Tag Archives: farm

The Essence of Hope…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


My favorite blonde cowgirl brings inspiration for this scripture choice– this one is special to her and it comes from Proverbs 24: 16.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.


Our girls are our greatest blessings. There is something truly beautiful about children as they bring an added dimension to life. A child views the world with a unique perspective of innocence as well as an unrelenting fountain of hope. Even as teenagers, all three of my girls possess an ability to nurture their faith through an uncomplicated blend of optimism and forgiveness. This helps them to persevere with grace.

I’ll never forget a spring about ten years ago. It rained. And, it rained. And, it rained some more. It rained so much that we had to move cattle to higher ground. Then we got yet another hard rain that caused localized flooding both at our house and on the farm. I was emotionally defeated as well as physically drained. It seemed like the world was against me and my attitude reflected my failing faith.

The afternoon after the flood, the girls and I were driving around the feed yard. I was bitter, angry and full of judgement. Amidst my grumbling, I heard what could only be described as joyful laughter from the back seat of the pickup. I turned to look and, with a beaming smile on her face, Ashley Grace (age 8) leaned over the front seat and issued precious words of advice.

“Mama, it’ll be okay. We just need to build an ark.”

It was so simple for her. She believed that God was with us, and her faith never faltered. Despite the fact that she was watching her dad and I fall at the farm, she had internalized the important notion that if we behaved appropriately that we would rise again. She knew it was going to be alright, and the optimism and faith radiating in her eyes inspired me to recenter myself and fix my attitude. After that day, we did not receive any more rain for about 30 days which gave us plenty of time to fix the house and get the farm back on its feet. The hard work wasn’t done, but the emergency had passed.


I believe that God, with the Holy Spirit, communicates with us through feelings and experiences. I’ve no doubt that He was present in the pick up that day and spoke to me through my daughter. I also believe that He continuously pursues me in a desire for a meaningful relationship. This helps me to find righteousness in my actions and rise again when I falter. The number seven reminds me that perfection isn’t the goal. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, so he inspires us to keep going – to keeping trying – always striving to live a more honorable life.

It is no surprise to me that Proverbs 24:16 is Megan’s favorite scripture verse. Meg has an innate sense of humility — she is fully aware that she makes mistakes — but she is just as certain that God will help her to rise again each time that she falls.

This is the essence of hope.

This is a cornerstone of faith.

This is the beauty of being on God’s team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

Gates and Doors…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture can be found in Revelations 3: 20.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.


As a cattle farmer, I spend a lot of time thinking about gates. Gates are essentially doors used for animals and provide critical tools for a cattle caregiver. Sometimes gates are physical, and sometimes they are the metaphorical ones that lead to a mental connection — either way, they are the pathways for forward progress.

I often think to myself:

  • Are the correct gates open to allow my cattle to go where I need them to go?
  • Are the correct gates closed to keep my cattle from going somewhere that I do not want them to go?
  • As a leader, do I correctly manage the gates as I either invite or discourage my cattle?

The simplest way to lead my animals is to cause my idea to be their idea. When we share the same thought, then we find harmony in whatever farm chore is being done. The first part to sharing a thought is gaining attention. While I don’t “stand at the door and knock” — I do the cow equivalent and enter their space until they lift their eyes and grant me their curious attention.  The moment that I become their focus, then I can begin to open the communication gate and guide them to the correct physical gate. 

There is always a choice involved, and sometimes I need to be persistent in the proper position with my animals until they chose to make that connection with me. I must be patient as well as sensitive because if I link up with them at the right moment and in the right way, then the cattle not only follow my direction but they also continue to view me as their trusted leader and caregiver. While I use physical gates and fences to help guide them, finding the doorway to their brains provides the key to having a healthy and low stress experience.


It seems to me that God makes a perfect cowboy. As a tenaciously patient and loving leader, he uses the Holy Spirit to stand at my door and knock. My awareness and willingness to engage drives whether or not we travel the journey together. He persistently pursues — always knocking and waiting for me to respond.

  • I know that there are times that God knocks and I miss it — either letting the chaos of daily life distract me from the call, or ignoring the invitation because I fail to get my priorities in the correct order.
  • I also know that my hours are better – my days are better – and my life is better when I open the door to my heart and mind to answer the call.

Sharing time with God makes life meaningful. It brings peace to the world’s chaos and reminds me of the importance of centering my life with love. Like a good friend, God offers unconditional strength and support as I travel the journey. The trinity makes a remarkably powerful combination and I have come to realize how important it is to be a part of His team.

There are many farming references in the Bible, and I think that my life is most complete when I am both one of God’s sheep as well as a loving shepard to those whom God places along my path.

Love, strength, and purpose all live on the other side of the door — We simply need to answer the knock.

 

4 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

The Gift of Giving…A behind the scenes glimpse of small town America

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from James 3:13

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.


I became a farmer when I fell in love with my favorite farmer. Just as I married into agriculture, I also married into rural America. For a wedding gift, some of my college friends got a large map of the United States, entitled it “Civilization: A Nebraskan’s Guide Out”, and marked lines from Cozad, Nebraska to their home towns thereby showing me how to get back to civilization on the East Coast 😉 . The gift was a tongue in cheek joke stemming from the fact that none of them could believe that I actually wanted to move to a tiny town in Nebraska and make my life there as a farmer.

Twenty two years later, the map (which I framed) is faded and blurred but I still smile every time that I look at it. I knew at age 21 that Matt and I were meant to be together, and I opened my heart to the community that welcomed us a year later when we moved back to the farm. I have never needed “A Nebraskan’s Guide Out” because my adopted home state still holds my heart just as firmly as my favorite farmer.

There is a statistic floating around social media right now stating that 53% of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers actively volunteer in their local and state communities (compared with just 7% of the general public). While I have not “fact checked” this statistic, I can say that my life experiences in Nebraska demonstrate the dedication of Rural America to giving back. I know that my community inspires me to actively volunteer as I view sharing of myself to help others as a top life priority.  

Over the years, I have learned the true gift of giving. It has two components and I truly treasure them both.

  1. An unending well of energy fills your soul when you reach out in faith to help others. Good works are a demonstration of faith — they are the Holy Spirit guiding your life so that your love is shared, your talents are used to honor your neighbors, and your actions provide a living display of God’s loving hand.
  2. Giving in love inspires gifts of love. Good works are contagious as they allow for the spread of faith. Random acts of kindness are not random. Rather, they are intentional acts of love that result from a joyful and faithful heart. God is on the move through each one of us as we intentionally share of ourselves to help others.

Last weekend, our family took a four day trip to Colorado. February is generally a quiet time for Matt on the farm, so we try to take advantage of it for some intentional family time. My favorite farmer loves to snow ski and my girls happily zoom down the mountain in his wake. The long weekend is a time for us to regroup as a family and is something that both Matt and I treasure.

Our second day gone, Matt received word that one of his storage buildings at the alfalfa mill had caught fire. Matt burns sawdust (as a means of recycling) for energy to run the alfalfa dehydration plant during the summer harvest months. It allows us to reduce the environmental footprint of the farm because it uses a “waste product” to create the energy needed to dry and pellet the alfalfa. It is necessary to accumulate and store the sawdust over the winter months to ensure the needed supply for the summer months. Matt’s crew was working in the building on Friday when equipment malfunctioned – sparked – and started a fire.

The local volunteer fire department, along with our farm crew, worked diligently to contain the fire. Their hard work enabled us to continue with our family weekend instead of packing up to rush home to an emergency. Matt spent some needed time on the telephone, and worried rather than sleeping most of the night, but we were able to salvage what will likely be our last vacation before our oldest daughter leaves for college next fall.

Our crew – Our community – banded together to give us a gift. We didn’t even need to ask for it. It was given freely and with generous hearts. To me, this is the exquisite beauty of rural Nebraska. When challenges come, a support network automatically assembles to fill the need. Our community is filled with neighbors – those that help with giving hearts and a dedication to James’ call for demonstrating faith through good works.

Matt and I would like to thank all those that gave of themselves to lend aid. Your selfless generosity fills my heart with the joy of faith, and humbles me with the knowledge that we are loved — cared for — and honored as members of our family of Cozad. The clean up will take time, patience, and much work but you all have given us a reason to be thankful in the face of challenge.

6 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

Find your grit…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes via my favorite brunette who blessed me with this verse from Psalms on my birthday last week. Psalm 46:5

God is with her, she will not fail. God will help her at the break of day.


I love this verse for a variety of reasons. It speaks to the grit and determination that a successful life requires while at the same time reminding us that we do not travel the journey alone. I’ve experienced more than 20 years of sunrises on the farm. Each morning, I pause for a moment at the break of day to notice the beauty around me.

My memory book is chocked full of “dawn moments”, but likely the most poignant was the morning that I lost my steadfast partner. I arrived at the feed yard to read bunks and exercise calves a few minutes before six. My cowboy met me at the gate with a grim look on his face. I expected him to tell me that we’d had calves get out, — I never expected him to look at me with a tear in his eye and say, “Studly’s gone.”

There are animals that come into our lives and change our hearts. Studly was one of those. A big quarterhorse with a streak of loyalty that perfectly complimented his goofy personality, Studly brought a daily chuckle to my life. He was a bit lazy, but you could always count on him to take care of you while you were taking care of animal chores.

I loved that horse.

The day that I lost him was a hard one.

It’s been more than four years since that morning and I still blink back the tears every time that I think about it. The afternoon before, we left an apparently healthy and strong horse happily munching prairie hay. That morning, my cowboy found him lying dead in the pasture. With no sign of struggle, the vet diagnosed a heart attack as the culprit and I told myself that I should be glad that he didn’t suffer.

Life goes on — especially on a farm — where daily chores ensure that animals remain healthy and thrive. Death, even the death of a beloved partner, does not stop the chore process so I pressed on. I had a newly arrived group of cattle that I was acclimating, so I pulled my eyes from his unmoving body and forced my feet to walk away.

I exercised calves that morning with tears streaming down my face, telling myself over and over again to focus and move on. I wanted to crawl in a hole and bawl my eyes out, but I packed my faith and let God carry me through the day.


Dealing with loss and disappointment provides perhaps one of life’s hardest challenges. Learning to cope and press on provides a critical step on the journey. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to understand that I do not fail. I persevere because God has my back and faithfully fills the gap for me. He props me up on the hard days, and then sits back with a big smile on his face as I dig deep to find the strength to continue.

He is the master of balance — providing just the right amount of support — with a loving hand and a compassionate spirit.  

Each break of day brings opportunity.

Each sunrise brings the promise of peace and grace.

And as the sun crests the horizon, I remind myself that I only need to reach for it in order to fill my heart with the quiet strength of perseverance and the steadfast grace of walking with God on the journey.

It is particularly meaningful for me for my daughter to chose this bible verse to share with me. Her gift fills my heart with the knowledge that she gets it. And wherever her life takes her as she begins college next fall, she understands the need to grip tenaciously to the knowledge that God will never let her fail. He will help her at the break of each day and together they will persevere with greatness.

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

Cycles of giving…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s quote can be found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6:38

“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount that you give will determine the amount you get back.”


Life on a farm intrinsically teaches a lesson in the cycle of giving. As Howard Buffet notes in his book, Forty Chances, a farmer has approximately 40 chances (growing cycles) over his lifetime to use his efforts to bring meaning to the world. Whether its tilling the soil or caring for a calf, as adult farmers, we each have around 40 years of contribution.

Matt and I are firmly in the middle of our forty year tenure — far enough through the process to understand fully what it means, but with enough chances left that we are inspired to constantly strive to do it better. It takes a lot of faith to farm. Diligent care for the land and our animals provides the structure to our days, but uncontrollable forces like Mother Nature can undermine our success as caretakers. The process has taught me to tenaciously give, stubbornly packing my belief that God will never let the cup run empty.

Matt giving a young Megan a lesson in water quality

We honor our resources on the farm by always getting smarter about how to use them. We work, we mature in our knowledge, and we are renewed by our dedication to the goal. A tangible example of this is the move to shift from gravity pipe irrigation to pivot technology combined with soil moisture sensors which allows us to conserve water while optimizing crop yields.


As I travel into my third decade of chances, I find myself digging deeper to better understand what it really means to give. Jesus’s instruction, “Give and you will receive”, is a very basic one. However, it also holds complexity and depth. In order to fully give, you must

  • gather as a team
  • connect as a unified group
  • contribute unselfishly

I feel as though my life has been a series of experiences where God tenaciously tries to teach me the value of giving as a team. Jesus’s words, “pressed down, shaken together to make room for more” denotes the importance of we. Giving is not a singular act. It takes both a donor and a receiver. We bring honor to the act when we work together — creating a continuous cycle rather than one independent input. The cycle perpetuates as givers become receivers and receivers become givers — when the team comes together to fill the cup.

If we only have a finite number of chances, then it behooves us to make the most of each and every one. I may have learned that lesson on the farm, but it carries over to every aspect of my life. The Holy Spirit reminds me daily that #TogetherWeAreStronger.

4 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom…

Today kicks off my new series, “Wednesday Wisdom” 🙂


I plan to spend the rest of the winter sharing a favorite bible quote each week along with how life on the farm reinforces the lesson that I find in the words. I hope that this will help you all to better understand how faith changes my heart as well as the role that it plays for farmers as we make our way along the journey of using God’s gift of natural resources in order to grow food.


Today’s quote can be found in Paul’s letter to Galatians Chapter 6:2-3.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”


I find Paul’s bluntness incredibly refreshing. Of the many lessons that I’ve learned on the farm, I believe the most important is the art of sharing responsibility. The list of daily chores gets long, and most are vital to the wellbeing of our animals. When you fully embrace the responsibility of being an animal caregiver, taking pride in completing chores well becomes the norm. Learning to work as a team not only increases efficiency, but also brings joy to the day as sharing a burden lightens it — not just in a physical way but also in an emotional way.

A constant supply of fresh water helps to ensure good health with cattle, so cleaning and checking water tanks lives somewhere near the top of the chore list. I’ve been known to tell my favorite blonde cowgirl that washing water tanks builds character. She’s been known to reply that her character cup is overflowing 😉

In all honesty, washing water tanks is not fun. It’s a hot, sweaty job in the summer and a bone chilling cold one in the winter — and bending over to scrub is always hard on your back. However, there is honor to be found in the task because it fulfills a basic animal need. Sharing the burden of the chore sets everyone up for success.

The Progressive Beef management program that all of our feed yards operate by requires regular water tank cleaning. It’s a big deal — and something that I am particular about as an animal welfare specialist. Clean water is just that important. One of our feed yards has a really awesome water tank cleaning plan. Once a week, the entire crew divides the feed yard into groups of pens and each crew member goes out after lunch to clean their assigned water tanks. Every member of the team (including the manager) washes tanks, sharing the chore in order to reduce any one team member’s individual burden.


To me, this is a beautiful example of how we implement God’s teachings on the farm. Everyone contributes to complete the common goal of providing for our animals. No one is too important to help, no matter how mundane the task. Humility blends with strength to bring honor to the journey 🙂

 

4 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Merry Christmas!

The annual Burkholder Christmas letter — 21 years in the running 🙂

2017 brought the year of the teenagers to the Burkholder residence. Ashley Grace achieved the big 18 this month, Megan quickly approaches 16, and Karyn celebrated the fall with 13. Despite the fact that he is surrounded by women, Matt continues to thrive on the Nebraska prairie 🙂 The girls are truly our greatest blessings and the farm is alive with the love and joy that comes with family.

While Ashley Grace rocks her senior year in high school, Matt and I are left pondering how in the world we have a child old enough to leave for college! Last week brought the news that she will join the Notre Dame family in August of 2018. Her excitement rivals the pride that we feel toward the beautiful, compassionate young woman she has become. 2017 brought competition in the National Forensics League Extemporaneous Speaking finals as well as the completion of a successful four year state qualifying cross country career.

Megan expanded her repertoire this year to include set building for the Haymaker State Runner Up One Act play, and state appearances in pole vaulting (along with a school record) and cross country. She is in the midst of a great sophomore basketball season and still makes time to help out with cattle on the farm. Her smile is contagious and she packs her faith with a dedication that makes this Mama proud.

Karyn began her Junior High career this fall bringing home hardware on the cross country course and a successful basketball season. She relishes the fact that although she is the youngest of the Burkholder girls, she is the tallest. Karyn’s greatest dream came true this summer when we welcomed a yellow Labrador named Theodore into the family. Theodore brings a whole new level of antics and laughter to our home; and I have to admit that she is not the only one who adores him 🙂

Matt and I celebrated 21 years of marriage last June although he swears that I turn 29 with every birthday that passes…I am thankful each day to be able to share my life with him. He continues to manage the farm with a dedication to sustainability and integrity, although I think that he would tell you that being a good daddy dominates the top of his priority list.

Ashley Grace challenged me to run in my first half marathon this fall. I found a unique element of good health and strength amidst the 550 miles of training. I finished the race with a smile on my face, peace in my heart, and a time of 1:42.49. I continue to coach the local swim team as well as acting as an assistant coach for the Haymaker Junior High and High School Cross Country team. I truly believe that it takes a community to raise a child, and hope that I positively influence the athletes that I coach.

We wish you and your family the very best this holiday season. As always, if your path ever brings you across Nebraska please stop by and say hello!

1 Comment

Filed under Family, General

How do you work to expand your limits?

I am a creature of habit.

I like routine and I am all about self-discipline.

If you need someone to count on, I’m likely your girl.

However, when it comes to working to expand my limits, I have to admit that it takes an intentional effort to move me into “uncharted waters”. I thrive on habits but the art of establishing new ones can throw me into a bit of a tailspin…

I struggled for several months after closing down my feed yard to establish new habits. When you have done the same thing – everyday – for 20 years, it’s just plain hard to change. It took me a while to find my mojo, and probably more importantly, to accept my new life path with joy and pride. Like many good things in life, sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone in order to have meaningful personal growth.

I put a lot of miles (specifically 550) on my new running shoes (actually, I’ve now worn out two pairs) on my journey to find balance. As I look back on the last eight months, I can easily recognize the series of goals and resulting plans that led me down the path.

Signing up to run the Good Life Halfsy (half marathon) –> Rediscovering my love for running –> Finding peace

Taking a new job at the Beef Marketing Group –> Benefiting from a new innovative team –> Finding challenge

Dedicating time to coaching/mentoring –> Acknowledging my deep spiritual need to give back –>Finding love

Learning to take more time to enjoy my family –> Embracing my greatest blessings –> Finding joy

It’s interesting the places that life takes you when you intentionally take the time to look for the best path. If you are like me, just slowing down enough to see the options is a huge step in the right direction!

Good habits are awesome:

  • They inspire us to be dedicated.
  • They enable us to make good daily choices.
  • They allow us to create meaningful patterns in our daily lives.

However, to intentionally find personal growth, we cannot let habits keep us from looking for the next step — the next goal — the next chapter in the journey toward excellence.

Many of you that follow Feed Yard Foodie are food advocates — either as farmers or as foodies (or a combination of both!). The journey of advocacy never ends and the road is often uncomfortable; but we learn from each other and we expand our knowledge as we interact and create a team. Recently, I decided that I needed to expand my limits in social media in order to continue to be relevant – that statement could well have been a direct quote from one of the beautiful teenagers that calls me “Mom” 😉

I plan to continue to blog weekly on this site, but I am making an effort to be more active in other places as well.

  • Additional pictures and “micro-blogs” are being posted both on the Feed Yard Foodie Facebook page as well as Instagram. If you are active on either of those platforms and enjoy my farm tales, please give me a follow!
  • I am planning a second Facebook Live video this Saturday morning at 8:30am. Grab a cup of coffee and join Megan and I as we visit our yearling steers at Roberts Cattle Company. We will be focusing on the symbiotic relationship that occurs between farmers and their animals — hoping to answer the often asked question, “How can farmers care for animals for months or years and then send them to their death?” This is a difficult topic that many people grapple with, and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts as a “city girl — turned farmer”.

In the meantime, Happy Fall to each of you!

Leave a comment

Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., Coaching / Personal Growth, General