Tag Archives: Farming

Did you eat today? Thank a farmer!

Technology advances each and every day, providing more tools to help us create efficiency and prosperity. For example, larger equipment, GPS guidance systems, and improved computer software affect many different types of businesses today – and agriculture is no exception. We can move faster and with more precision, trace more things, and create reports that analyze our performance on a variety of levels. All of these things help farmers to be better today than we were yesterday.

Despite incredible advances in technology, I still firmly believe that it is people, not machines, that play the most pivotal roles in growing food. Behind that great tasting steak on the grill is a hard working group of men and women who offered care to the animal across its lifetime. By care I mean not just giving them nutritious feed, water, and a place to rest, but teaching the animal how to prosper in a variety of situations along the life journey.

I remember sitting in an animal welfare meeting several years ago and hearing someone remark, “We need to continue to make more things automated in agriculture because people are our greatest liability”.

While my head acknowledges that sometimes people make poor choices that negatively impact others (including animals), my heart still holds faith that integrity prevails.

I believe that the soul of agriculture is its farmers.

The occasional hurtful caregiver may make the evening news and go viral on social media; but at home on the farm are hundreds of thousands of others who are good caregivers and work with integrity to grow the steak that graces your grill.

I recently wrote about Finding Honor In Our Lives, and how work is part of God’s plan for humanity. Each of us brings honor to our faith when we honestly and fully engage in our jobs. Raising cattle for beef production requires a special type of person. Our animals are sentient beings – they don’t just need, they feel – and they are able to communicate with us. Good caregivers learn to understand animal feedback and use that information to individualize care.

Technology helps us to do that job, but even the best machine cannot provide the caring leadership needed to enable cattle to prosper.

If the soul of agriculture is its farmers, then the future of agriculture manifests itself in the young people who aspire to be the next generation of animal caregivers. I am often asked if any of my three daughters plan to return home to the farm after college. The honest answer to that question is, “I don’t know”. I know that our future necessitates farm kids like mine coming home to continue the tradition or at least remaining involved in agriculture; however, wishes and reality do not always find harmony.

Farming is a tough life. It is filled with long hours and many worries. In addition, over the past couple of decades, the connotation of a farmer has shifted away from something positive and trustworthy. That weighs on me as I have conversations with my kids about what life path they should take.

I believe that our country has a necessary call to action.

  • Humanity cannot exist without life.
  • Life cannot exist without food.

It is time for all of us to unite in the knowledge that there is honor in the profession of farming. Placing value on the people who tend the land, care for animals, and help to put food on the table creates a culture of honor that helps us to sustain on into the future. That might very well provide the key to inspiring kids like mine to choose a life path that involves agriculture.

Technology aids in the production of food, but it can never replace the men and women who pack their FAITH each and every day to put food on our tables.

How long has it been since you thanked a farmer?

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

Finding Honor In Our Lives…

My favorite farmer celebrates 46 years of awesomeness this week. With the last twenty of those years spent working on the farm, I find myself thinking that perhaps we aren’t as young as we used to be! Matt and I tend to draw very few boundaries in our lives, so it would be impossible to evaluate the last two decades of our lives without including the farm.

A couple of weeks ago, the sermon at church centered on finding honor in our work. The topic resonated deeply with me as honor is something that I personally value. It was a great reminder for me that work is part of God’s plan for humanity and we honor our faith when we honestly and fully engage in our jobs. For Matt and I, finding honor in our work is closely akin to finding honor in our lives as there is very little separation.

I think that one of the hardest things about being a farmer is finding and maintaining balance. You learn quickly to control the controllable in order to protect your livelihood from those things that threaten it. From Mother Nature –  to volatile markets-  to debilitating regulations: the list of things that keeps you up at night can grow lengthy. Maintaining a perspective that focuses on honor instead of fear/frustration provides the encouragement that refuels your cup and grants you a healthy outlook on life.

Cattle are masterful at sensing their caregiver’s attitude 🙂

The last twelve months have inspired me to reflect on this topic. The following are 5 personal habits that I have worked to establish in order to help me always focus on finding honor in my life:

  1. Let my faith be stronger than my fear.
  2. Look for gaps and be cognizant of the needs of others – Approach each day with the question: “How can I help?”
  3. Bring a constant element of thankfulness to my daily perspective. Thankfulness wards off frustration and anger, and increases the ability to live a life filled with joy.
  4. Create a personal focus on giving intentional encouragement so that my words and actions positively inspire others.
  5. Recognize that it is okay to take time for personal reflection and growth. While I am very much an “action” person, taking time each day to talk to God and develop a plan grants meaning to my actions in addition to helping me to refill my cup.

I find each day that I am still a work in progress – achieving differing levels of success with the above 5 habits.  But, I am confident that I am on the right track. Good habits bring about good daily choices.

And, making good choices enables us to find honor in our lives.

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Filed under Family, General

A Feed Yard Update…

It’s been six months since we shipped the last of our cattle to the packing plant and I shut down the feed yard. I remember someone saying to me last winter, “Anne, it’s going to be so depressing to look at an empty feed yard and think about what it used to be.”

I am a person that always looks forward — reaching toward what will be rather than looking back on what used to be. As a result of that, as soon as the cattle left the feed yard we began to build a plan for what Will Feed would be in the future. That meant tearing out the home pens to convert the facility into a combination crop farm and cattle receiving area to serve as our grass pasture headquarters.

Above: An aerial view of the feed yard. Below: the same land a few days before Matt planted the cover crop…

I am pleased to report that we have been very successful in this effort. My foreman and my cowboy worked all winter to make this conversion possible.

  • Feed bunks and water tanks were sold to neighbors to be used for other local cattle operations.
  • All of the left over concrete was recycled to be used to help maintain local irrigation canals.
  • Fences were reconstructed to fit the needs of our grass cattle operation.
  • Manure was hauled out by my favorite farmer to be used as fertilizer to maintain soil health on his crop fields.

On the 1st of July, my favorite farmer planted a cover crop where the home pens of the feed yard used to be. My original plan was to have this completed by the first of June, but we were slowed down by the weather and the final dirt work on the project. Matt has a solid plan for building soil health over the next several years and we are excited about the farm transition.

Photo credits to Katie Arndt Photography

I have learned many lessons in the past two decades living on a farm; but I think perhaps the most important one is the critical importance of having resilience. Change can be difficult, but packing your FAITH (fortitude, attitude, integrity, trust, and hope) allows for a successful journey.

I saw a t-shirt last weekend that read “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.” I think that this provides good food for thought as we make our way into a new week 🙂

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Farming, General

Prairie Hay Chores…

Last week the Feed Yard Foodie family (actually Matt, our foreman Doug, and I) took care of the yearly accumulating of our prairie hay bales. We bale extra prairie hay during the summer in order to have for horse and cattle feed in the winter months.

Matt and I prefer to engage our *free labor* in the form of our daughters to help with the manual labor associated with throwing small square hay bales, but this year all three girls were gone. It’s a good thing that Matt and I remain fit and strong…

The weekly video up on YouTube from Feed Yard Foodie comes in the form of “How do farmers feed their animals?” and recaps our afternoon building muscle to ensure that our animals have winter feed 🙂

Happy Summer from our farm to your family!

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

Makin’ Hay…

It’s hay season and my favorite farmer and his crew are one third of the way through the first cutting of alfalfa. Matt and his guys will harvest 4 cuttings from May to the end of October. Weather permitting, they run 24 hours a day for 7 days a week during the summer months as 3300 acres of alfalfa keeps them plenty busy. We are blessed to have an awesome set of guys to help us out!

In honor of my favorite farmer, this week’s video is entitled “Makin’ Hay” and describes the alfalfa portion of our farm 🙂 Enjoy!

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

A Brief Recap…

The Burkholder residence has been it’s usual crazy self over the past couple of weeks.  Due to a variety of time constraints and an unplanned bout of influenza, this week’s Feed Yard Foodie post will simply be a brief recap of our wanderings…

Last week, my favorite brunette and her Oral Interpretation of Drama speech team garnered 4th place at the Nebraska State Speech Meet for their rendition of “The Bible in 30 Minutes or Less”.  I enjoyed watching these talented 5 high school students take their knowledge of the bible and turn it into an interesting and funny summation of the Old Testament. Outside of the normal speech season, the group performed for many different community audiences allowing for the great inter-generational engagement that often permeates small town America.

Last week also sparked the official start of track season in Nebraska. With two high school varsity competitors, there never appears to be a dull moment… Ashley Grace continues to compete in middle distance and distance events as Megan tackles the pole vault and both hurdle events. My favorite farmer and I are both track nerds so we are having a blast (despite the fact that Mother Nature creates vicious settings for Nebraska track meets in March). Last Friday, I became the favorite farmer fashion parent wandering around the track in her coveralls 😉

My youngest blonde athletic dynamo worked her way onto a traveling soccer team based out of Lexington, Nebraska this spring so she begins her journey of games across the state this coming weekend. We will travel to Lincoln to watch her play soccer on Saturday. The soccer team has been an awesome experience for Karyn, and I am so pleased with how the girls from the neighboring community have opened their hearts with kindness toward the tall blonde Haymaker.

My favorite farmer began the spring farm field work a couple of weeks ago. We received some very needed rain last week with a 2″ soaker permeating the ground. It is currently raining again and this seasonal moisture brings a tremendous blessing. Planting oats sits on the nearby radar screen, followed by alfalfa in the middle of April, and corn in early-mid May. Matt and his crew continue to prepare the alfalfa dehydration plant for its season start up the middle of May.

I am closing in on 60 days on my new job at the Beef Marketing Group and am enjoying both the people and the projects. I’ve made a couple of trips to Kansas as well as visiting all of the feed yards in Nebraska. It seems to be a good fit for me on this journey we call life 🙂 On the home front, we are preparing to take cattle to grass in about a week so bovines continue to play a large role in my daily activities.

Today we celebrate my favorite blonde cowgirl’s birthday.  I’m not sure where the years have gone, but I feel so blessed to be able to share my life with this awesome young woman!

 

Happy Birthday Megan!

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Filed under Family, Farming, General

Chores…

I was lucky enough to grow up down the street from my grandparents. Although they have been gone for several years now, when I think of them the word that comes to mind is devoted.  More than 70 years of marriage, the sun rose and set for them in each other.  As a little girl, I dreamed of finding a soul-mate — someone to build a life with just like my beloved Grannie and Dedaw.

Feb March 2006 017When I brought my favorite farmer to Florida for the first time, my Grannie loved him at first sight.  I still don’t know if she innately sensed that he was my one, or if she simply loved me enough to believe in my heart.  Either way, she showed me with her life that love required work — a good marriage necessitated diligently doing chores — and that the blessing of sharing your life with someone always topped the priority list.

One of the things that I love about Matt is our ability to work together in harmony.  After twenty years on the farm, I still love to do things with him. Whether we are checking fields, working on projects around the house, or building fence, we make a good team.  Matt figures stuff out, and I follow directions well 🙂

When you work well together, chores are not just a necessary part of life — they are part of what makes life fun.marchfence7.jpg

Last weekend Matt and I took down my winter horse fence.  Intermittent warm days inspire the alfalfa to green up and start to grow, so it is time to corral the horses and take them off their winter pasture. Since it snowed on Saturday, we opted to wait until Sunday to take down the electric wire fence. We traded the Saturday snow for a 35 mile an hour wind on Sunday. In hindsight, I’m not sure that we picked the correct day, but we bundled up and laughed our way through the chore.

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We brought along our favorite blondes as we’ve always maintained that families that work together find greater love together.

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We survived the wind, and finished the chore. I think perhaps the only ones pouting are the horses as they prefer their large winter grazing pasture to the corral 😉

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I spent much of the day thinking about my Grannie and Dedaw.  How my life on the farm is so different than their’s was on the Florida coast, yet how our days are actually so much the same.   When your better half provides the center of your world, love becomes much less of a chore and much more of a blessing…

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Filed under Family, Farming, General

Finding Her Voice…

My favorite brunette entered the world in the year AF3 (year 3 of working at the feed yard).  She arrived three weeks early after a complicated pregnancy that wreaked havoc on our normal fall cattle processing chores. She came out screaming, and her birth (albeit a loud one) created one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

christmastreeagdonkey1-jpgI have spent the last 17 years watching her find her voice. From the first melodious baby sounds, to words, to sentences, and finally the mature and engaging insight (laced with a tad of sarcasm) that she routinely shares today. Last week, my favorite speech loving Haymaker spent three days in Cheyenne, WY at the National Forensics League Regional Qualifier competition.

She emerged a victor earning herself the right to compete this summer in Birmingham, AL at the National Finals in the International Extemporaneous speaking event. This event involves drawing a topic, spending the next 60 minutes writing a speech addressing it, and then delivering a 7 minute oratory to judges. The really talented kids give a poised, on topic speech complete with quoted sources to back up their argument — all without a note card…

It’s nothing short of awesome!

One day it occurred to me that perhaps Ashley Grace and I found our voices together.  As she grasped the English language and developed a knack for writing an engaging and organized speech, I opened my life outside of our family and our farm to help agriculture find its voice.  The art of public speaking and sharing the story of bovine feed yard life does not normally appear together in a feed yard manager’s skill set…But I found my niche as I found my voice.

In 2017, the need for eloquent and honest farmer voices grows exponentially as social media tops the list of “sources” for the discussion of healthy and responsibly raised food. We need our farm kids to learn the art of finding their voices just as we need them to learn the science that will allow agriculture to prosper on into the future. This unique combination of skills could well determine the stability and sustainability of our country’s food supply in addition to opening or closing the gate on many farmers’ individual agricultural journeys.

Monday I will make my way to Lincoln to be a guest lecturer at the University of Nebraska.  The goal of my lecture is to engage and inspire the next generation of farmers to effectively find their voices while they responsibly grow food. I am the first non-PhD to lead this particular yearly guest lecture on UNL’s agricultural campus — A sign of the growing importance of mentoring outside of the classroom in order to offer a more complex and multifaceted approach to education.

Just as I believe in the power of the next generation, I also believe that it will require the joining of the boots on the ground with the more traditional science background to prepare our future agricultural leaders. I am very proud to be able to play a role in that.

Unlike my favorite brunette, I will head to Lincoln with a pre-organized plan and a power point presentation.  However, I share her love of extemporaneous speaking which provides me with an incredibly useful tool when leading an intellectual discussion with a lecture hall full of gifted students.

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My mom always taught me the importance of becoming adept at expressing my thoughts and ideas — I guess the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree 😉

 

 

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Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., Family, Farming, General