Tag Archives: rural communities

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.

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Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

Tips for Facebook Live Broadcasts…

The weekend before Thanksgiving I attended the Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium at the University of Nebraska. I was asked to share my thoughts on “Building Trust” with the students, and (as often is the case) I came home smarter than I left. While at UNL, I had the privilege of hearing Haley Steinkuhler give insight into using Facebook Live broadcasts as effective social media tools.

Over the past 12 months, I’ve gone to work to build the skills needed for video social media outreach. I am a long way from “accomplished” in this department, but I’m getting smarter every day! It was an awesome opportunity for me to get to hear Haley and I wanted to share with all of you a list of tips for using Facebook Live that come from a blend of advice from both Haley and myself.

  1. The average attention span for humans is 8 seconds, so it is important to have a good start to your broadcast! That being said, as a live/interactive social media tool, a good Facebook Live allows time for interested viewers to get connected to the real time event before getting into the heart of the broadcast. It’s a delicate balance! Don’t be afraid to promote the event ahead of time to increase your “live audience” interactions.
  2. A good rule of thumb for informal Facebook Live broadcasts about agricultural topics is 3-7 minutes in length. While 3 minutes is short and hard to effectively communicate a topic within, you have to remember that asking your audience to give you 10 minutes of their day is a BIG ASK in today’s culture. I’m still working on this as I always seem to have too much to say!
  3. Many of the views will occur after the event ends so be sure to save and share the video after the fact.
  4. Facebook Live fits well when sharing: Special Events, Exciting Announcements, Interviews (Q&A’s), How To’s, Virtual Tours, and Behind the Scenes topics.
  5. Make sure you have a strong WiFi connection as well as plentiful battery power on your phone.
  6. Make an outline for the broadcast to keep you focused but let your personality show through by not using notes during the actual broadcast. No one expects you to be perfect — Be yourself!
  7. Depending on video length and location, using a “stand” allows the video picture to be less shaky.
  8. If outdoors, be cognizant of the weather as wind and cold can cause less than ideal experiences. Wind wreaks havoc with the audio and severe cold weather can cause your phone to stop working during the broadcast.
  9. Reiterate your core message multiple times during the broadcast as most of your viewers will not actually watch the video from start to finish.
  10. Give your viewers a “shout out” if they interact and ask questions during the broadcast. It is easier to accomplish this if you have a broadcast partner that can help you out — multitasking while running a live broadcast is hard!

Below is my most recent Facebook Live Announcing the Nebraska Beef In Schools program recently implemented by Holdrege Public Schools — As you will be able to see when watching, I am still building my skills! It is a fun journey 🙂

For more information on the Nebraska Beef in Schools program click here

A special “Thank You” to the University of Nebraska as well as Haley Steinkuhler for helping to make us all smarter! If you have any other thoughts or tips to share regarding Facebook Live broadcasts please share them in the comments 🙂

 

 

 

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Filed under General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group, Video Fun on the Farm

Haymaker Swimming…

I competed in my first backstroke race the summer of 1979 at the age of 4.  My mom taught me to swim almost before I could walk, and USS Swimming played a huge role in the first 21 years of my life.  In addition to allowing me to compete as an athlete at the national level in high school, it also helped me to matriculate at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1993.  I wasn’t as smart as the general Ivy League student population, but I knew how to work and I was never known to back down from a challenge.

Although I drifted away from the sport during my twenties as I built a life on the farm and gave birth to my three greatest blessings, I became reunited with it the year my youngest turned 3.  At that point, swimming provided a healing influence, and played a vital role as I regained my health after a difficult struggle with Graves Disease.  The combination of physical fitness challenge as a swimmer and the mental fitness that I acquired as a coach enabled me to find the “old Anne” and shake off the deflated self esteem that often develops when battling a chronic illness.

Looking for a "high 5" at the beginning of the meet...

Looking for a “high 5” at the beginning of the meet…

Years later, our local swim team thrives with 46 young competitors aged 7-16.  Coaching is the highlight of my summer and I love to watch the sport play a positive role in the growth of our community’s young people.  It is not just speed and strength that gets developed in the water — it is character, work ethic, and respect.  The almost twenty hours a week that I put in as a volunteer coach during the summer months nurtures my altruistic side despite the fact that during hard workouts my athletes have been known to classify me as evil

What they likely don’t realize is that I push them because I care about them: both the young people that they are today and the awesome adults that they will grow up to be tomorrow.  I hope that sometime ten years down the road each of my swimmers will rattle off one of the many motivational phrases that I am known for and take a moment to appreciate what we built together.

Our league also allows for adults to swim, so each week I get to hit the water to prove to myself that I still can.  I love that I demonstrate with each day that passes that swimming is a life sport and fitness is fun.

  • Every practice is a challenge to be met.
  • Every race is an opportunity to embrace.
  • Every awesome effort proves that while the road to excellence is rarely comfortable, success thrives in an uncomfortable environment.

annecoach2.jpgGo Haymakers!

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Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, General, Rural Communities

The Lady Haymakers…

The fall run continues in Haymaker country.  Outside of the feed yard, you will find me at sporting events cheering on our community’s athletes.  Lest you all think that I am “sitting on my laurels” and letting my writing skills grow rusty, today I share a letter that I wrote to our Lady Haymaker athletes.  These awesome young women are in the heart of their fall sports seasons.

girlshaymakersportscollage.jpgDear Lady Haymakers,

When I became an honorary Lady Haymaker in June of 1996, I brought with me a desire to see women’s athletics rise to a new level of excellence in our town. As a lifelong athlete, I recognized the importance of sports in the development of personal growth and confidence.

Two decades later, I now realize the additional role that young athletes play in promoting community spirit. Quite simply, you are our greatest blessing. I have had the pleasure of coaching many of you in T ball, soccer, track and swim team as you started your athletic careers; and it brings me incredible pride to watch each of you find excellence as young women on the athletic field. As parents and community members, I think that sometimes we forget to tell you how important you are — to yourself, to your team, and to your town. You are a joy to watch, and every effort that you put forth representing us builds the future.

The road to excellence is not comfortable, but it is an amazing journey. Every race, every game, every competition is an opportunity to attain greatness. The fatigue, pain, and challenges that you face during competition provide you with the ability to gain strength. Hard work, tenacity, leadership and compassion enable your team to thrive. The confidence that comes with each victory not only brings incredible joy but also provides a basis of personal faith that will help to carry you the rest of your life.

The next few weeks will provide the finale of your fall sports season. Your successes this season have been plentiful, and the time now comes to: Finish Strong, Dig Deep, and Always, Always Believe! You have the talent, the determination, and the power to raise the bar — It is your effort that builds a culture of excellence as a Lady Haymaker.

I believe in you. Whether on the Golf course, the Softball field, the Volleyball court, or the Cross Country course —

  • Aim high
  • Compete with passion
  • Recognize that you can attain far more than you ever dreamed.
  • Unify together to embrace the challenge and fight for the victory.

It is in giving of yourself that you receive.

Your biggest fan,
Anne

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Filed under Family, Rural Communities

The Road to Excellence Is Not Always Comfortable…

I am one of the coaches for the Cozad Swim Team. Our primary season is late May through July, and I spend the noon hour during the summer on the pool deck coaching practice as well as Saturdays at swim meets.

I love the sport of swimming and spent the better part of my formative years training in the pool. My high school tenure found me practicing four hours a day and traveling across the country to compete in swimming meets. My journey as a competitive athlete taught me so very many things, but likely the most important is that the road to excellence is not always comfortable.

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While I loved my time as a competitive swimmer, being a volunteer swim coach has grown my love for the sport exponentially. It allows me to touch the lives of the youth in our community and help to shape their tenacity and character. This year our team had almost 50 members that ranged in age from five to fourteen as well as a few brave adults competing in the 30 and over age group.

I believe that one of my most important jobs as a coach is to teach my athletes to build mental strength and confidence. As the mind begins to believe, the athlete learns to push him/herself into the uncharted waters of true physical exertion. There is nothing comfortable in this journey, yet it ultimately results in the true beauty of fitness and excellence.

coachannethumbsup.jpg

Regardless of any individual athlete’s God given talent, learning the life skill of breaking outside of what is comfortable in order to attain improvement is critical. I would argue that this is a life skill that reaches far outside of competitive athletics. Mental toughness and the desire to always improve (regardless of whether that journey is comfortable) is a skill that I have used every day in my adult life.

This year, I created the Pitchfork Challenge for our swim team to add a new element to practices. Each swimmer was tasked with discovering how many laps they could complete without breathing while swimming (in both Freestyle and Butterfly strokes). Each no-breath lap was immediately followed by 15 wall push-ups with no rest in the continuous effort for multiple laps.

pitchforkchallenge.jpg

Watching the young athletes figure out that they could indeed achieve success in the Pitchfork Challenge was a fulfilling experience. As they realized that I believed in their ability, my swimmers also began the personal journey of believing. Many of them pushed the limit, with my favorite blonde cowgirl going the farthest with 7 consecutive laps of freestyle no breathing with 15 wall pushups as the only “rest” in between laps. I had 38 athletes complete the challenge in freestyle, and 17 of those 38 completed it in both freestyle and butterfly. Additionally, there were another 6 athletes under the age of 8 that completed the challenge with only one breath.

Meganfreestyle.jpg

A nice “side effect” of the Pitchfork Challenge was a tremendous improvement in both work ethic and fitness amongst my athletes. This led to an undefeated season for the Cozad Swim Team and a dominating performance at both the Plains tsumani Swim Team Qualifier and Championship meets.

Forty eight of our swimmers qualified for the Plains tsunami Swim Team Championships and those athletes brought home 166 medals (31 Gold) and 7 high point winners. Cozad brought home the 1st place team victory with 1792 points (more than 400 points ahead of the 2nd place team—a total of 24 teams competed in the meet).

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Likely, the most important result of the season is the personal growth that each of my swimmers developed during the summer as they discovered that the road to excellence is not always comfortable…

I would like to take a moment to congratulate every athlete that swam on the team this summer. Each one of you played an important role in our team journey, and it brings me great pride to be your coach. I hope that in the future, when life throws a challenge at you, that you will think back to the Pitchfork Challenge and dig deep in order to persevere with excellence.

 

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Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, General, Rural Communities

Looking To the Future…

It is impossible to move forward without looking to the future. One thing that I shared in common with Robin Coulter Lapaseotes was a dedication to young people. I love to mentor and I know that guiding youth also held a special place in Robin’s heart.  We both recognized what an important role the next generation plays in the sustainability of agriculture in Nebraska.

Robin, at her feed yard just outside of Bridgeport Nebraska...

Robin, at her feed yard just outside of Bridgeport Nebraska…

I spent a day last week in Robin’s home community of Bridgeport speaking to high school students and talking with a couple of local cattlewomen. While I truly wish that Robin could have been there in person to share the day with me, I know that her spirit carries on with strength in the beautiful sandhills of Western Nebraska.

A beautiful sunrise off of sandhills ranch land near Bridgeport.  Thanks to Terryn Drieling for the picture...

A beautiful sunrise holds the promise of a new day…

Much like my town of Cozad, Bridgeport’s economy is tied to agriculture with farmers and ranchers making up the backbone of the community. There is an air of friendliness that permeates the region, with residents quick to offer a smile or a few minutes to visit. It is the quintessential Nebraska small town and personifies what I love most about my adopted state.

While I initially envisioned this trip west as a tribute to Robin, I think that I likely brought home more blessings than I could have left behind. This is often the case when I find myself speaking to students. I was able to catch the classes on the day before they left for the Nebraska State FFA convention and there was much excitement and enthusiasm about the impending trip to Lincoln.

Bridgeport FFA Students...

Bridgeport FFA Students…

I rounded off the day with a great visit with Terryn Drieling and Naomi Loomis. Terryn and Naomi are new up and coming bloggers as well as ranch hands, feed store managers,  moms, and a myriad of other things. I encourage each of you to check out their blogs and support them in their efforts to share their lives with fellow beef lovers!

Terryn and her family...

Terryn and her family…

Terryn blogs at Faith, Family and Beef

Naomi and her family...

Naomi and her family…

Naomi blogs at From the Corner of the Circle L

As I drove the 180 miles south and east headed for home, it occurred to me that looking to the future required not only personal intr0spection, but also reaching out to others to help you carry the torch.  It is finding the balance between remembering those that have influenced your life in the past and looking forward to new acquaintances to accomplish the work that still lies ahead.

Destiny is no matter of chance.  It is a matter of choice.  It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

William Jennings Bryan

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Filed under General, Rural Communities

Meat Racket Communities…

“In 1931 Springdale was a tiny crosshatch of streets populated by modest houses and small stores.  Even eighty years later, the architecture of Springdale is utilitarian, and it speaks to a meager past where the greatest economic ambition was to put food on the table and little else.  Today, the tallest buildings downtown are the grain silos, and the commercial strip downtown is a squat roof of one-and two-story rectangular buildings that look as though they were designed by architects who felt that tilting their heads upward was overly presumptuous.”

Chris Leonard, The Meat Racket

The above quote appears in the second chapter of The Meat Racket.  I think that it does a nice job of illustrating the author’s tone relative to portraying rural America.  This tone is reiterated throughout the book in descriptions of towns ranging across the Midwest from Arkansas to Kansas.  These caricatures are often followed by a commentary on how large agricultural businesses (most especially Tyson Foods) are destroying the character of rural towns.

Home to about 4000 people, and proudly marked on a local grain elevator---the tallest building in town...

Home to about 4000 people, and proudly marked on a local grain elevator—the tallest building in town…

While Springdale, Arkansas is 604 miles from Cozad, Nebraska the appearance of my town seems to structurally fit Mr. Leonard’s above description.  From the crosshatch of streets with modest homes and small stores to our grain elevators and downtown buildings, the looks of Cozad speak to the universal pragmatic nature of a farming community.

The Meat Racket’s surface description captures the physical anatomy of rural America, and intertwines it with the author’s supercilious undertone.  However, this superficial recounting missed what I believe is the most important component of small town America.

They are both the heart and future of our community...

We unite to support each and every one of them because they are our heart and our future…

Mr. Leonard, when you described our small towns you missed the core—you missed the heart—it is not in the architectural makeup of our buildings, but rather in the compassion and faith of our people.  Our community sustains because of teamwork and “home town pride” and I found that no where in your book.

When they "Win the Day" on the court, they bring both hope and pride to our towns as their hard work and faith determines our sustainability...

When they “Win the Day” on the court, they bring both hope and pride to our towns as their hard work and tenacity contributes to our sustainability…

  • I believe that the true heart of rural communities is our youth.  Recognizing this, our citizens bind together to nurture our young people, and in return, the younger generation sparks optimism and creates an ongoing sustainability for the town.
  • The agricultural businesses that are the pulse of our towns invest not only in local farmers and the economy but also encourage their employees to volunteer within the community.
  • There is a quiet pride that lives in the members of a small town, a sense of teamwork and loyalty that transcends cultural and socioeconomic boundaries.  This phenomenon is stronger than any one company and is the driving force of day to day life.

    They don't just work on the court and in the classroom, but they also take part in the family farming businesses that are the pulse of Nebraska's economy...

    Our youth don’t just work on the court and in the classroom, but they also take part in the family farming businesses that are the core of Nebraska’s vibrant economy…

Although structurally my rural community fits the author’s description, apart from this physical description, I can find no other accurate representations in the book.  Our town does not depend on one large company to tenuously hold onto survival.  Rather, we are a myriad of compassionate individuals who pool our talents in order to create a caring community atmosphere all while working to ensure a sustainable economic environment for our farms and businesses.

Rural Americans do not need a patronizing investigative reporter to inaccurately portray our towns in order to build momentum for increased government regulation of food production.  What we need is the faith and trust of our urban customers, and their willingness to believe that farmers, alongside our packing plant partners, raise food with integrity. 

Small town communities evolve over time just as farming and food production do — some people will choose a rural lifestyle and others will not.  That ability to choose is one that makes America special.  The best decision that I made in my adult life was to move to a small community in Nebraska and learn to be a farmer.

“Even in 2012, there is a sense that somehow, without small towns and rural communities, America has lost a piece of itself, even though most people today would never want to actually live on a farm or in a rural community.”

Chris Leonard: Chapter 2, The Meat Racket

I made the choice to be a farmer and have successfully made my life in rural America...

 I am living proof that there are still Americans who choose to make their lives in small town America.  My town of Cozad (along with many other rural communities) are testimony to the fact that rural America offers a unique life style that still appeals to some Americans.  Farmers are proud of what we offer to our country, and hope that our urban counterparts realize that we care about both them and the food choices that they make at the grocery store.

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

Win The Day!

haymaker8

A special thanks to Brian Bazata for all of the pictures that appear in this post…

The last time that the Cozad Haymaker Football Team brought home the State Championship title was the fall of 1991.  Twenty two years later, the Pitchfork Nation is rolling with a 12-0 record.  Our Boys of Fall head to the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium Tuesday to realize a community wide dream.

Congratulations to Coach Brian Cargill and his staff for inspiring our kids to greatness!

Congratulations to Coach Brian Cargill and his staff for inspiring our kids to greatness!

The 2013 Haymaker football players were young children when Matt and I moved to Cozad in 1997.  I remember watching many of them play catch with a football on the sidelines while their dads played flag football on a local recreation team with my favorite farmer.  Those years began the changing of the guard as one era of Haymaker players hung up their cleats and another learned a passion for the game.

Go Big C!

Go Big C!

The mantra for this year’s season is Win the Day.  I have watched these young men systematically dominate the competition one game at a time.  They play with heart—they play with pride—they play with brotherhood—they play to win.  Their confidence is contagious and they have turned our community into a family of believers.haymakerfootball6

The heart of a small town is its youth.  The community binds together to nurture its young people, and in return, the younger generation sparks optimism and creates sustainability for the town.  It is a beautiful partnership and one of the things that I love most about rural America.haymakerfootball5

When the Haymakers take the field each day, they know that they represent not just themselves but also the rest of the 4000 people that live in Cozad.  When they Win the Day, they bring not just victory but also hope for the future.  Each performance on game day demonstrates that hard work and faith are the foundations of successful teams—and successful communities.

Our boys of fall...

Our boys of fall…

My heart swells with pride as I watch these young men discover that Excellence is not an act, but a habit.

I am reminded that with each touchdown and sack that are made on the field, the heart of our town becomes just a little bit bigger and the future of our community simultaneously becomes just a little bit brighter.  Today I give a special shout out to the members of the 2013 Haymaker Football Team.haymakerfootball3

Thank you for all of your hard work and inspiration.  Be true to yourselves and play with pride.  I look forward to watching you Win the Day both Tuesday in Lincoln and each day for the rest of your lives!

Go Haymakers!

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Filed under General, Rural Communities