Tag Archives: food

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

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas blessings from our family to yours. 

This holiday season — please take a moment to enjoy and appreciate your food — thank a farmer — and realize that together we are stronger 🙂

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Filed under Family, General

The Culture of Meat…

In addition to discussing food/meat in the written word, National Geographic is also doing a television series entitled “Eat: The Story of Food”. The second episode of the series centered on meat — most especially the culture of meat, the role that it played in evolution, and what the future of meat might hold.

I took several biological anthropology classes at Dartmouth College. Professor Korey and his lectures on the subject of biological evolution fascinated me. The how, the when, and the why all peaked my curiosity – and I poured over the material with avid interest. My specific draw toward anthropology centered on biological change, however, the element of culture seemed to always be intrinsically tied to the discussion.

A Samburu Elder with his child...The Samburu continue to be a semi-nomadic people based on a hunter-gatherer culture.

A Samburu Elder with his child…The Samburu continue to be a semi-nomadic people in 2014.  Their “agriculture” is different from mine…

Perhaps it is because I am a nerd at heart, perhaps it is because meat (growing it, cooking it, and eating it) plays a central role in my life, perhaps it is because the philosophical foodie discussion hits close to home — Whatever the reason, I found the first 2/3’s of the  National Geographic production incredibly interesting.

  • I became intrigued when the tool of cooking was linked to biological changes to the human body.
  • I followed interestedly as the discussion turned to the domestication of food animals more than 15,000 years ago as many peoples transitioned away from hunter-gather tribes to agrarian societies, and then eventually even away from farms to city life in the second half of the 1900’s.
  • I smiled when food was linked to community, family, and one’s cultural roots.
  • I nodded when cooking meat was labeled a “sacred ritual”.
  • I chuckled when someone stated that meat was an expression of manliness – thereby, a possible explanation for modern day man’s fascination with grilling. mattsteaks

All of these things resonated with me and I enjoyed the way that the information was disseminated to the viewer.  Unfortunately, at this point in the show, a shift occurred away from the historical and anthropological and toward the one-sided political abyss where modern food production is demonized. The historical balanced became the politically unbalanced, and I was sadly disappointed with the end of the program.

In the final 12 minutes Michael Pollan gave his usual rhetoric, “Feedlots are the biggest point sources of pollution in the United States…Meat agriculture will have to change. The way we are doing it now is unsustainable.” Upon hearing this, I immediately wondered how Mr. Pollan could accurately draw this conclusion about my farm since he has never once visited it? He offered no basis for his conclusions – apparently the American people are just supposed to believe his omniscient pontifications.

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Cattle on my farm which I call a feed yard and Mr. Pollan calls a feedlot…

The segment ended with suggestions for the change called for by Mr. Pollan.  The various contributors to the show offered two ideas as the future of meat was subsequently discussed.  They left me a bit perplexed…

  1. Eat more insects.
  2. Grow hamburgers (at the current cost of $325,000.00 per burger) in a petri dish.

Really?

I am the first to admit that continuous improvement is imperative for sustainability, and I believe that there are ways that I can continue to do a better job producing beef on my farm. I work hard every day to attain constant improvement remaining committed to growing high quality beef with the smallest environmental footprint.

I am most certainly not the same as my hunter-gatherer ancestors.  My farm runs differently now than it did 20 years ago and it will continue to evolve and change on into the future.  I choose to serve my family the pasture raised, grain finished beef that I grow with pride.

Pasture raised cattle that are now at my feed yard in preparation for slaughter...

Pasture raised cattle that are now wintering at my feed yard in preparation for becoming beef…

I don’t know about you, but I prefer that to a diet of insects or petri dish meat…

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

Jury Duty…

My feedyard crew consists of three guys and myself. Together we care for close to 3000 animals as well as the business part of the farm. During the busy fall run, the amount of work comes close to overwhelming us. By Thanksgiving, there is a light at the end of the tunnel but our days are still very busy.

This week we have an additional challenge because my cowboy was called to Jury Duty. This is actually the second time this fall he has been called. He still comes to work at 6:00 to help us start the day, but by 8:00 he is on his way to the courthouse.

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His list of responsibilities at the yard consists of: daily checking of cattle health, shipping cattle to the packing plant, being a member of the cattle vaccinating/processing crew, cleaning water tanks and an array of other things. When he is gone, the rest of us fill in the gaps.

My crew is a cross between a family and a well-oiled machine. We make an awesome team. It is hard when one of us is gone – especially on a holiday week in the fall…

Fortunately my favorite blonde cowgirl starts her Thanksgiving vacation from school today. She will be spending her time at the feed yard helping me to check cattle health and working cattle. Her sunny disposition will keep us all smiling, and her cattle savvy will lessen the work load.

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To say that she is a blessing would be an understatement. She may well be quickly approaching angel status 🙂

This week our family wishes each of you a Happy Thanksgiving — Take a moment to appreciate your life’s blessings and say a special word of thanks for all of the farm kids in our country who give of themselves to help bring food to your dinner table.

We are indeed all blessed.

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Filed under CAFO, Family, General

The Gift…

Animals play important roles in most of our lives. I have never lived in a house without a pet; and we currently have a dog and three cats enjoying the comfort of our home. When I moved to the farm in 1997, I learned about a new type of animal: a food animal. This animal exists for the sole purpose of providing food and other resources for all of us. It serves a very different purpose than a pet.

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As much as my pets enrich my life, at the end of the day, I believe that the gift that my bovine food animals give to me is more precious. When my cattle leave the feed yard, they travel to a packing plant in order to give the gift of nutrition. Their gift nourishes my family as well as yours.

  • I believe that my cattle play a critical role in providing needed nourishment.
  • I believe that it is ethical to kill animals for the benefit of humans.
  • I believe that it is possible to end a food animal’s life humanely.

Dr. Temple Grandin has revolutionized cattle handling and humane care at the level of the packing plant over the past twenty years. From changes in equipment – to employee training – to auditing – to camera placement to further verify compliance, Dr. Grandin’s work plays a critical role in bovine care at the time of slaughter.

CAB Anne feedyard

The quality of my bovines’ end of life experience is important to me. As a result, I make it a priority to take periodic trips to the packing plant. I have witnessed every aspect of the slaughter process, and I believe that my packing plant partner does an excellent job of remaining committed to a painless and humane death experience for my cattle.

I cannot imagine my life without cattle and the resources that they provide. I consider myself blessed that I can spend my days caring for animals that give the gift of nutrition. 

AGXC.jpgBeef’s Big Ten pack a powerful health punch:

  • Zinc: helps maintain a healthy immune system
  • Iron: helps the body use oxygen
  • Protein: preserves and builds muscles
  • Vitamins B6 and B 12: help maintain brain function
  • Phosphorus: helps builds bones and teeth
  • Niacin: supports energy production and metabolism
  • Riboflavin: helps convert food into fuel
  • Choline: supports nervous system development
  • Selenium: helps protect cells from damage

Each time that I load my cattle on the truck to ship to the packing plant, I am thankful for their gift. I respect that gift as I appreciate the beef meals that I feed to my family as well as the other beef products that come from cattle.

I recognize the sacrifice that my animals make to improve the quality of my own life, and I honor them by offering quality care while they are on my farm.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Cozad’s Ag Exposure Day…

Thoughtful Thursday

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On this Thoughtful Thursday, I am thinking back to yesterday when I participated in the Ag Exposure Day for the 4th and 5th graders in our town of Cozad.  Every two years, a group of 30+ volunteers put together a “farm day” at Platte Valley Farms for our upper elementary students.  Sisters Ann Smith and Judy Eggleston organize 150 students who spend four hours going to 9 different stations to learn about different facets of agriculture in Nebraska.

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With the help of a Cozad high school student (the daughter of one of the ranchers that I purchase cattle from), I am in charge of the “Cattle Learning” station which consists of giving a 15 minute presentation about cattle and beef to nine different groups of 15 students.

As I take the students through the life of a calf, why it is raised, why we eat beef, and how to offer basic care to a food animal; I field a variety of questions.  While I find each one of the students’ questions interesting, there was one yesterday that gave me pause.

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A 5th grade boy asked:

How can you get the meat off of the calf without killing it?

 I answered,

You can’t.  The animal gives it’s life in order to provide us with nutritious food.

My answer was met with a new level of understanding and a quiet nod.  I do not think that this young man will ever look at a hamburger the same way again.

My favorite 4th grader at AG Exposure Day...

My favorite 4th grader at AG Exposure Day…

As the students completed the last station and filed off to the nearby field to enjoy a hamburger lunch, I continued to think about this question — baffled that a 10 year old boy would think that meat would be harvested off of a calf without the calf dying.

How has our society become so far removed from food production? 

and perhaps more importantly…

How are we going to fix this?

Today, I charge each of you with the task of helping to educate others about where their beef comes from — whether it is your own child, or the person next to you in the grocery store line — take the personal responsibility to ensure that beef production is properly understood.

He has dedicated his life to caring for cattle and raising beef --- He cared enough to mentor me.  We proudly grow your food.

Farming is his life — He cared enough to mentor me. We proudly grow your food.

Farmers dedicate their lives to raising safe and nutritious beef

— animals give their lives so that we can nourish our families —

Shouldn’t each one of us take the time to properly appreciate the sacrifices that occur so that we do not go hungry?

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

Responsible Sourcing — It shouldn’t be a marketing ploy…

Thoughtful Thursday

Everyone wants to eat food that has been responsibly raised. Taking care of our Earth and the animals that roam on it is a priority for the vast majority of us.  I believe that our future and the vitality of our families depends on good stewardship.

As a farmer, I spend the majority of my day caring for our animals and our land. I try my best to make responsible decisions which ensure sustainability and judicious use of our resources. Animal welfare, food safety, and environmental stewardship are the core pillars that drive my decision making process.

I believe in wisely developing and using technology to grow food. I think that technology improves the environmental footprint of my farm, the quality of my beef, and also the care that I offer to my animals.

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I believe that I grow responsibly raised beef—pasture raised on a ranch, and grain finished in a feed yard.

Because there are a variety of eco-diverse regions where American farmers grow food, I do not believe that there is a “one size fits all” protocol for responsibly sourced food.

I have faith that the vast majority of farmers make responsible decisions while raising food even as I recognize that many different types of farming practices are used to put quality food on the grocery store shelves. There is not one management system that is better than another provided that those systems maintain a commitment to animal welfare, food safety and environmental stewardship.

Their address has changed but the quality of their care has not...

The cattle’s address has changed but the quality of their care has not…

It angers me when corporate food companies give into pressure from special interest groups, make demands regarding farming practices, and then use the term responsible sourcing as a marketing ploy to increase their profit margin.

This type of practice belittles the American Farmer and confuses the American consumer.

Responsibly raised and responsible sourcing covers the vast majority of the food grown in this country — it is not a special niche marketing tool to be manipulated — it is the reality of the United States food production systems.

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Is it too much to ask for a little bit of trust so that I can do my job as a farmer responsibly?

 

 

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Filed under CAFO, Thoughtful Thursday

What Does Your Farmer Look Like?

Thoughtful Thursday

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97% of all farms and ranches are family farms like ours, so there is an excellent chance that your farmer looks quite a bit like this…

Feel good about the food that you eat because we feel good about the way that we grow it!

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday