Tag Archives: dreams

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 🙂



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

Blending Dreams With Reality Leads To Harmony…

For every little girl that dreams of a life in rural America being a cowgirl, there are many others whose dreams take them to beaches, cities, and a diversity of other places.   What each little girl holds close to her heart is unique and personal—changing over time to meet her maturing perspective.

I now have three girls with big dreams of their own!

When I had grandiose visions of being a cowgirl as a child, I thought of tall grass and beautiful wild flowers with cattle munching as they moved from one mountain meadow to another.   The scene was peaceful and picturesque with a rider on horseback guiding and caring for the cattle.

She’s found the grass and the wild flowers, now she heads off in search of the cattle!

My childhood dreams came back to me last week as Megan and I moved our grazing cattle.  The grass was a lush vibrant green, the cattle moved peacefully from one pasture to another, and I had the company of my daughter as we experienced the beauty together.

Found them!

The cattle ranching component of our farm is the only one that resembles my childhood dreams, however, there are many other parts to our farm that help to make it more viable and sustainable.  For us, a diverse farm is what happens when dreams are blended with reality. 

Our land and our cattle blend together in harmony to make our farm sustainable…

This week marks our 15thanniversary on the farm.  As I look back, I can see how our dreams and ideas have blended with reality to create innovation and harmony.   Our farm evolves and changes daily as Matt and I become better and more experienced caregivers for our land and our cattle.  I am confident that 15 years from now, our farm will be even better than it is today.

What are the biggest changes that we have made on our farm over the past 15 years?

Our cattle…

  1. The purchasing and selling of our cattle has become vertically collaborative as I realize my dream of tracing cattle from birth to harvest in order to improve the health and care of our animals and the quality and safety of the beef that they produce.
  2. With each day that passes, I place an ever increasing importance on animal psychology and holistic care that has a basis in Beef Quality Assurance and low stress cattle handling.
  3. The ethanol industry brings the feed product of wet distillers grains to our cattle farm which has improved the nutritional care that I offer to my animals.  Wet distillers grains is what is left after the ethanol has been extracted from the corn kernel, and it makes a fabulously rumen friendly feed for my cattle.  We blend the wet distillers grains with alfalfa and corn stalks / wheat stubble to create a blended feed of grains and forages.

    Our crops and alfalfa dehydration plant…

  1. The capitol purchase of a saw dust burner allows the alfalfa dehydration plant to be fueled by recycled materials instead of natural gas.  This reduces the environmental footprint of Matt’s alfalfa business.
  2. The capitol purchase of a Claas Jaguer chopper (pictured above) allows Matt to harvest more alfalfa using fewer pieces of equipment, fewer man-hours, and fewer amounts of diesel fuel—this makes his crop farm more efficient.
  3.  The production of a blend of traditional crops and organically certified crops gives our farm diversity in sales and products which helps to keep our farm economically viable despite the current volatile markets.

I am very proud of what Matt and I have built over the last 15 years.  Our hard work and innovative ideas have allowed the farm to prosper.   We have also been blessed to add three new dreamers to the family with the birth of our girls–it’s been a busy 15 years–I wonder what the next 15 will look like?



Filed under CAFO, Farming, General

Realizing a Dream…

My mother is a school teacher with a love of traveling.  I remember in elementary school being loaded up in her suburban to drive across the country.  Normally we headed to Wyoming and Montana (a good long drive from Florida!) because my dad is a devoted fly fisherman and has always had a true love for the area’s trout streams…

My brother and I taking turns fly fishing…

When we arrived after many days of driving, my dad would fly out and meet us.  What followed were days of riding horses to high mountain streams in search of trout.

During those long days of driving, I spent a lot of time daydreaming as I looked out of the car window.  As we approached the mountains of Wyoming, I would sometimes see cowboys moving cattle on horseback.  I would pretend that it was me and dream of the day when I could play cowgirl.

A great teacher who instilled a love of the outdoors and horses deep into my soul…Al, a horse and fly fishing enthusiast, getting ready to take me and my dad deep into the wilds of the Montana mountains.

As I grew older and became a competitive swimmer, the family driving trips ceased due to my swimming meet schedule but we still would fly out to the trout streams of Montana every summer before school started.  By high school, I had moved on from my childhood world of pretend, but the dream of riding horses and learning about cattle lay tucked somewhere deep in my heart.

When I met my farm boy from Nebraska at Dartmouth, little did I know that love would bring me to a farm in rural America where my childhood dreams would literally come true.  I have to admit that there is a lot more hard work involved than I had ever imagined, but the life that I lead in Nebraska is not far from what I dreamed of as a child.

Learning to be a cowgirl is a reality for her—she is lucky enough to live the dream…

Last Sunday, my middle daughter and I moved cattle on horseback down at our grass pasture.  That morning something triggered a sense of deja’ vu and memories of long ago dreams flooded my mind as the two of us moved the cattle.  I remembered that little girl looking out the car window and watching the cowboys, and realized that I had become the heroine of my childhood daydreams…

Trailing the cattle—Megan and Magnum lead the way while Dandy and I encouraged the cattle to follow…

My view of a cowboy has changed over the years.  I will never be exactly like those men moving cattle thirty years ago in the mountains of Montana, but I do spend my days caring for cattle and I have a love of horses that runs deep to my core.  I realized Sunday morning how much I loved what I do, and what a beautiful blessing it is to be able to teach it to my daughter.

Dandy’s ears show that he is alert and doing his job well. In turn, I take a moment to document “the dream” with my IPhone while on his back…

I do not know exactly what my parents had in mind when they took me to those mountains year after year, but those trips planted the idea of doing something different with my life—Something tied to nature in rural America.

Her hair is blonder than mine ever was, but she gets that same spark in her eyes when she gets to be a cowgirl

Today I live in a state where cattle outnumber people 4 to 1.  I spend my days caring for animals and raising my children in God’s Country.

What more could any little girl with big dreams wish for?


Filed under Foodie Work!, General