Tag Archives: Teamwork

The 4th Runner…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂

Inspiration this week comes from 1John 4:12

“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each another, God lives in us and his love is brought to full expression in us.”

The morning of August 6th dawned early as the Haymaker Cross Country team gathered for our first conditioning practice. As the sleepy high school students wandered in, it was not hard to notice that the number of boys outnumbered the girls. In Nebraska (for all classes of schools other than A – the largest schools), varsity teams run 6 athletes and score 4 with the optional 5th runner serving as the tie-breaker runner and both the 5th and 6th runners able to out-place those from other teams in order to raise team scores. The goal – if you are running as a team – is to get the lowest score possible with your top 4 runners.

To the outsider, Cross Country is pretty much an individual sport. To the runner, it is very clearly a team sport. In addition to scoring as a team, there’s nothing more lonely than standing at the starting line without any teammates, and possibly nothing harder than motivating yourself to race through the discomfort of the 4th and 5th kilometer without the knowledge that your teammates are with you.

The individuals make up the team — but the team brings the individuals together to accomplish something greater than they can do alone.

In those early weeks of conditioning, I prayed each day for God to bring our three girls a fourth runner. By conventional standards, three runners did not give them a team. Our girls could compete as “individuals”, but could not compete as a team. I knew how important it was to them to go to state together. It is possible for individuals to qualify to run at state, but it is also highly improbable for one school to get three athletes qualified that way as only the top 15 runners in each district earn the right to compete at state.

The days went by and the same three girls showed up for practice each day.  As I watched them love each other – support each other – and work so very hard together, I had an epiphany. There may have only been three of them, but they were a team. They loved, they leaned, and they shared through each moment. They did all of the things that good teams do. Honestly, they weren’t just teammates – they were sisters of the heart. It was not only remarkable, but also beautiful.

At that point, I stopped praying for a fourth runner. Instead, I started thanking God for bringing the three of them together and asked for Jesus to bring them courage. I prayed for Him to fill a different gap – not a physical one, but an emotional one. They didn’t need a fourth runner, they needed to believe that they were a team so that Jesus could carry them.

Almost two month later, the three girls huddled up near the starting line at the District Championships – preparing for the defining race of their season. I reminded them that God brought them together as a team. That He loved them and that I did too. They just needed to pack their Holy Sass and GET IT DONE!

They finished 2nd, 12th and 15th. Karyn – my youngest – was our third runner racing right on the heals of her sister Megan. 100 yards before the finish line, Karyn tripped and fell. I don’t know how many people saw her fall, but I can tell you that those of us that did had a moment of panic. But, Jesus filled the gap. She came up racing and managed to claim the 15th spot despite the fall.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons this season. So did the girls. But, I think what struck me the most was how much God shown through them. 1John 4:12 reminds us that none of us have ever seen God, but when we love one another He is expressed through us.

We know Him when we love, and others also get to know Him as we love. 

Throughout the season, the girls often gathered in prayer and opened their hearts to abide in Jesus. You couldn’t ever see Him, but you could see Him in them. As they honored Him, He blessed them. As a coach – and a mom – I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. I prayed for a 4th runner, and Jesus delivered.

Friday, the girls will compete together at the Nebraska Class C State Cross Country Championships. I don’t know exactly what the race will bring, but I do know that Jesus will once again be with them. As they hold His hand, He will hold their hearts. Together, they’ll run.

As they do, they create the light that illuminates God’s expression of love in their hearts.


Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

Wearing the jersey…

Many of you probably noticed that Wednesday came and left with no Feed Yard Foodie post — one of the things that I am learning is to give myself the gift of patience. This week I needed time to process and reflect before I wrote. So, below you will find a Wednesday Wisdom on this Sunny Saturday 🙂

I would like to dedicate this post to two people who continue to help and inspire me on this journey.

  1. To Pastor John Shields for bringing me back to the bible and helping me to realize that living as a Christian is about what is in your heart, not about what religion you call yourself.
  2. To Bev Smith for the steadfast prayerful and emotional support that leaves me humbled and inspires my heart to always love.

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂

Inspiration this week comes from Galatians 5: 22

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

On April 19th, 2018 Team Burkholder got a new member. God brought us a son – a brother – a teammate. We packed our faith to live with grace during a time of uncertainty. I do not think that any of the six of us knew for sure what the play book looked like, but we all agreed to wear the jersey. 

It’s hard for a seventeen year old to join a team unlike anything that he has ever known.

  • To accept the jersey that is given without any strings.
  • To understand that while the jersey is free, putting it on necessitates always working unselfishly toward the good of the team.

It’s hard for the established team to build a new playbook — one that includes the new teammate and works to increase the strength of the new group.

  • To love without reservation.
  • To act with the grace of the Holy Spirit to share love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Four months later, we’re figuring it out — Appreciating the grace that brought us together and embracing the support that comes from faith. I can honestly say that we’ve all grown – together – as we work to play on the new team that God called us to create. My children are my greatest blessings and my heart fills with gratitude as three has now become four. My favorite farmer is enjoying some additional comraderie as he is no longer the only boy on the team!

I’ve been a coach long enough that I tend to think of things in terms of athletics. This past week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it takes to create a successful faith-based team. I keep coming back to the phrase wear the jersey. The words popped into my head while running one morning, and then went on to dominate my thoughts for the remainder of the week.

Allow me to clarify 🙂

God’s love is a gift — it is the athletic jersey that everyone is offered when they are asked to join the team

There are a range of things that we can do with this gift:

  1. We can leave it ignored and hanging in the closet
  2. We can tentatively reach for it and consider how to best put it on
  3. We can dedicatedly wear it — with a mixture humility and pride — as we allow the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and provide the playbook as we embrace the team mission

Sometimes, as we first learn to be a part of the team, we reach out unconfidently to take hold of the jersey.  We find that some days it is easy to wear and others it is not. Its presence never waivers but our dedication to it does. It is only when we make a confident commitment to the team that we find what the Holy Spirit promises: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If there is one thing that I have learned over the past four months, it is how to wear the jersey — With my whole heart, always and forever. 



Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

We Are Always Stronger As a Team…

Thoughtful Thursday

AG and Omar.jpg

My oldest daughter and her training cronie…

They log in the miles while training together — trading smiles as well as a few sarcastic remarks while steadily pushing each other to greatness.

They are teammates and, as you can see in the picture, they move with coordination and unity.

I think of them today as I participate in Beef Quality Assurance and Sustainability meetings in Denver.  The beef team also strives for coordination and unity as we come together to constantly search for ways to get better.

No matter what the task,

We are always stronger as a team!

The Feed Yard Foodie



Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, General, Thoughtful Thursday

The Transition…

My favorite teenager made the transition last week from Cross Country to Basketball.  As always, she lamented the end of the XC season as running is her first love.  However, she is excited for basketball and looking forward playing a little bit of hoops 🙂

From the XC course to the basketball court...

From the XC course to the basketball court…

Ashley Grace shares many things in common with me, but struggling through transitions ranks near the top.  We are both creatures of habit and changes to our life schedules are challenging to deal with.  I am proud of the way that she is maturing and learning to deal with transitions as that is an important life skill.

As I wrote about earlier in the fall, we just built a new shop/steel building behind our house.  Knowing our girls’ love of sports and their need for some “active decomposing” time in their lives, we built the new shop with a high enough roof pitch to be able to make a partial basketball court in the building.

My favorite farmer with his favorite teenager...

My favorite farmer with our favorite teenager…

My favorite engineer turned farmer teamed up with my favorite teenager over the weekend to paint the court.  I love to watch Matt work with the girls.  The engineer in him mandates a level of precision while doing tasks, yet he is also extremely patient with the girls as they work together.

Getting ready to paint...

Getting ready to paint…It’s the hard knock life!

I doubt that my girls really understand how truly lucky they are to have such a wonderful dad, but I thank God every day for all that Matt brings to our lives.  While there is certainly more to life than straight lines on a basketball court, it doesn’t get much better than completing a project that will bring joy and memories for years to come.



Today I head to Dakota City to attend my second Tyson Fresh Meats Animal Wellbeing committee meeting.  Although I will miss both my family and the farm, I know that I leave them in capable and loving hands.DSC07240

It is always interesting to arrive back home after a couple of days on the road—I know that I can count on my favorite teenager to tell the entertaining tales of life with my favorite farmer steering the helm…

Or perhaps the helm will actually be steered by the basket swooshing teenager...

Or perhaps the helm will actually be steered by the teenager…?


Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., Family, General

Life is a gift: How do you plan to share in it?

Today, I am the Keynote Speaker at a seminar for local (Dawson County) high school students who are interested in learning about “Growing Career Opportunities in Agriculture”.  The title of my talk is:

Life is a gift: How do you plan to share in it?

I do a variety of public speaking engagements throughout the year, but being asked to speak to the youth in my surrounding community is really an honor.  Motivating young people to achieve greatness holds a very special place in my heart. 018

America works when everyone works…

There is no such thing as a free lunch…

How can you use your talents to benefit your country and your community?

Matt and I made a life choice when we moved back to our rural community of Cozad.  We looked at our talent set, we looked at our priorities, and we recognized what was going to make us happy. DSC05507

We are dedicated not only to our business but also to our community.  Our professional careers have taught us that working hard is easy when you believe in what you do.  Our personal lives have shown us that volunteering within our community plays a key role in both our happiness and the success of the team that we are so proud to be a part of.alfalfa may14 012

If I can leave anything with the students that I visit with today, it will be:

  • To inspire them to use their God-given talents to make a positive difference with their lives.
  • To encourage them to look at their home communities as the place to build their lives.
  • To motivate them to believe in themselves in order to strive for greatness.

I believe with all of my heart that each one of us was placed on this earth for a reason.  We all have a very special purpose—a unique role to play in the game of Life.  Our success is determined by our individual abilities to be dedicated to the cause, combined with our united effort to work together for excellence.

What I teach them determines not only their future but mine as well...

What I teach them determines not only their future but mine as well…

I will close my talk today with my favorite quote from Aristotle:  We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

How do you personally share in the gift of  life?


Filed under General, Rural Communities

The Drought—Part 3…

Adversity = Opportunity

I have a sign up in my house that reads “Adversity = Opportunity”.  I truly believe that adversity make us stronger and provides the opportunity for improvement.  When I look back on my life, it is obvious that each personal challenge has made me a stronger and more empathetic person.

Although my girls are growing up on a farm instead of in a city, they really are not that different from other girls all across the country. They laugh, they cry, they bring Matt and I joy—and they need to eat every single day!

There is no doubt that the current drought affects every single one of us—after all, we all need to eat to survive.  However, there are opportunities amongst the challenges that promise to make us a more unified community.  Together we are stronger—Together we prosper and conquer those things that challenge us most.

As a farmer, I worry about:

  •                The Weather…
  •                The Welfare of my animals…
  •                The Welfare of my land…
  •                The Ability to grow or purchase affordable animal feed…
  •                The Quality of the Beef that my animals provide…
  •                The Financial Sustainability of my farm…

As a non-farmer, I am sure that you worry about many of the same things.  Perhaps, most especially, you worry about the quality and affordability of the food that you purchase to provide for your families.  I can imagine that as you read the headlines discussing the drought, you worry that the price of food in the grocery store will increase.  I worry about that too…

  • It is true that 55% of the United States’ land mass is in a drought, and that 70% of cattle grazing land is affected by the drought.
  • It is true that the rising cost of all types of animal feed is providing a great challenge for farmers and ranchers like me.
  • It is true that sometimes today is scary and tomorrow is usually uncertain, but there are things that we can all focus on that will help us to thrive despite the current challenges.

I would like to offer some thoughts relative to the price of beef in the grocery store.

1.  The current drought will not affect the price that you pay for a steak in the short term.  It affects the cost of making that steak, but farmers—ranchers—and packing plants will bear the brunt of that increase in cost.  Although this will test the sustainability of the farming community, many of us will persevere because that is our nature.  Trust me, we are a stubborn group of people!

2.  The single largest driver of the price of beef is supply and demand.  Remember back to Economics 101—as the supply of a product goes down, the price will rise as long as the demand for the product stays constant.  The drought conditions have (over time) reduced the supply of cattle in the United States.  If you remember, Texas and Oklahoma had a terrible drought last year.  Many ranchers were forced to down-size their herds because of a scarcity of feed.  This decreased the supply of cattle and has (over the last 12 months) caused a slight increase in the price of beef.  The current drought will most likely allow this trend to continue.

3.  Fortunately, there are many different choices of beef to purchase in the grocery store which create a wide variety of prices to help with your family’s budget.  I realize that any increase in price is difficult to manage, however, remember that ounce per ounce beef provides an incredibly nutrient rich source of protein.


While both Mother Nature and the current economy provide a tremendous amount of adversity, it is important to remember that we will prevail if we work together.  I promise to do my very best to produce high quality and nutritious beef for you—I work hard everyday to create the highest quality and best tasting beef using the fewest number of natural resources.  In turn, I ask that you have faith in me and continue to purchase my beef at the grocery store.  Together we will persevere and have the ability to face all of the new opportunities that appear just over the next horizon…

What challenges you and your family?


Filed under Foodie Work!, General

Civic Duty…

Many of you know that I spent the better part of last week in Washington DC.  The night before I left, my oldest daughter came into my bedroom and said, “Why are you going to Washington DC?”  She is currently studying civics in social studies class so I asked her, “What does the term civic duty mean?”  To this, she replied “Yeah, Yeah, it’s your responsibility as a citizen of our country to be an active participant.  I know that, but I don’t understand why YOU ALWAYS have to go…Can’t someone else go instead this time?”

I love my girls and I love our farm...

As difficult as it is for my girls to go a few days without me around, I think that it sends a very strong message of personal responsibility to them as they watch me take the time to contribute.  There are certainly days when I worry about the future of our country, but I also feel a tremendous amount of American pride that results in a personal duty to share and to educate.  I believe that every American has a gift to share, and the prosperity of our country is contingent on finding a way to blend together all of those gifts in a wonderful display of teamwork.

Jessica grew up on a cow/calf farm in Eastern Nebraska. She was an Animal Science major at the Univ. of Nebraska with a minor in Political Science. She spent a couple of months interning with me at my cattle feed yard, and now she is in Washington DC with Senator Johanns office. Her ability to learn and share makes me proud and exemplifies the American way...

I am honored to play a pivotal role in feeding my fellow Americans.  My life caring for cattle and raising beef has very tangible results (whether the beef that I grow is feeding my family or yours).  At the end of the day, I feel as though I have contributed in a unique and necessary way. I feel as though I have shared a gift, a part of myself, which makes my community and my country a better place.  I am also honored to share the life that I lead with others so that they can understand how I raise animals and grow beef as well as other products that are made from my cattle.

This is what I grow...This is what I like to eat...This is what I feed to my family and hopefully to yours as well!

Perspective is a concept that I reevaluate daily as it helps me to both better understand my animals and also the people for whom I grow food.  When I travel back to Washington DC each year, I get a chance to gain perspective and insight into how we, as Americans, can come together to reach a common ground which hopefully results in success.

There is a tremendous amount of strength and history in this building...

If I do not leave my farm and travel to the gathering place of hundreds of lawmakers and millions of customers, then they may never realize the truth of how I grow their food. They may never get the experience of learning first hand where their beef comes from.  Conversely, by interacting and reaching out to those fellow countrymen and women, I gain a better perspective of how we can come together to be successful as a team.  As I take a turn “walking in their shoes for a few days”, I gain new perspective and understanding.

Sharing my thoughts in the House Agriculture Committee room with staff members of Congressman...

The bottom line is that both I and my daughters learn an important lesson in civics when I make my yearly pilgrimage to our capitol city.  We are all reminded that the privilege of being an American comes with the responsibility to actively and respectfully engage…

A beautiful sunset against the Washington Monument...A good end to a good day.


Filed under Foodie Work!, General

The Cattle Buyer…

By nature, I am a “peacemaker”.  I really do not like conflict and prefer to keep my life on a positive and proactive slant.  That being said, I have been told by many that I am tenacious and possess a “steel will”.  When you combine the two, you get a woman who is particular about the way that things are done, but prefers to build communication and partnerships in order to get what she wants rather than argue about it…

I do not have "mama cows" like this one. She lives on a ranch and makes a calf every year that will be finished in order to make beef.

Over the past ten years, I have slowly transitioned into personally buying the vast majority of the cattle that we bring into the feed yard.  This shift enabled me to build relationships with my cow/calf suppliers.  We work together and learn from each other.  Although I do not personally take care of my animals from birth to harvest, (in fact, beef cattle spend the majority of their lives on ranches grazing grass not in finishing feed yards like mine), I have an interest in their care from the day that they are born because everything that happens during the lifetime of a calf affects the beef that he produces.

One of these animals is the offspring of the cow shown above. These steers are waiting to be loaded on to semi-trucks to travel to my feed yard...

Traditionally, there is a “middle man” in between the cow/calf rancher and the feed yard.  He is called a “cattle buyer”, and he may be an individual or he may be a Livestock Market Auction.  He facilitates the transaction when a beef animal is moved from the ranch of origin to the next level of the beef production chain.  As my own “cattle buyer”, I remove the middle man and work directly with the original caregiver of the cattle.

Why did I make this change as I transitioned to the “Boss Lady”?

In order to implement the holistic herd health plan that I developed using Beef Quality Assurance protocols, I needed health information on the cattle that I brought into the feed yard.  I wanted to focus on creating a lifetime of good health for my animals in order to reduce the likelihood of sickness and subsequent use of antibiotics.  I also wanted access to the birth records of the cattle that I was purchasing in order to market the cattle as Age and Source Verified.  In return for being given access to this information, I offer to my rancher partners individual feed yard and carcass performance information. This allows them to understand how efficient their animals are, and what level of beef quality they produce.  Together we make a healthier and more efficient animal that produces high quality and great tasting beef.

So what does being a “cattle buyer” entail?

*I visit the ranches of my cow/calf suppliers to look at the cattle and visit about cattle care and health issues.

*I make business deals with my cow/calf suppliers relative to the value of the animal at the time of transfer from the ranch to my feed yard.

*I travel to the ranches with semi-trucks to load the cattle and transfer them from the ranch to the feed yard.

*I collect individual information on each animal to document its efficiency and quality.  I then pass this information back (either via email or snail mail) to the rancher.

Here I am taking down identification and weight information on a calf which I will send back to my cow/calf rancher so that he knows how his animal performs...

Being a cattle buyer is an incredibly rewarding experience.  I have facilitated relationships with some of the very finest people.  Additionally, it is incredibly satisfying to watch our teamwork result in better cattle welfare and beef production performance.  I love to watch my animals thrive and grow.  There is nothing better than watching a group of cattle run around and play with excitement as they watch the feed truck deliver their breakfast.  Exuberance is a beautiful sight!  The icing on the cake is the knowledge that these animals will nourish my family and families all over the world with a unique and high quality protein source.

Here are the same calves shown above enjoying a well balanced breakfast of prairie hay, alfalfa hay, and wet distillers grains--their address has changed and now they live at my feed yard...

The blend of peacemaker/relationship builder and a tenacious commitment to detail makes a winning  combination for this cattle buyer!


Filed under Animal Welfare, CAFO, Foodie Work!, General