Tag Archives: Farming

Lay Down What’s Good To Find What’s Best…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from 2 Timothy 1:7

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”


Last week, I traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma to speak on OSU’s campus as part of the 25th Annual Totusek Lectureship. I spent all day Friday with students and faculty from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and ended the evening as the keynote speaker for the lectureship. I always learn something when I spend time with students who are passionate about agriculture, and I hope that I offered a meaningful message for them.

I was charged with talking about “My Journey in Beef Production”, but perhaps a more accurate title would be “Laying Down What’s Good To Find What’s Best”. The phrase comes from an awesome Jonny Diaz song entitled “Breathe”.

As I prepared for the lecture, creating a power point and pondering what “work” stories and lessons I should share, it occurred to me that there have been many times in my life that I have laid down what’s good to find what’s best. Each and every time, it has taken loving commitment and self-discipline to overcome the fear involved in creating meaningful change.

I have literally hundreds of stories to share on a variety of topics including:

  • Moving to Nebraska from the city to work in our small feed yard
  • Changing daily feed yard animal care practices to include low stress cattle handling
  • Redefining our business model to become my own cattle buyer in order to reduce stress on my animals and better honor God’s call to be good caregivers
  • Navigating my way into leadership positions in order to foster meaningful change across the beef industry in animal well-being
  • Closing down the feed yard and then opening a new chapter of life with the Beef Marketing Group.

Throughout the preparation process for my time at OSU, my thoughts kept coming back to the difference between good — better — and best. It takes intentionality to move up the scale. And, the leap from better to best is a big one. When I think of best, my mind often goes to my faith and my family – to the love that I share with my favorite farmer and the children with which we were blessed. I’ve earned a lot of titles over the years, but the one that I am most proud of is wife/mom. Together, our family has learned to love — to reflect the light of God’s grace in order to walk a meaningful journey. There’s not a plaque hanging on my wall to honor this, but instead a mark on my heart that I cherish above all else.

It’s where I consistently find best.


Life journeys are interesting that way. Reaching for what’s good – upgrading to better – and ultimately striving for what’s best. I believe that the leap from better to best has a strong faith component to it. When we follow the path that God sets out for us, He fuels us with the power that comes from love and inspires us to develop the needed self discipline to persevere. Jesus calls us to be courageous and hopeful in our journey – thereby overcoming the fear and timidity that threatens to keep us from finding best.

I don’t know for sure what the folks at OSU expected from me, but they got a talk that uniquely blended cattle stories and faith stories with a sprinkle of Coach Anne on top.  It’s a mix that works for me in my constant search for best 🙂

 

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Lean while pressing on…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today I pull from both the Old and the New Testament as I work to internalize the concept of leaning while pressing on.

The Old Testament reading comes from Hosea 6:3

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in the early spring.”

The New Testament reading comes from Matthew 7:7

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone that asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”


I’ll never forget the “Thanksgiving Blizzard”. It began the Sunday after Thanksgiving when Karyn (my youngest) was just a toddler. The day prior was 60 degrees and sunny, but the weather changed quickly as 70 mile per hour winds beat down on Central Nebraska for 36 hours piling snow into drifts taller than my favorite farmer.

It took us almost 24 hours to be able to get out to the feed yard to check on the cattle. My favorite farmer and my foreman got stuck multiple times trying to make the 3 mile trip west from our house. The cattle huddled together to brave the storm, and then took the liberty of wandering from pen to pen when the snow drifted higher than the fences. We were blessed that none of the animals left the feed yard facility to wander onto the nearby roads.

In addition to having cattle at the feed yard at the time, we also had a group of animals grazing the left over cornstalks just west of my house. We live about a mile north of town, and – at the time – the local community hospital was constructing an assisted living facility on the edge of town closest to my house. The facility had walls and a roof but no windows or doors when the storm came through. The cattle grazing by my house wisely walked over the drifted snow and headed south to the shelter of the building. Fences are not very useful when they become completely covered in packed snow! My favorite farmer serves on the local hospital board and was a bit sheepish when he had to relate to the rest of the members that it was our cattle hanging out in the unfinished assisted living facility as the storm raged through…

This storm served as an epiphany for me.

  • I am not naturally a person who leans on others — I pride myself in being strong and independent.
  • While I love to work, I shy away from asking for help.
  • I like to be in control.

I clearly had no control over the weather, and it took a lot of work by many different people to get our community back to a state of normality after the storm passed.


I’ve spent decades trying to figure out the balance of leaning while pressing on. 

  • What does it truly mean to “give it to God”?
  • What is my role as I look to find strength in Him?

I first started articulating the phrase “give it to God” as I read and talked about faith with my girls when they were young. Over time, it has become a reoccurring theme as well as a personal mantra for me as I try to worry less and do a better job of packing my faith to live with grace.

I think that learning to lean while pressing on occurs in stages:

  1. Recognizing that strength, joy and hope come from pressing on to develop a meaningful relationship with Jesus.
  2. Realizing that we are never alone on the journey.
  3. Internalizing that while God carries us through strength in faith, that we must still do our part — asking, seeking, knocking.

This lesson became clear to me as I trained and competed in my first half marathon in 2017

While giving it to God grants us the strength to press on, it does not absolve us from responsibility. We must put in the work in order to find success.

To me, faith is a symbiotic process. God brings dedicated love and support to us, we then must respond to His offer with hearts of gratitude and untiring efforts. 

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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

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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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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