Tag Archives: Rural America

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.


Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

What Fuels You On the Journey?

25 years ago…

Sunday morning, just as the sun popped over the horizon, I logged in my 500th mile running since deciding to compete in the Good Life Halfsy October 29th in Lincoln, NE.

500 miles is a long way…
Farther than the width of the state of Nebraska – Similar to traveling from NYC to Cleveland…

I decided to keep a journal of my training as a bit of a whim. I figured that looking back on my swimming and running cross training for the race would be meaningful. More than four months into the journey, I am very glad that I did. Not because I plan to do it exactly the same way the next time, but because it gives me insight into the journey of peace that I embarked upon last June.

For the first time in my life, I trained not for time but as a means to regain my mental and spiritual health.

I’ve logged in more than 500 miles never wearing a watch. I never missed it because my pace was superfluous — I set out not to regain the athletic status of my youth, rather, to regain balance in my life. In less than two weeks, I will cross the starting line packing my faith to compete with grace. I know that what I accomplish on that day pales in comparison to what I have found running the gravel roads — watching the sun rise — and finding a deep sense of rightness in my life.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that my faith could be stronger than my fear. I found joy, peace, and inspiration as I opened my heart and refocused on what is most important in my life. I will cross the finish line with the knowledge that life is a journey.

That I am stronger than I ever imagined and that hope is the muscle that fuels faith.

I remember when I moved to the farm in June of 1997, I laughed to Matt that I traded flip flops for cowboy boots. Over the last four months, I have learned that my perspective on life is healthier if I also add in a pair of running shoes in order to fuel myself with some quiet time in the presence of God.

The blessings are numerous — we only have to look to see them.

Where did you see God today?


Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

Going To Grass…

After twenty years in Nebraska, I can report that the world turning green in the springtime provides one of the year’s greatest blessings. A little bit of rain, some sunshine, and warming temperatures brings the countryside to life after a long winter.

We celebrated the start of spring yesterday taking our first set of cattle to grass. These yearling steers shipped from a ranch about 25 miles from our farm and will grow on our pastures for the first part of the summer.

It is good to have some cattle on the farm again. The beautiful blue skies and 70 degree temperatures provided an awesome day to go to grass. My two blondes are looking forward to helping to care for the cattle while they graze our pastures.

After these cattle finish growing on grass, they will ship to Roberts Cattle Company in Lexington, Nebraska. My new job at the Beef Marketing Group allows me to play a role on the feed yard team at Roberts, helping them with their cattle care and responsibilities with the Progressive Beef program. I am looking forward to being able to trace these calves and their care all of the way through the feeding period and on into the packing plant.

Look for periodic updates on these yearling steers and the fall calves also born on the Lazy YN Ranch that will be spending quality time on the Feed Yard Foodie farm this spring/summer.

It’s always fun to see some awesome smiles accompany the green grass and great looking cattle 🙂

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group

A Deer In the Headlights…

Cattle outnumber people in the state of Nebraska by a ratio of just under 4:1.  We share our great Cornhusker State with a healthy population of deer who reside amidst the 1800 miles of river ground within our boarders.



Life on a farm leads to many miles traveled on gravel roads. Learning to drive where the pavement ends initially provided a bit of a learning curve for me, and I remember my favorite farmer giving me driving advice as I adjusted to life on the prairie. After two decades and hundreds of thousands of miles, I recently got to put his what to do when a deer jumps out on the road in front of your vehicle advice to good use…

  • Slow down as much as possible without losing control of the vehicle. 
  • Stay in the middle of the gravel road where the traction is the most consistent.
  • Hold the steering wheel with two hands and drive STRAIGHT.  Do NOT SWERVE.

 Natural human intuition often leads to swerving to avoid the collision.  Swerving results in losing tire traction on the uneven gravel and crashing the vehicle into the ditch.  It is preferable to take the deer head on which allows you to better remain in control with a solid driving surface.

It was pitch black dark the morning that a doe mule deer decided to cross the road in front of my vehicle.  The look she gave me reflected her lack of foresight and thought, but I am glad to report that I had enough to cover both of us.  I followed my favorite farmer’s advice to a T, and all ended well.

anne-ag-meg-treeAs I recounted the experience of saving both myself and the deer to my girls, I took the opportunity to turn it into a teaching moment.

  • PAY ATTENTION to the world around you.
  • TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for both your actions and the situation at large.
  • DON’T BE AFRAID to face things head on.

 Of course, the girls expressed great excitement toward their spontaneous life lesson opportunity with Mama. Now, if I can just get them to consistently wear socks and coats during the winter weather; they might be ready to go off to college in a year or two 😉

Like many of you, we reconnected with family and friends over the holiday season.  In my case, many of these awesome people lead unique lives in places vastly different than my farm on the prairie.  While I deal with deer before dawn on gravel roads dressed in blue jeans and boots, they deal with rush hour traffic while dressed in business suits.

Taking the time to appreciate the diversity in others allows our own lives to take on a new depth of meaning. In doing this, we are able to shed that deer in the headlights look and actively embrace the similarities that exist in our hearts.

**P.S. I am open to any and all advice as to how to convince my teenage daughters that physical care and comfort should come ahead of fashion.  Please leave thoughts in the comment section 🙂 —Thank you, Anne




Filed under Family, Farming, General

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

The Haymaker Swim Team took 46 athletes in 170 individual events and 23 relays to the Plains Tsunami North Qualifying meet last Saturday.  All 46 of those athletes earned the opportunity to compete next weekend at the Championship Meet.

swim picture 20161.jpg

The kids would likely report that the fun of competition and the excitement of getting to the next level provided the highlight of their day.  Mine was the fact that although I only get to coach and mentor these kids for 8 weeks each summer, our team completed the meet with no disqualifications and a large number of excellent athletic performances.

Each swim season we create a mantra which appears on the back of our team shirts.  This year our shirts carry the statement Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance.  As the coach of a recreation league summer sport, I try to focus on fitness and the development of strength and work ethic.  I know that learning to do it right at practice sets the kids up not just for success in the pool but also in life.

While the glory of competitive victory glows brightly, a true winner shines just as radiantly during the hours of practice.  It is during those hours of preparation that true character is revealed.  Convincing my swimmers of the necessity of passionate effort creates one of my greatest challenges.  Settling clearly provides the enemy of greatness, and is spurred by unfocused practice.  Each year I create Pitchfork Challenges to help the kids find focused goals to strive for during practice sessions.

For the 2016 season, Pitchfork Challenges included long Individual Medley swims requiring correct stroke technique, sprint freestyle swims with no breathing, and a blend of core “on land” strength challenges.  I always enjoy watching the kids accomplish far more than they envisioned possible, and I know that these challenges play an important role in creating a successful season.

This week provides the culmination of the 2016 season.  The kids look forward to competing at Championships with a blend of nerves and excitement, and dreams of coming home with medals.  I spend the week trying to prepare them knowing that perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Go Haymakers!

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Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General, Rural Communities

Heading For the Hills…

My favorite blondes did not have school last Monday so I had company as I headed north to get feeder cattle near Halsey, Nebraska.  My girls spent many years traversing across Nebraska visiting ranches and getting cattle before they were old enough to be in school.  With my “baby” being a 5th grader, I have made many treks alone since those days.


The drive from Cozad up to Halsey is a beautiful one full of wildlife and picturesque scenery.  I know that wherever their lives take them, my girls will take those memories of quiet beauty with them.  This vast land where cattle and wildlife greatly outnumber people brings a sense of peace that refills my cup.

As I drive around my farm and then head north to the Sandhills, I always wonder why our urban countrymen worry so much about sustainability.  The healthy ecosystem balance found in out-state Nebraska is readily visible to any passerby, and the farmers and ranchers that tend to the land do so with a blend of natural passion and stubborn pride.


I think that perhaps many urban folks would feel better about where their beef comes from if they spent a day driving around rural Nebraska.  It might be hard to find the farmer/rancher in all the vastness of the countryside, but his/her hard work and dedication is apparent from the car window view.  If you happen to come across the human caregiver, his/her quiet manner and aloofness will give testimony to the fact that caring for the land is a solitary job.

The trip from Cozad to Halsey takes about 2 hours, and is full of deer, turkey, grouse, ducks, hawks and an occasional eagle in addition to the bovine population.  They all live in harmony with a bit of human help under the influence of Mother Nature.  Just as cattle are known as the great recyclers turning inedible plant products into vitamin rich (and tasty) edible protein, the people that inhabit my beloved adopted countryside share the same dedication to stewardship — wasting little and carefully managing the natural resources found on the land.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

Those of us that make rural America home are a small and unique group. Our pride in country is evident.  Our dedication to community shines brightly.  Our responsibility to stewardship drives a life filled with both challenge and fullfillment.

With each day that passes, I am coming to realize that now (more than ever) we need our urban counterparts to take the time to learn about our lives prior to judging the validity and sustainability of both our daily work and our legacy. Beef production is much more than the steak that creates a great tasting eating experience.  It takes care of the land and fuels rural economies, while its farmers bring a steadfast patriotism and a dedicated work ethic that provides a necessary pillar for our country.


Perhaps it is time to head for the hills to learn about “Where your beef comes from”!  You might be surprised at what you find 🙂




Filed under General, Rural Communities, Sustainable Spring

The Great Barn Quilt…

Business took me to Pender, Nebraska late this summer for a meeting.  I drove in the night before and arrived before sunset, so I put on my sneakers and went for a run around town.  Pender greeted me with a gorgeous display of “Barn Quilts”, and I left town the next afternoon enamored with the idea of a community wide Barn Quilt project.

Not long after my trip, I learned that my home county planned to participate in a Barn Quilt tour.  I quickly signed my favorite blonde cowgirl and her grandma up for a “how to” class.  Megan has loved to draw and paint patterns of shapes since she was old enough to hold a pen.

I believe in empowering my kids — coming up with projects that I know will fit their personalities — and then letting them fly.  No matter what the project, their work often leaves me in awe.


We hung Megan’s first barn quilt at the feed yard on Saturday.  It is an 8′ X 8′ sign easily seen from HWY 30.  Anyone that knows Meg will see her personality in the sign, and I am confident that it will bring smiles to the faces of many travelers.

Apart from consulting with her engineer Daddy on the quilt layout (geometry) and spacing, Megan completed the project on her own.  I know that I am a biased mom, but the sign is just AWESOME!  I am looking forward to Barn Quilt #2 which is currently in the making and will hang on the shop/barn behind my house, and Barn Quilt #3 which will adorn our farm office building in downtown Cozad.


I hope that Megan’s signs will be an inspiration to others in my community to participate.

  • How wonderful would it be to have each business in downtown Cozad hang a barn quilt in their window?
  • How beautiful would it be for homeowners all around town to place them in their front yards?
  • How magical would it be for groups of young people in Cozad to make signs for their neighbors and those that are unable to make their own?
  • How awesome would it be for area farmers to hang large barn quilts on their barns and shop buildings all through the countryside to showcase pride in our heritage!

For more information on making a Barn Quilt, please contact the Cozad Chamber of Commerce or visit with Julie Geiger at the Prairie Point Junction quilt store in downtown Cozad.

What an inspirational way to showcase rural America!




Filed under General, Rural Communities

The Team Builder…

I believe that there exists two types of “team builders”. Those that are gifted with an innate talent for radiating positivity and inspiration; and those dedicated enough to the cause that they strive to redefine their behavior in order to become one.  As a natural born introvert, I fall into the second category. Sometime during my adult life, I became enamored by the concept of team and began to redefine my values in order to make it a priority.

Team building plays a critical role in creating successful families, schools, communities, and businesses. It creates a positive culture where all are inspired to creatively contribute not just for individual gain but also for the good of others. Being a team builder creates the ultimate selfless gift, thereby providing the basis for excellence.

Tim Thramer was a natural born team builder. A stranger to no one, Tim radiated positivity. In a crowd, I always felt my eyes drawn toward Tim as I knew that his easy smile would bolster my confidence just as his creative joke would lighten my day.


My girls got to know Tim when his oldest daughter, Molly, began to babysit for us more than 4 years ago. They gravitated toward Tim just as children excitedly gather around the Christmas tree – looking for him across the gymnasium at a basketball game — finding him during a community tailgate party – or hoping that he would drop by the house when they were with Molly. They actively sought him out because they sensed that Tim would always share a precious gift with them – the gift of cheerful compassion.


After a two year battle with cancer, God brought Tim home last week. As our family sat in the church pew participating in the rosary service honoring Tim, I cried. I cried for his beautiful family: Cindy, Molly, Hannah, and Abby. I cried for my town of Cozad. I selfishly cried for myself. I cried because I will never again be able to search the room looking for that smile – that joke – that sparkle that Tim shared with everyone.

Although I worry that those of us left behind will falter as we try to carry on with the resilience and strength that Tim demonstrated each and every day, I know that he has faith in us and will be our greatest cheerleader going into the future.

I can hear him chiming his favorite mantra: Respect: Learn it, Live it, Love it!  And when I look into the eyes of both his girls and mine, I know that his lessons were well learned and his legacy will persevere.

We are forever #thramerstrong…


Filed under Family, General, Rural Communities