired Coach Scott Frost to lead our football team back to greatness.  A former Husker quarterback, Frost led Nebraska to its last national championship game twenty years ago. I remember it vividly as it was my first football season on the farm in Nebraska.

The Big Red Nation has gathered around Coach Frost in support, and the hope of a return to greatness permeates the hearts of the 1,896,190 residents that call the Cornhusker state home. I never understood the united pull of loyalty toward a football team until I moved to Husker country. It seems that all 77,220 square miles of prairie bleeds red on game day as fans from all across the state unite to cheer on their boys of fall.

Doc raised an interesting challenge in his article:

Who will lead the beef industry to united greatness so that we can effectively communicate with our customers and build trust in our product?

It is no secret that the beef industry struggles for unity on a vast array of issues with over 900,000 independent farmers and ranchers that care for over 93 million animals. It takes an average of 2 years to bring beef from farm to fork, and many animals have multiple owners across their lifetime. The complex lifecycle of beef results from a unique blend of resources needed to bring the animals from a birth weight of approximately 75# to a final weight in the neighborhood of 1300#.

It takes a team of people to care for a calf across his lifetime; and politics divide the beef industry in much the same way that they currently antagonize the unity of our great Nation.

  • A divided nation struggles to tell its story.
  • A divided nation creates internal chaos which drowns out the voices of its customers.
  • A divided nation fails to achieve as high a level of efficiency when striving to work for continuous improvement.

In the twenty years since Scott Frost led the Huskers to the National Championships, I’ve often wondered what it would take to create a unified effort of cattlemen across the United States. The majority of us agree on so many important things:

  • Quality animal welfare
  • A strong focus on food safety
  • A need to care for the environment
  • The importance of transitioning our farms/ranches across generations so that our children can carry on the tradition of raising food.

The list is long and the importance of success cannot be understated. Within each of those above topics lies a long list of subtopics as we strive to responsibly raise a quality beef product.

Does any one person exist that can unite us in our search for greatness?

I don’t know, but I can tell you that it will take a team of dedicated individuals to deal with the challenge of building trust with our customers.

Together we are stronger.

Learning to listen, pool our ideas, and create viable production changes to meet customer asks will determine the success of the industry over the next twenty years. I don’t want to lose my ability to create a memorable family dinner centered around a delicious steak any more than the die-hard Husker Nation plans to let the tradition of victory fall by the wayside.

Scott Frost provides the beginning to a great Husker game plan –

Who will be the Scott Frost of the beef industry?

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

Bringing the Story of Agriculture to 3rd Grade Students In Omaha…

Our family volunteers with the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom program. This is an ongoing effort to pair farm families with inner city elementary students so that the kids can learn a little bit about “where their food comes from”. I love this concept and have participated in the program for many years.   This year, my favorite 16 year old brunette took over the pen pal letter writing responsibilities of our family’s involvement in the program.AGCattlePasture.jpg

Ashley Grace has spent the school year writing personal letters back and forth with each of the students in our assigned class. I think that she likely looks forward to receiving the letters from our 3rd graders just as much as they enjoy her replies. It is amazing what the kids ask, and the ongoing interaction is incredibly rewarding for all those involved. Quite simply, it is a win-win scenario.

We traveled to Omaha yesterday to visit our pen pal class. My public speaking, speech loving, letter writing teenager put together a power point presentation full of pictures and led the class in a discussion about our farm and how we grow food. We also brought a sample of my favorite farmer’s alfalfa dehy pellets and one of the casseroles that we feed our cattle.

The majority of these kids have never been west of Omaha, and only one boy in our class remembered ever seeing a corn field. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that kids in Nebraska (The Cornhusker State) have such little interaction with farming. But, the excitement and positive energy of the kids toward learning about our farm is truly awesome.

Here are a handful of questions that the kids asked:

  1. “Do you name your cattle? Does it hurt when you put the ear tag in their ear?” Earlier in the year, we had given each of the kids an ear tag and explained the number system that we use to trace our animals from birth to harvest, so this was a great time to talk about it again. Ashley Grace also talked about the fact that cattle do not have a large number of nerves in their ears so it really does not hurt very much when the ear tag is put in. She likened it to the kids getting their ears pierced which seemed to resonate well.
  2. “Have you ever fallen off of your horse?” Ashley Grace and Karyn were able to tell the story of when they both were riding my horse Dandy bareback (they were age 5 and 10) when he sidestepped and spooked and they fell off into the grass.
  3. We had a long discussion on how much cattle weigh: when they are born, when they leave the ranch where they were born and come to our farm, and when they go to make beef. Karyn weighs about 100# so we were able to use her as a measuring stick 🙂
  4. At the end one little girl asked,”Isn’t it sad that they have to die so that we can eat their meat?” I told her that our animals give us a great gift when they die. We had a really neat discussion after this about respecting that gift by cleaning our plates and not wasting our food. I was excited to see that many of the kids had obviously talked about food waste at home and had thoughts to share about it.AGClassroom20162.jpg

We were all a little bit sad when it was time for us to leave. The kids pleaded to be able to travel out to our farm, but unfortunately the 3 and ½ hour drive makes this logistically difficult. We promised to send more letters and pictures, and left them to their celebration of Dr. Seuss. I was very proud of Ashley Grace and Karyn – they did a wonderful job teaching and interacting with the kids. It is fun for me to see them learn how to “tell their story”.

If you are a farm family and are interested in participating in the program, you can find more information on this website. The urban classroom demand for “farm families” in Nebraska outnumbers the number of families willing to participate so please think about taking part in the program. It is a phenomenal way to give kids personal contact with their food. Agriculture in the Classroom is a national program so you can likely participate even if you live outside of the Cornhusker State.

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Filed under Family, General

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