Monday, January 7, 2013

Anne of Feedyard Foodie

Today we welcome Anne from Feedyard Foodie! Anne runs a cattle feed yard operation while her husband farms, and together they raise three daughters in Nebraska. Welcome Anne! 

My life changed the night of October 31, 1993. I was a city girl athlete and freshman at Dartmouth College. My girlfriends and I were bending college rules and attending a fraternity party on campus. Amidst games of ping pong, laughter, and loud music I looked across the room and my world jolted just a little bit. He smiled at me and his beautiful blue eyes drew me in.

Just six weeks earlier, my mom’s parting words as I boarded a plane for college were “Anne, stay away from those senior boys”. Somehow, during the ensuing weeks, those words were lost in the love that bloomed between the football player farm boy from Nebraska and the swimmer girl from South Florida. 

We married in June of 1996 and moved back to the farm in Nebraska a year later: Matt with his masters degree in Engineering and Business, and I with a BA in psychology. We passed on higher paying city jobs, choosing instead a rural lifestyle working in agriculture. Sixteen years later, we have added three daughters to the mix of cattle and crops, but we continue to make our lives in partnership with the land in Dawson County Nebraska.

The first thing that I learned when I moved to Nebraska was to buy a hooded sweatshirt to combat the wind, the second was how to “run” a scoop shovel at the cattle feed yard. A farmer and an engineer, Matt went to work on the crop side of the farm growing alfalfa, corn, wheat and soybeans; and dehydrating the majority of the alfalfa into animal feed called dehy pellets. Today, he farms approximately 5000 acres in the Platte River Valley and is a partner in a nationwide alfalfa distribution company,
Matt had no interest in the family’s cattle feed yard, and I had always loved animals so I asked my father-in-law if I could go to work at the feed yard. When he finished laughing in surprise at my request, he gave me an hourly wage job and I put on my blue jeans and went to work. 

· I learned to read bunks and run the feed truck.
· I learned to ride pens and check cattle health.
· I learned to administer animal health products and be a member of the processing team.
· I learned the book work and the business side of running a feed yard. 

Most importantly, I learned that working with your hands to care for animals was incredibly rewarding. In the years that followed, I added cattle buyer to the mix and today I procure 90% of the cattle that are fed at Will Feed, Inc. In the early 2000’s, I became involved in U.S. Premium Beef’s Age and Source Verified pilot PVP program and began tracing cattle from the ranch all of the way to the packing plant.

In my years spent as cattle buyer, I have met some of the finest people that I have ever known. I established relationships with ranchers who were interested in tracing their cattle and tracking performance. As a result, I transitioned the feed yard philosophy to a concept of vertical collaboration: channeling performance and management information on cattle up and down the production chain. 

A psychologist at heart, I strive each day to gain a better understanding of both the cattle that I raise and the people who benefit from them. I have instilled a philosophy of low stress cattle handling and Beef Quality Assurance at the yard, turning the focus to high quality holistic animal care. In the spring of 2011 I looked outside of my farm and launched a consumer focused blog in order to make my cattle feed yard transparent to all of those great folks who eat beef!

Last year, Feed Yard Foodie reached more than 70,000 people as I answered questions about beef production and talked about our family and our farm. Blogging has not only allowed curious visitors to view life in a feed yard, but it has also made me a better cattle feed yard manager. The virtual perspective of my readers constantly pushes me to offer better care to my animals and raise awareness of food quality and safety. 

I do not know what the next sixteen years has in store for Matt and I and our daughters, but I can attest to the fact that the previous sixteen years has made me a true Nebraskan at heart as well as a passionate advocate for agriculture. I often find myself thinking of this mantra from Winston Churchill: Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts…

Thanks to Anne for giving us the honor to share her story on the Faces of Agriculture blog today! If you have any questions about beef or how your food is raised we encourage you to contact Anne! You can also learn more by visiting her blogFacebook page, and twitter

If you or someone you know is involved in agriculture and would like to share your story, please contact us today! You could be the next Face of Agriculture!