Tag Archives: transparency

“Anne Gates”…

Annegate3I think that it is impossible to pour your heart and soul into a business for 2 decades and not leave some sort of a *mark*.  The running joke at the feed yard revolves around what my favorite farmer affectionately calls Anne Gates.

I’ve always been a small person with a higher than normal energy level.  In short, I fit in small places and move pretty fast.  Over the years, I have created a variety of small passageways that allow me to move seamlessly around our corral systems at the feed yard.  Since I care for animals that are 6-13 times bigger than I am, I have the advantage of being able to fit through spaces that cattle would not even consider going through…Quite frankly, I can fit through spaces that my favorite farmer wouldn’t consider squeezing through 🙂

My crew thoroughly enjoyed my three pregnancies laughing that, at least for short periods of time, I had to be normal and use the real gates.  While I did not mind spending a few months walking in their shoes, I was always glad when my babies arrived and I could go back to using my own unique paths around the feed yard…

annegate1.jpgWhen I look back on the last 20 years as a beef farmer, my mind recalls many Anne gates — some of which are not physical passageways, but rather metaphorical bridges from my farm to the outside world.  This blog is one of them.  In 2016, agriculture in the United States faces many challenges.  Quite likely the greatest comes from a lack of effective gates from the farm to the dinner plate.  Less than 2% of Americans work as farmers, and most of our urban counterparts are more than two generations removed from the farm.  Understanding where your food comes from is no easy task, and finding good information on it resembles the old adage of finding a needle in a hay stack.

Raising cattle takes a unique set of resources as well as a relatively long period of time.  Beef farming epitomizes the newly popular slow food movement as breeding cattle live more than a decade, and cattle raised solely for the production of beef thrive for close to 2 years — grazing grass pastures and then spending a few months in a feed yard at the end of their lifetime.  Doing it right takes dedication, patience, and a whole lot of hard work.

One of the things that I have attempted to convey with Feed Yard Foodie is the complexity of caring for cattle and growing beef.  The gate of transparency challenges farmers, and figuring out how to explain daily animal care and business decisions to those that live outside of the farm is hard.  I struggle with this, and I know that I am not alone.

After six years of sharing, I can report that I have likely learned more than I have imparted.  I realized in the early days of Feed Yard Foodie that my social media experience needed to be bidirectional as relationships and trust (even virtual ones) are built not just through sharing but also by receiving.  The good thing about a gate is that it doesn’t cost any more to travel two directions and you can build it as big as you need it to be 😉

While I am closing the gate to my feed yard in about six months, I do not plan to “close the gate” to this blog.  It is an Anne gate that I am keeping until I both run out of things to say and run out of things to learn…Many thanks all of you for taking the journey with me.

 

 

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

Building Trust By Farming With Transparency…

Thoughtful Thursday

Later today (after I exercise calves and ship cattle to Tyson), I will drive to Kansas State University to address the Masters of Agribusiness students at their annual banquet.  My talk will center on how we can build trust by farming with transparency.  As a companion blog post on this Thoughtful Thursday, I would like to share the five rules that I have developed and personally follow in my journey to:

  Build Trust By Farming With Transparency…

  1. To be effective, transparency must be coupled with validation of daily care on the farm.  Practice what you preach!  Audit what you do!
  2. Be prepared to explain what you do and why you do it.  Don’t do anything that you can’t explain!
  3. The who is just as important as the what and the why.  Farmers are people — People are the key to building trust — To be authentic, we must share of ourselves in addition to our farming practices.
  4. Understand that there is more than one “right” way to grow food.  Just as you explain the what, the why, and the who of your farm, embrace the what, the why, and the who of other farms that use different production practices to grow food with integrity.
  5. While you may not always believe that your customers are correct, you must always respect them.  A conversation is a two sided process and understanding and trust are built by sharing.  Gathering feedback from your customers leads to a broader perspective and positive change on your farm.

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I tell my daughters that the right thing is often not the easy thing, and I believe that statement applies to building trust by farming with transparency. 

However, choosing to journey down this path will lend both integrity and sustainability to your farm.

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

It’s Not About the Trailer…

When I bought my quarter horse (Dandy) from Mike Coffman in the spring of 2005, I realized the childhood dream of being a real horse owner.  While I had a couple of work horses at the feed yard, their care was primarily provided by my cowboy and I only rode them sporadically.

He full-filled a dream…

To have my own horse in my own backyard fulfilled a very special and personal dream.  Dandy was a coming four year old when I bought him from Mike.  Lucky for me, God made him a big, gentle creature and we have spent the last seven years learning from each other.

Dandy taught me a lot about communication, feel and intent.  He taught me to be a strong yet compassionate leader.  He taught me that slow and steady is always true, and to never take anything for granted.

Most importantly, he taught me that “It’s not about the trailer”…

One day, a couple of months after I brought him home from Mike’s ranch, I wanted to load him on my horse trailer and take him down to our grass pasture to ride.  I had trouble that day loading him on the trailer.  I got frustrated with myself, I got frustrated with him, and it was not a good experience for either one of us.

In the months that followed, I learned that the more time and effort that I invested into our relationship—the clearer our communication became and the easier it was to get him to be my partner.  You see, that day early on in our relationship, it wasn’t about the trailer—it was about the lack of trust and lack of good communication that made loading him challenging.

Today, it only takes the pointing of my finger and the lifting of the lead rope for Dandy to happily load into the trailer.  In fact, I move him from pasture to pasture around my house with that same point of the finger.  Sometimes it seems as though he reads my mind and offers what I desire almost before I ask for it.  Conversely, I can also provide what he needs and desires at critical times in our partnership —that is the power of a relationship that is based on trust.

What used to challenge us is now easy because I took the time to lay a good foundation and invest in the relationship…

As a blogger and a beef farmer that believes in transparency, I am often asked by other cattlemen how we can reach out to our customers that live far away from the farm to explain ranching practices or products that are used to raise beef.  There is no simple answer because I believe that it is not about the ranching practice or the animal health product any more than my problems loading my young horse were about the trailer.

I do not have a job without someone who wants to purchase my beef…

It is, quite simply, about the relationship between the farmer/rancher and the customer.  Is this relationship based on trust and truth?  Or is it riddled with distrust and inaccuracies?  In short, it is about whether you trust me to offer good care to my animals and use the resources on my farm in the best way.  Equally important, it is also about whether I trust you and value your questions and concerns regarding the way that your beef is raised.

I believe that I offer good care to them, but I need to be open to explaining that care to those that are interested…

It is not about the antibiotic, the growth hormone, the beta agonist, or the feed yard…

It is rather about the quality of our relationship and our ability to have a respectful conversation about all of the things that are listed above.

  •  Can we empathize and have compassion for each other?
  • Can we trust that each one of us can learn from each other and do our own special part to work for the betterment of our country?

    My dream gets better with each day that passes…

I think that we will find that our lives are enriched by the knowledge that we can share with each other, just as my beloved quarter horse has enriched my life and taught me that the best communication skills are the ones that are based on love and respect…

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Filed under General, Natural Horsemanship