Tag Archives: mentor

An Aggie’s Time in Cozad…

In the just three short weeks that I spent with the Foodie Family, I was able to learn more than I ever expected. Anne was such an amazing mentor to me and her family’s hospitality made it seem like home. I’d like to take this last blogging opportunity to thank them for hosting me and reflect on my time spent in Cozad and the experiences I had.

As I mentioned briefly in my first post, An Aggie in Nebraska… , the main goal of my visit was to take full advantage of a learning opportunity. Having spent the past 4 years at Texas A&M University earning a degree in Animal Science, I felt that I was well equipped with knowledge to enter into the cattle industry. I had a toolbox full of practical skills and knowledge acquired through a diverse array of classes and hands on learning opportunities but one key aspect was missing… real world experience.

Like any traditional student graduating from a 4-year university after high school, I didn’t exactly have a lot of down time to experience the ins and outs of the industry firsthand.

You never truly understand something until you are fully submerged in it, and that’s what I hoped this trip would bring about.

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While my three weeks doesn’t come close to Anne’s 20 years in the business, I think she did a great job including me in every aspect of the operation. We spent many mornings at the office, something she wouldn’t necessarily say she enjoys compared to working with the cattle, but it’s all part of the job.

While there she used everything as a teaching opportunity as she went about her daily tasks, sharing her own personal experiences and lessons she’s learned over the years. She always worked hard to directly apply it to my future career desires of running a cow-calf operation.

From budgeting and planning to understanding where the industry is headed as a whole, to government regulations, audits, and taxation — she certainly covered all the bases. She even offered advice on juggling work and family as well as the importance of playing a role in your community, and how she’s able to make it all work.

On the feedyard side of things, I had the opportunity to take part in reading bunks every morning, receiving, processing, and exercising new cattle, shipping fat cattle, moving calves to pasture, operating the feed truck and much more.

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Most importantly though, I was able to witness a well run business. In my mind, a successful business is not only measured by their bottom-line but also their integrity and the way they treat their employees. It was evident that every employee loved their job at Will Feed. Regardless of the situation, I repeatedly saw everyone work together as a team each day all while treating the cattle with the utmost respect.

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I cannot thank Anne and her Foodie Family (including those at the feedyard) enough for all that they have taught me while I was here. From farming to feedyard and everything in between, my time in Cozad was full of new experiences!

A few of the big take-home messages:

  1. “Two wrongs don’t make a right”
  2. Always stay humble
  3. Listen to your animals
  4. There are many ‘practical applications of math’ throughout the day
  5. Nothing smells quite as good as the alfalfa dehy plant on a long run

 

-Emily

*The photos throughout this post are a few of my favorites taken while receiving weaned calves earlier this week.

 

BarnQuilt

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Kindred Spirits…

There are many who knew Robin Coulter Lapaseotes better than I, but there are few that admired her more.  A trail blazer and mentor, Robin lived for her family and her beloved Coulter Ranch.

The center of her life...

The center of her life…

Robin spoke from her heart with a brutal honesty that earned her my respect from our very first encounter.  She believed in living life to the fullest, determined to make the most out of every day.  Robin likely accomplished more in her 56 years than most do in 90.  Perhaps that is why God chose to take her last week in a tragic accident that has left her family, her community and the Nebraska beef family in shock. robinhorse

Robin demanded hard work from those around her.  She possessed just enough humor to soften the unbending stubborn streak that made her uniquely Robin.  Our lives were separated by close to 200 miles and many individual responsibilities with our families and our livestock, but I enjoyed tremendously the times that our paths crossed.

It was a true joy to bounce ideas off of such a savvy and bold contemporary — the fact that she also had the perspective of a woman made those times even more special.  My favorite time with Robin was almost a year ago when she and I participated in a day long women’s mentoring seminar for students at the University of Nebraska Engler Entrepreneurship Program.

Three Kindred Spirits sitting at the head table hoping to impart some "wisdom"...

Three Kindred Spirits sitting at the head table hoping to impart some “wisdom”…

Alongside Ann Brunz, Robin and I spent the day mentoring young women who wanted to make their lives in agriculture.  The three of us were kindred spirits as we shared the joys and challenges of being a woman in a traditionally male business.  Robin’s advice for the students was simple:robin2L

Life will test you, what’s done is done, move forward with confidence.

I thought of those words as I watched her children at the funeral service on Saturday — battling the grief and shock but knowing deep down that their mom would be anxious that they accept “what’s done is done” — remember what she taught them — and, most especially, that they would carry on with confidence.

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Robin and her husband Pete. My favorite quote from the funeral, “It’s really hard to tell Pete ‘No’, unless your name is Robin.”

Costa, Nicole, Jake and Cassie:  Robin prepared you well.  She believed in you and a part of her will remain with you always.  Follow your dreams and continue to build your lives in a search for greatness.

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The Mentor…

I graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in Psychology and was one class short of a minor in Education.  Just like many kids who attend a Liberal Arts college, I floundered with what I wanted to do with my life.

Training "at altitude" at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs my senior year in high school...

I arrived at Dartmouth a jock…

My freshman year in college...Making good friends and learning to be a "student of life"...

I metamorphosed into an intellectual— graduating cum laude…

Young dreams and core values brought us back to Nebraska and a life as farmers...

After graduation, my heart led me to central Nebraska to a small agricultural community…

While at Dartmouth, it was pure stubbornness that kept me from a minor in education.  I wanted to take an extra class in early childhood brain development instead of the “History of Education” and the chairman of the education department did not agree with my decision…

It was also pure stubbornness that kept me from becoming an elementary school teacher when I moved to Nebraska.  The state of Nebraska refused to honor some of my education classes and required me to go back to school in order to obtain a Nebraska teaching certificate…I could see no good reason in going back to college (I had, after all, just graduated from one), so I decided to do something else.

I traded textbooks and chalk for a horse and learned to be a caregiver for cattle...

While at the time that all of this was happening I was frustrated and trying to figure out my place in life, I have since realized that it was a blessing in disguise.  Today, I cannot imagine a life that is not centered on the care of cattle.  I love working outdoors with my animals, and it brings me great pride to know that my hard work quite literally feeds the world.  In addition, I have found a way to incorporate teaching into my role of Boss Lady and feed yard manager…

These steers are asking a question--can you see that by reading their expression?...They look to me for leadership and comfort...I look to them to nourish my children...

Over the past five years, my feed yard has become a hands-on learning center, and not a month goes by without a student or group of students spending time with me.  My holistic cattle care and cattle handling philosophy combined with the fact that I love to share the knowledge that I have garnered over the past 15 years provides an attractive combination for college and graduate students who are interested in learning about a cattle feed yard.  Throw into the equation that I am a woman working in a predominantly male world, and the ante is upped even further as young women look for someone to be a mentor to them in their quest to raise cattle and grow beef.  While most of the students that I mentor are from Nebraska, I have had the privilege of working with young women who traveled from as far as Texas and Georgia to spend time with me.

Jessica spent the summer of 2010 with me. She completes her undergraduate degree in a couple of weeks and will head off to Washington DC to work as an intern in Senator Mike Johanns' office. Next fall, she will attend law school and study environmental law.

Cassie has her master's degree from Texas A & M in ruminant nutrition, and came to learn about how I use a combination of good animal care and nutrition to reduce the environmental footprint of my animals...Check out her blog site at "Food Think!"

Suzanne is an undergraduate student and has followed the Feed Yard Foodie blog for months now. She came to experience "first hand" the feed yard and our community of Cozad.

I truly believe that the youth of our nation hold the key to the long term success of our country.  As a cattle caregiver and a farmer that raises beef, I know that new science will allow me to do an increasingly better job caring for my animals while also reducing the environmental footprint of my farm as I raise food to feed to my children and yours. Today, I mentor numerous young people, but someday soon I will learn from these young professionals as they unravel the future of cattle care and beef production.  I hope that they will take the things that I teach them to heart, and these nuggets of practical wisdom and experience will allow them to work to better the industry that I love so much.

In the meantime, I will cherish the time that I spend mentoring and hope that I am making a difference in these young people’s lives…

I look at this picture of my daughter and I am reminded of the most important young people that I mentor, and I am thankful that my girls are growing up on a farm and learning the responsibility that is necessary to offer good care to animals...

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