Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beckstead Family - Custom Harvesters & Ranch Operators

For our next feature, please welcome Tana Beckstead and her family as they share with us their unique agricultural story! 

Our agriculture story is made up of Beckstead Harvesting LLC, Mount Oxford Ranch and Oxford Mtn. Ranch LLC. We are Doug and Tana Beckstead and our three children are, Wiley age 17, Savannah age 14 and Hazen age 8. 

We live in southeast Idaho in a small town called Swan Lake (about 45 miles south of Pocatello, Idaho and 45 miles north of Logan, Utah) along Oxford Mountain.

As a family we operate and manage two separate farm and ranch operations owned by different corporations and businessmen. Mount Oxford Ranch in Downey and Preston, Idaho is a cow/calf operation with 350 Black Angus beef cows and calves as well as alfalfa and irrigated grain crops. Oxford Mountain Ranch, LLC in Swan Lake, Idaho is a cow/calf operation with 100 head of Black Angus cows and calves as well as the alfalfa, irrigated grain crops and dry land grain and safflower. Our oldest son Wiley pretty much runs the Swan Lake place by himself - he does all the pipe moving, field work and runs the cattle on his own - with a little help from Grandpa Beckstead occasionally in the summer. All together we farm close to 4500 acres.

In addition to operating the two ranches we also started our own custom harvesting business as a family. Two years ago we purchased a John Deere 9560 combine and we custom cut grain crops for farmers in the local area. Our little business is growing and last year we were able to buy a semi and a grain trailer to haul grain. We also own about 10 good ranch horses and the kids like to participate in local rodeos and jackpots in the summer time. Our older children, Wiley and Savannah both got youth loans through our local FSA office and purchased their own Angus cows and heifers and raise them along with the bigger herds. The kids plan on attending college with the money they make from selling the calves.

Doug and I (Tana) have been married for 18 years and have been involved in agriculture our entire lives. I was born and raised on a small dairy and beef cattle operation in Downey, Idaho and was active in 4-H and FFA while growing up. I was the Marsh Valley High School Chapter FFA president in 1994 and the District FFA President in 1995. Doug started working for a dry farm in the Preston, Idaho area when he was in his early teens and grew to love every aspect of farming. He worked the dry land hills and fields with old D-4 caterpillar machines and John Deere hill side combines. His blood runs green and nothing compares to John Deere when it comes to farm equipment! 

A typical day for our family is long and busy! Right now it is summer time so there is a LOT of pipe moving going on and we are just finishing up 1st crop hay. Wiley takes care of the pipe at the Swan Lake place and Doug, Tana and Savannah move the pipe at Mount Oxford Ranch. (Our little Hazen likes to play in the water and get the end plugs for us-pretty soon he’ll be big enough to lift the pipe!) We work together every day as a family. YES, we all have to work on the ranch! Whether we are calving cows or doctoring or branding calves or cutting or baling hay or disking or drilling a field, we all have important jobs to do! Doug hires a part-time hand to help out in the summer at Mount Oxford Ranch and also hires on temporary help from January to April for calving and branding season, but for the most part we do it all as a family.

My favorite part of working and living on a ranch is getting to raise my kids here. There is no better way in my opinion than growing up and working on a farm or ranch! Our kids have learned the value of a hard day’s work and they are responsible, knowledgeable kids for that very reason. We get up early and go to bed exhausted, but I know my kids aren’t out making trouble or doing drugs or worse. 

We do like to have fun too! Our favorite time of year on the ranch is branding season. We make a big day out of the brandings and I cook a big meal and we make a party out of it. We have great friends that love to help us brand and we never have to pay them to help.

When our youngest son Hazen started Kindergarten they had to give him a test to see what level he was at and the teacher asked him a series of questions and one of the questions was “What are the four seasons of the year?”. Hazen answered just as cool as could be, “Well there is calvin’ season, brandin’ season, farmin’ season and huntin’ season!” The teacher thought that was the cleverest thing she had ever heard. In his world these are the seasons on the ranch. Our local FSA agent heard the story and has a poster hanging in her office with the Four Seasons by Hazen Beckstead.

The one thing I wish people could understand about our particular ranching and farming story is that just because we work for a corporation doesn’t mean the money for the ranch is just flowing free at our disposal. Many times we hear people say “You have it so easy because the owners just buy everything you need or you don’t have the stress because you don’t have to worry about the bottom line.”. This is so not the case! If anything we worry more about making things work and being in the “black” at the end of the year. Doug and I have to put together a yearly budget and operating expense account and we have to pencil out how things will work and run smoothly. If we are short or don’t pay off these expenses we have to answer for it at the end of the year. We run these ranches just like we would our own if we had our own ranch.

Thanks for the great feature Tana! Agriculturalist come in all shapes and sizes - just like you! If you or someone you know should be featured on Faces of Agriculture please contact us today! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brandi in John Deere Green

Today we welcome Brandi who shares with us about the mechanical and repair side of agriculture and what it takes to keep her family's business running year round. Welcome Brandi! 

My name is Brandi and I am the blogger behind In John Deere Green… I blog about my life in smalltown Iowa.

I haven’t always live in the country, but I’ve never really lived in the city either. I spent most of my life on a small acreage right on the blacktop outside city limits. We didn’t farm or raise cattle or hogs. We did however have a couple of horses and cows throughout the year and baled about 20 acres of hay. We never owned and new or fancy equipment because it wasn’t necessary. We cut, raked, & baled our hay with a JD 70! My grandpa used to farm before my grandma wanted to move to town so I’ve been around farming for most of my life.

I met my boyfriend in 2010 and we fell in love. I was working on a nursing degree and he was right off the farm working on a degree in ag power technology. He is now a fulltime ag mechanic at the family shop and helps out with the family farming operation and hog buildings. I am a part-time RN and secretary at the shop. In 2012 he bought a house so I moved to the country to live with him. We also adopted a black lab-mix puppy who has become a big part of our life. I’ve live in the country for over a year now and have learned so much. I love living out here and wouldn’t change it for anything.

Since moving to the country and moving in with my boyfriend I’ve “joined” a 5,600+ acre corn & soybean farming operation, hog building operation, and ag repair shop business. I do help out with the farming operation but it generally doesn’t involve operating the equipment, I pick up parts, drop off food, and move trucks around to different fields. I do however enjoy riding in the tractor or semi with my boyfriend. The operation owns the hog buildings, but not the hogs. We rent out the buildings. But that also means that we are responsible for repairs. And I have spent far too many hours helping weld gates and slap-patch the floors in the hog buildings. The ag repair shop is what takes up most of my time. I am a part-time secretary at the shop, besides all of the bookwork, phones calls, etc. that means service calls, getting parts, and helping work on tractors. My boyfriend also has an ag repair business on the side, so I do all of that bookwork, taxes, etc.

Tractors have now become part of my daily life. And although I’m not in the tractor farming daily or out feeding cattle at 5am, agriculture is still a big part of my life. During the spring and harvest the shop gets VERY busy. Often I am there on my own taking phone calls and helping customers, while my boyfriend is off on service calls. During these times my boyfriend is in charge of the shop while his father is in a tractor. It’s a busy job and takes a lot of work. During harvest we get much more field time then in the spring, that’s just how things work out.

I’m definitely an agvocate. It’s important that farmers get the public’s support. People don’t understand how much work farming takes or how farmers are the reason they have food on their plates. I hate when people say how farming is easy and a lazy person’s job because you only farm a couple months out of the year. This isn’t the case at all though. In fact in our case, everyone besides one person who is in-charge of all off-season farm related stuff, has a job outside of farming: mechanic, business owner, manager, nurse, jailer, lawyer, and some others! It’s nice to see kids that are just graduating high school going into farming or ag-related industries.

Thanks Brandi for the great feature! Be sure to check out her blog, In John Deere Green, and also be sure to look her up on Facebook

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Analyzing from the Airwaves with Trinity Lewis

Today we welcome Trinity Lewis - an Ag Broadcaster! She is doing her part to share her view on agriculture!

Hey everybody and welcome to the Country Café of the Airwaves, well at least that’s how I begin my day! My name is Trinity Lewis and I currently reside right on the border of Western South Dakota and North Eastern Wyoming. I am the fifth of six kids, and our family reaches back as far as we can date as agriculturists, either farming, ranching or extension work of some kind. I was raised on a commercial cattle ranch where we had a large emphasis on sheep production as well, today though my life is slightly different.

When I was a junior in high school I had the opportunity to intern an ag broadcaster in Sturgis, SD. This experience allowed me a platform to discuss some of the real issues facing agriculture at the time. After that I was hooked and throughout the next bit of high school I grabbed a mike every chance I got and loved to share my passion for agriculture with anyone and everyone.

Following high school I had some unique opportunities that further solidified my faith in the greatest industry in America. I was able to travel every inch of my state as a Wyoming State FFA Officer and then I had the opportunity to cover a lot of the US as a collegiate livestock judger. Every operation visited in that time had something unique about it. One cow-calf operation we visited raised cow dogs too. Another unique facility that sticks out in my mind was a cattle operation that had hogs and corn and the thing that made it different was the numerous generations who had lived there. The family running the place then had the same last name as the family who had originally settled there centuries ago. Is there anything more American than that?

Speaking of families and generations, I am now married to a Western Wyoming guy who spends his days as a logger. We started Lewis Log Cutting and Clearing almost a year ago and we are blessed to be able to say it continually grows. Justin’s hard but close work with forestry has opened a whole new part of agriculture for me and I love to research and speak on behalf of keeping our forests sustainable and healthy now as well.

Today I have the opportunity to host a 54 minute daily radio program, “The Country Café of the Airwaves”, that reaches from Canada to Colorado, Bismark to Billings, Midwest Wyoming to Marshall Minnesota. I’ve heard it said that agriculturists do a great job of raising everything except their voice so that is my goal every day when I pull the mike down and click the “on air” button. I have to tell you, this longstanding program was started by a radio great in our region and he has fashioned the program to be a smorgasbord of topics. To keep our listeners tuned in I do the same but make it a daily goal to add a bit of agriculture, stir in some American patriotism and sprinkle some God talk on top of all the rest.

Although radio and speaking are my passions I also have the opportunity to do some freelance writing and blogging as well. You would be welcome to join me online anytime where I do my best to share all of the good ag life brings and the ways that country people are some of our country’s best assets.

Thank you Trinity!!! Be sure follow her blog and check her out on Facebook!

As Trinity said - we need all of our farmer and ranchers to raise their voice! You can tell your story next! E-mail us at to be the next FOA feature!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Linda - Texas Ranch Girl

Today we welcome Linda – a Texas Ranch girl. This busy gal is busy agvocating and living life to the fullest on with her husband on their ranch in Texas.

From my childhood in Texas to my travels around the world - my heart has always belonged to my family and the ranch.

My family farmed rice and raised cattle in Katy, Texas - when Katy was a small farm town. Dad always told the story about his biggest decision on the school board was to buy a second school bus for the kids in the Addicks area to get to Katy High School. And now for those of you who are familiar with the area, I think there are five AAAAA high schools. My Dad was a great cattleman - my Mom a sweet Southern lady. So my childhood went from guns, horses, working cattle to piano and ballet. But I can tell you now - the horses and cattle won out and stole my heart.

We lived in the country on the ranch - my grandparents lived on either side of me. My family and our neighbors were my world and my extended family. We were so loved - so protected. We were also disciplined and had chores, but our world was so safe and secure. That did not mean we did not have trouble - but when you did - neighbors pitched in and helped - loved you through. They were all God-fearing, hard-working family oriented people. Integrity was everything - land purchases, farm deals, cattle purchases and sales - all done on a man's word and his hand shake. Life was real on the ranch - life and death - disappointments and victories - successes and failures.

I was always into mischief - but I made good grades - graduated from Katy High School - then on to The University of Texas in Austin for my B.B.A. with a major in marketing. Foleys Department Store (now Macys) hired me for their executive training program - Fashion Merchandising.

I am married to Gary and I have two sons, Scott and Christopher. So my life has been filled with all the love, laughter, and drama of two sons - and a career in fashion merchandising - and the ranch. But my travels - the famous personalities I met - the social engagements - the boys many activities - football games - fell short with my Dad the rancher. Believe me when I tell you that ranchers were way ahead of the times in the women's lib movement - you always got to work just like the guys on the ranch. The week-ends belonged to the ranch and there were always cows to work - hay to haul - pastures to mow - fences to mend - and any other project Dad could think of to accomplish while you were at the ranch. So I spent Monday through Friday in a fast paced world of fashion - many weeks in New York - but home was always back at the ranch. It certainly kept me grounded. I would go from whistling down cabs to whistling in my horses – skyscrapers to barns – executives to cowboys – delis and 4 star restaurants to campfires – drivers and limos to pick-up trucks and trailers – fast talk to slow talk – Broadway stars to star studded night skys.

If you have spent most of your time in a high stress office and not had the opportunity to saddle up and work cattle in 100 degree temps - from sun rise until the sun sets - with a bunch of cowboys who know no pain and fear is out of the question.......then you have missed the true meaning of "sweat equity". And you have missed some great stories. And that is what I want to share with you. I have traveled the road of board rooms - designer clothes - stiletto heels and I want to take you on the trail where our board room is open pasture with cows grazing - our jeans are Wranglers - and it's all about the boots and spurs.

I want you to know what really happens on a working ranch - how we work hard and play hard - how a good cup of coffee with friends and one of Gary's chuckwagon meals is better than any 4 star restaurant - how 24-7 is a way of life - and how we are always available for each other and we really do leave the light on for you.

So saddle up and join us for the ride of a lifetime. That's what it is - life!! This is one trail you don't want to miss. So let's ride out.

Thanks Linda for a great feature!! You can follow her on her blog Texas Ranch Girl.

How did you become involved in agriculture? What's your story? We need it! E-mail us at

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mandy and Brian - Aussie Farmers

Today we welcome a special guest from Australia. Mandy and Brian are cattle ranchers in New South Wales!

G’Day Mob,

Greetings from the Land Downunder. I have been greatly enjoying reading through these profiles on Faces of Agriculture and learning a little more about farming in the USA; and I thought I could lend an Aussie perspective.

My husband, Brian, and I own a 2,000 acre property in northern, inland New South Wales (NSW) where we run a cattle trading business. The country here is undulating woodland with plenty of rocks and spring-fed streams – hence the property name “Rocky Springs”.

Brian grew up on high country stations(ranch) in New Zealand and worked as a head-shepherd before coming to Australia. I spent my early years on a dairy farm in southern NSW and then on small acreage (14 acres) while at high school but I wasn’t a farmer. I went to university and studied geology and met Brian on a drill rig in the deserts of Western Australia.

We both harboured a dream of getting back to the land so after making some money from the mining boom of the early 1990’s, and after a few detours, we bought our first real farm in 2004. And hasn’t it been a learning curve.

2004 – 2010 were drought years in Australia so we learnt the hard way. We started with a steep, rough block with hopes of breeding Santa Gertrudis cattle but the drought and the hills shunted us towards the tougher Brahmans. Then we moved to Rocky Springs and in 2009 realised that breeding was not working for us. It was about this time that we happened upon a methodology developed by your very own Bud Williams, which taught us how to be profitable in any market. So now we are principally a trading operation (I still have a breeding herd of 2 Brahmans!) running anywhere from 200 to 900 cows depending on the season. With a bit of work we are confident in any climate, whether it be drought or flood.

Pasture in Drought
Bud Williams also developed Low Stress Stock Handling, which we employ on our farm. With Brian in the sale yards (sale barns) a lot of the time, I find myself often working our cattle alone and using LSS methods has given me a confidence I may not have otherwise had.

One of my most satisfying moments in the last few months was taking eighty unweaned angus steers (bought out of different sale yards), weaning them at Rocky Springs, working them through our yards and selling them a few weeks later as one mob. I loaded the steers onto the semi-trailer truck and the driver commented “Gee, you’ve done a good job with these, the buyer is going to love them”. The whole exercise made me proud of what we are doing – in this case taking unruly cattle, and being able to sell them as a quiet, well behaved mob a short time later.

We are not rolling in gold coins on the farm yet but we have a strong idea of what we want to achieve:

Make this farm profitable without outside income
Manage our cattle quietly and to the highest possible standards
Enhance the pasture quality and the environment
Employ from and contribute to the local community.
I blog at and the focus of my writing is not so much the technical aspects of what we do, but the soul, which is my passion for rural Australia.

Thank you for the opportunity of sharing my agricultural story with you.

Pasture in a good year
Thank you Mandy and Brian for giving us a taste of Australian Agriculture!!! Good luck to you and keep up the great work! Be sure to follow this ranching couple on their blog and learn more about Ag Downunder!

What's you Ag Story? Tell us about it! E-mail us at