Tag Archives: Dartmouth College

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

Heading East…

My favorite farmer and I met my freshman year at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  Although we have only returned back to visit twice in the last 19 years, the school holds a special place in our hearts.  Matt is the best thing that Dartmouth gave to me, and our journey together reflects two decades of love and partnership as we work to create a meaningful legacy on our farm.

My dear friend, Karyn, is the 2nd best thing that Dartmouth gave to me.  I met Karyn when I visited Dartmouth on a swimming recruiting trip the fall of my senior year in high school.  As a freshman member of the swim team, she had the privilege of “hosting” me on my weekend trip.  She did such an awesome job that weekend that she became “stuck” with me for her remaining years at Dartmouth…  Although our lives headed in different directions (thousands of miles apart) after graduation, I still count on Karyn’s support and friendship twenty years later.

Last week our family headed east to visit Karyn and her family as well as look at colleges for my favorite brunette who thinks that New England is the region of choice for college.  While it seems hard to believe that I am old enough to have a daughter looking at colleges, the years tell a different story.  We had an amazing trip — catching up with good friends and discovering more about the 5 colleges that Ashley Grace picked to visit: Cornell, Williams, Dartmouth, Colby, and Harvard.


This photo reminds me of how much Karyn and I have to be proud of — 23 years after fate brought us together in the mountains of New Hampshire…

Karyn "squared" outside the library at Dartmouth College...

Karyn “squared” outside the library at Dartmouth College…

My favorite brunette enjoying the Williams College campus...

My favorite brunette enjoying the Williams College campus…

The girls took a brief moment to dig their toes in the sand on the beach in Maine -- remarking that there were likely more people on that beach than our entire town of Cozad...

The girls took a brief moment to dig their toes in the sand on the beach in Maine — remarking that there were likely more people on that beach than in our entire town of Cozad…

Matt and I felt the need to wear our Dartmouth shirts as we walked around Harvard's campus -- still feeling the competitive rivalry 20 years later...

Matt and I felt the need to wear our Dartmouth shirts as we walked around Harvard’s campus — still feeling the competitive rivalry 20 years later…

tripacaitlinI think that we even talked my favorite horse-loving God daughter and her big sister into coming out to the farm to visit next summer — with any luck they’ll bring their Mama with them 🙂

I know that the trip reminded me how important it is to take a break from a crazy busy life to spend some time with those I love — refilling the cup giving thanks for all of my blessings.


Filed under Family, General

The Privilege of Diversity…

DSC03744Six weeks before matriculating at Dartmouth College I was mugged at gunpoint. A seemingly normal weekend night turned into a nightmare as a friend and I were assaulted a mere two miles from my house in Florida. My life changed that night as a stranger threw me on the concrete and placed a gun to my head. My guardian angel sat firmly on my shoulder that evening as the assailant and his accomplice stole my purse, but not my life.

I tell my girls to “always take God with you”. While the lesson wrapped up in those words holds many meanings, one of them dates back to that August evening in 1993.

My years at Dartmouth were a time of both healing and personal growth. Rural New Hampshire slowly brought back a sense of physical safety and ultimately l conquered the fear of walking across campus in the dark. I remained cautious, but the culture on campus helped me to find a healthy perspective and renewed my confidence.

Surrounded by intelligent and motivated students who held a great diversity of opinions, I was able to determine just “who Anne was”.   This concurrently sharpened my intellect as well as broadened my perspective. I started my time at Dartmouth a “jock with emotional baggage”, but I ended it as a confident intellectual who held a strong sense of purpose.

This is the beauty of a liberal arts education on a well-structured college campus.

  • A place where diversity is embraced allowing for the creation of mature thinkers with compassionate natures.
  • A place where a blanket of respect protects each student’s Freedom of Speech and personal rights in the midst of intellectually stimulating debates.
  • A place where students learn to recognize that life’s challenges do not define the individual, rather they are stepping stones for personal growth. This growth will, at times, bring discomfort but it also teaches perseverance.

Sometime during my tenure in Hanover, NH I figured out that I did not want to live my life as a victim — focusing on the past and allowing my heart to fill with discontent. Rather, I wanted to live my life as a humanitarian – seeking out the good in others and looking to the future with the desire to play a positive role on the ever important journey that we call life.

My alma mater found itself in the midst of controversy last week as a passionate student protest escalated to threaten the boundaries of respectful debate. My heart was saddened for a variety of reasons but perhaps the greatest was the apparent lack of inter-student respect on campus. Basic decency becomes lost when hatred toward a single ideology overtakes the value of compassion among individual classmates. Sadly, the second is sacrificed in the name of the first.

  • I dream of a world where people are valued for what they hold in their hearts rather than the image that they see in the mirror.
  • I dream of a world where people are lauded for the humanitarian work that their hearts empower their bodies to accomplish.
  • I dream of a world where diversity of thought is celebrated — Where our young people relish eclectic virtues and use them to make the world a better place.

Life is both a privilege and a responsibility. We must always move forward mixing our passions with compassion so that what I dream of today will be a reality tomorrow. Unfortunately, there will always be unexplained acts of violence like that which occurred to me so many years ago. However, we can lessen the impact of those acts by recognizing one act of hatred does not rationalize another.


Filed under Family, General

Dartmouth Alumni Magazine…

I am incredibly honored to be featured in the January/February Dartmouth College Alumni magazine.  The following article was written by Rianna Starheim, and appeared in the voices in the wilderness section of the magazine.

Many thanks to both Rianna and my alma mater!

Many thanks to both Rianna and my alma mater!

Bullish on Beef

“Two days after graduating from Dartmouth I put on my blue jeans and went to work at the cattle feedyard,” Burkholder says.  “I started at the bottom with a scoop shovel and an hourly wage of $6.85.”  Sixteen years later she owns the place—a 3000-head cattle feedyard in Nebraska, where she works alongside her husband, Matt Burkholder D’94.  She’s also among the leading voices in the national beef industry, determined to reassure a public unsettled by the feedlot horror stories in reports such as Fast Food Nation.

“I was a consumer for a lot of years before I really knew where my beef came from,” Burkholder says.  “I think it’s very important that people have an understanding of what it takes to grow food and where it comes from.”  Burkholder writes a blog, FeedyardFoodie.com, with the goal of making the process of growing U.S. beef—farm to fork—more transparent.  Burkholder also does volunteer work promoting animal welfare and food safety and is one of the leaders in the beef industry across the nation:  She is a director of the Nebraska State Beef Council, sits on the Tyson Fresh Meats Animal Well-being Committee and earned the 2009 Beef Quality Assurance Producer of the Year Award.  “I’ve always been interested by how animals think, and in particular cattle and other prey animals really interest me,” says Burkholder, whose A.B. in psychology comes in handy on the farm.  “I’m fascinated by how their brains work.”

I hope that the weekly glimpse of my life on the farm is both informative and reassuring as you make food choices for your families...

I hope that the weekly glimpse of my life on the farm is informative, entertaining, and reassuring to each of you!


Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News"

Fulfilling an Intelectual Need…

I laugh to my parents that they sent me to college a jock, and I graduated an intellectual.  Sometime during my four years at Dartmouth College I fell in love with critical thinking.  While a part of me will always love working with animals and being a “hands on” farmer, there is another part that thrives on intellectual challenges.DSC04809

I have lost track of the number of times that people have asked me why I agreed to serve on Tyson Fresh Meat’s Animal Wellbeing Advisory Committee.   I am not sure if their question stems from puzzlement over why I would take on another responsibility amongst my crazily busy life, or if they wonder what a small cattle feeder has in common with a large corporate conglomerate.Tysonlogo

The very simple answer to the question is that I agreed to serve on Tyson’s committee because in doing so I felt that I could make a positive difference in the United States food animal production system.  In addition, at a very personal level, serving on the committee fulfills an intellectual need. DSC07305

The Ivy League educated cerebral continues to exist somewhere underneath my farm coveralls…

Interacting with the other committee members, as well as Tyson executives and scientists, is certainly a different experience than the daily life that I live on the farm.  As I spent two days in meetings at Tyson’s Beef and Pork Headquarters in Dakota Dunes, SD last week, I fed the scholarly Anne while also staying true to Farmer Anne.

Each one of us is a complex individual with needs at many different levels.  I believe that one of the best ways to always play our “A Game” is to recognize that stimulation at each one of those levels is critical.  Diverse experiences lead to broadened perspectives, and I have found that the view from 3000 feet is often just as important as the view from ground level.F

In the words of Henry Miller,“If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored.  One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”

How do you feed your inner intellectual being?


Filed under General, Tyson Farm Check Program

Sweetheart, You Come From a Long Line Of Nerds…

My daughter came home some time ago complaining that she just did not “fit in” at school.  The comment brought back many memories of solitary evenings at home in junior high and high school.  It wasn’t that I did not have friends—most everyone liked me, but I struggled to fit in with my peers.  I, quite honestly, do not think that they knew what to do with me.

When I was not in school, I was in the pool…

I was a very serious kid.  Serious about school, and down-right obsessed (my mom’s term) with competitive athletics.  I honestly do not recall when it started, but I have always felt the intrinsic need to challenge myself to achieve excellence.  It started in the swimming pool, but grew to include my studies and eventually my work on our cattle farm.

Brains and brawn made a good mix for me…Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1993.

I believe, with every fiber of my being, that no matter how good I am at something—I can ALWAYS be better.  I focus on the little things while also trying not to lose sight of the big picture.  In many ways, I am a nerd…  I am a student of life…I am a tenaciously driven person…

From a fraternity party to the alter to a farm in Nebraska…What an amazing journey!

I feel truly blessed that my journey in life allowed for finding my Nebraska farm boy.  What are the odds of a girl from West Palm Beach Florida meeting a farm boy from Nebraska at an Ivy League school in New Hampshire?  I am still baffled at how our paths crossed and also so thankful that God sent him my way.  The interesting twist is that we met at a fraternity party over Halloween weekend when my farm boy was wearing devils horns glued to his head…Although I did not arrive at the party in time to watch his rendition of “Devil Goes Down To Georgia” (Charlie Daniels Band), I am sure that it was a memorable occasion!

Sixteen years later we have a few more wrinkles, but the smiles are the same…

While I used to loose myself in the pool and in my studies, now I loose myself in my family and my farm.  Matt and I are kindred spirits and have found a way to blend our lives together into one fabulous journey with Mother Nature.  While I do some traveling around the country to explain to urban dwellers how I care for cattle and raise beef, it is on my farm that I feel most at home.  My perfect day is one spent with my girls teaching them the how to care for cattle.  My animals fascinate me and constantly challenge me to achieve excellence.  Being able to share that with my children is a true gift from God.

The love that I hold for my farm gets stronger with every year that passes—sharing it with my children brings me incredible joy.

Although it is hard to fathom how little Anne Gibson from Palm Beach County Florida managed to make a life on a farm in Dawson County Nebraska, I believe with all of my heart that it was always meant to be.  This nerd turned cattle feed yard boss lady took the road less traveled and, it has, made all of the difference…


Filed under Family, General

The Mentor…

I graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in Psychology and was one class short of a minor in Education.  Just like many kids who attend a Liberal Arts college, I floundered with what I wanted to do with my life.

Training "at altitude" at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs my senior year in high school...

I arrived at Dartmouth a jock…

My freshman year in college...Making good friends and learning to be a "student of life"...

I metamorphosed into an intellectual— graduating cum laude…

Young dreams and core values brought us back to Nebraska and a life as farmers...

After graduation, my heart led me to central Nebraska to a small agricultural community…

While at Dartmouth, it was pure stubbornness that kept me from a minor in education.  I wanted to take an extra class in early childhood brain development instead of the “History of Education” and the chairman of the education department did not agree with my decision…

It was also pure stubbornness that kept me from becoming an elementary school teacher when I moved to Nebraska.  The state of Nebraska refused to honor some of my education classes and required me to go back to school in order to obtain a Nebraska teaching certificate…I could see no good reason in going back to college (I had, after all, just graduated from one), so I decided to do something else.

I traded textbooks and chalk for a horse and learned to be a caregiver for cattle...

While at the time that all of this was happening I was frustrated and trying to figure out my place in life, I have since realized that it was a blessing in disguise.  Today, I cannot imagine a life that is not centered on the care of cattle.  I love working outdoors with my animals, and it brings me great pride to know that my hard work quite literally feeds the world.  In addition, I have found a way to incorporate teaching into my role of Boss Lady and feed yard manager…

These steers are asking a question--can you see that by reading their expression?...They look to me for leadership and comfort...I look to them to nourish my children...

Over the past five years, my feed yard has become a hands-on learning center, and not a month goes by without a student or group of students spending time with me.  My holistic cattle care and cattle handling philosophy combined with the fact that I love to share the knowledge that I have garnered over the past 15 years provides an attractive combination for college and graduate students who are interested in learning about a cattle feed yard.  Throw into the equation that I am a woman working in a predominantly male world, and the ante is upped even further as young women look for someone to be a mentor to them in their quest to raise cattle and grow beef.  While most of the students that I mentor are from Nebraska, I have had the privilege of working with young women who traveled from as far as Texas and Georgia to spend time with me.

Jessica spent the summer of 2010 with me. She completes her undergraduate degree in a couple of weeks and will head off to Washington DC to work as an intern in Senator Mike Johanns' office. Next fall, she will attend law school and study environmental law.

Cassie has her master's degree from Texas A & M in ruminant nutrition, and came to learn about how I use a combination of good animal care and nutrition to reduce the environmental footprint of my animals...Check out her blog site at "Food Think!"

Suzanne is an undergraduate student and has followed the Feed Yard Foodie blog for months now. She came to experience "first hand" the feed yard and our community of Cozad.

I truly believe that the youth of our nation hold the key to the long term success of our country.  As a cattle caregiver and a farmer that raises beef, I know that new science will allow me to do an increasingly better job caring for my animals while also reducing the environmental footprint of my farm as I raise food to feed to my children and yours. Today, I mentor numerous young people, but someday soon I will learn from these young professionals as they unravel the future of cattle care and beef production.  I hope that they will take the things that I teach them to heart, and these nuggets of practical wisdom and experience will allow them to work to better the industry that I love so much.

In the meantime, I will cherish the time that I spend mentoring and hope that I am making a difference in these young people’s lives…

I look at this picture of my daughter and I am reminded of the most important young people that I mentor, and I am thankful that my girls are growing up on a farm and learning the responsibility that is necessary to offer good care to animals...

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Filed under CAFO, Foodie Work!, General

From Flipflops to Cowboy Boots…

I am a firm believer that past experiences combined with natural personality make you who you are.  If the past and the present make up who you are, those experiences combined with dreams and goals make up who you will be.

Everywhere that I go, I am asked how an urban Florida  girl ended up managing a cattle feedyard in rural Nebraska.   While the short answer to that question is a 6’1” handsome blue eyed native Nebraska boy, it is (as many things are) more complicated than that.

When I got on a plane as an 18 year old bound for Dartmouth College, I told my parents that I was not sure where my life would take me; however, that it would not be returning to urban Florida.  I knew that my life would be somewhere in rural America.  I had seen glimpses of rural America traveling across the country and searching for good fly fishing rivers in the Rocky Mountains with my family.  I knew that I wanted to live in a place where the pace was slower and I could continually “recharge” my soul as I interacted amongst Mother Nature in “God’s Country”.

My experiences living in rural Nebraska for the past 14 years have far surpassed any picture that my imagination could possibly have painted .  I live in a community where people care.  We look out for each other, and that is just the way that it is.  Our farm and our community are constantly challenged by Mother Nature, and when this happens, it becomes instinctual to collaborate with each other and support each other.  Since the vast majority of us in rural Nebraska are involved in some form of agriculture, we share this greatest challenge and it brings us together.

I love the fact that my children are growing up not only understanding what their daddy and I do every day, but also playing an active role in both that and our community.  My favorite expression is “Take the time it takes to do it right”, and my children always groan and moan with tremendous drama when they hear me say it.  But, watching me (and helping me) to care for animals every day, 365 days out of the year, gives substance to my “parental pontifications”.  I am proud that I raise and care for animals which will quite literally ‘feed the world’.  This sense of purpose drives me to continually work to improve myself every single day.

I gladly trade my flip flops for cowboy boots, because I know that I am achieving my long held goal of making a positive difference in the world that I am so blessed to be a part of.


Filed under Family, General