From The Outside Looking In

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Gorgeous sunset one evening at the farm

Eventually the things we take for granted will be taken away from us. We never know when our last day will be.

In this case, I’m not referring to death but to our last day physically working on the farm.

My husbands grandfather due to some health reasons had to retire from farming and ranching about two years ago. He lost his leg to diabetes and has had a rough couple of years but he is doing really well now.

3 Generations

My husband Seth, our son Grady, and his Grandfather Bud. Four generations would be represented but Seth’s father passed away just one year prior.

In his prime “Bud” as everyone calls him though his name is William ran 1650 cow calf pairs on 8500 acres of pasture and farm ground. He built this farm through hard work, passion, and doing things the right way.

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Bud watching his equipment he spent years gathering being sold at his auction.

Today, Bud is basically home bound. He takes dialysis three times a week. He maybe has a doctors appointment here and there and he goes to church on Sunday.

This man use to spend every waking hour on his farm. He raised his cattle right. He has had a closed herd since the 70’s. He spent everything he had in him on that farm. He took pride in his land and cattle and for that reason he is a well respected man in our area.

We stop by his house which is attached to a piece of ground that we rent from him as much as possible. A couple weeks ago we moved some first calf heifer pairs to this little pasture. Seth and I have been able to start retaining heifers, which is an amazing feeling. All the cattle we own came out of Bud’s herd-That closed herd. I shouldn’t say all we do have 19 that came from a sale barn but we don’t keep their calves. So the heifers we have, come out of a closed herd that has been that way since the 70’s. We hope to replace every cow eventually with a heifer that has been retained from Bud’s closed herd.

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This is gorgeous place where we rent 260 acres and run our oldest group (my favorites) on year round

The other day the kids and I stopped to visit. The kids were in the other room playing with their cousins and Bud and I were at the kitchen table just discussing how things were going on our operation. Not long after we started talking I looked out the window to find Seth (my husband) and his buddy Chris bringing in a wet bale and a dry bale for the heifers. Bud wheeled himself to the door. That day was extremely windy so he wasn’t able to go out on the porch.

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Bud and my son Grady and my nephew Jack

As I watched him, my eyes honestly began to tear up, though I quickly wiped that away. I was still sitting at the table at that point but through the storm door I was still able to see what was going on out there. Watching Bud you could see him fidget with joy, trying to sit up higher in his wheel chair to take it all in. That entire time he looked out the window not once did he turn or take his eyes off what was going on out there. He was basically on the outside looking in on the operation.

When they were finished with putting out that hay and drove off, Bud turned to me and said,”That is what it’s all about, my legacy, you kids are carrying on what I had started with my cows.” I looked back at him literally trying to hold back tears of happiness and said,”but those are your cows, those heifers came from your herd- You never lost your herd, we are just continuing to build it.” I have an immense amount of pride sharing the fact that we are continuing on with the herd of Bud Lemons a well known and respected man in this area. Time and time again that afternoon he just kept saying,”you don’t know how much I miss it, Brit.” That is where this blog begins.

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My daughter Kinze feeding our latest group of heifers we’ve kept

Seth’s cousin Dane, also bought cows from Bud at the same time we did and he as well is doing a good job living on the legacy of the family farm.

That night, as I was tossing and turning trying to fall asleep, that moment with Bud just kept rolling through my mind and I just felt that this could be a good story to share. I’ve been sitting on the notion of writing it and finally decided to sit down and do it.

All of us in the industry, love it. We don’t do it for the money or the glory. We do it, because we love working the ground, watching something grow from the beginning and harvested at the end. I would say a majority of those working on a farm are the next generation to take over that farm and they work hard beside the older generations to keep building what they have started. The love of the land and animals is deeply embedded in our souls. We love feeding the world and we love the sense of pride we get from doing so.

Bud may never actually step foot out in the cattle pasture again. I think that is the thing that has been the hardest on him. Something he was so passionate about and so dedicated to, his ENTIRE life was basically ripped out from beneath him. Those cattle were more then just cattle they were his girls. His pride and joy. Now, the only cattle he sees is what he happens to pass on the way to dialysis, church and the pasture around his home.

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A group of fall calvers off in the sunset

I personally often get so wrapped up in how difficult farm life is. How many struggles and brick walls we have to face. Sometimes I let it overwhelm me and I lose sight of the big picture. That day sitting down with Bud brought me back to reality.

My time on this farm is limited. I can choose to let all the problems consume me or I can enjoy something I am so passionate about while I still can. I love working on the farm- getting my hands dirty. Smelling the silage bale as it’s unrolled to the cows. Watching that corn pop up in rows (I can’t help but sing the Tim McGraw song when typing that). Seeing the light in my children’s eyes as they witness a calf being born or the joy on their face when they get to ride in the tractor with daddy. I love spending my days in the tractor in the summer jamming out to my 90’s country and raking acres and acres of hay. I love being able to tell someone when they ask me what I do for a living , that I’m not just a mom, a wife, but I’m also a farmer. I am blessed to be able to smell the corn being harvested out of the field. Watch the beans become gold in color. I’m able to learn a new task when given the chance. I’m grateful to work beside my husband not only living out Bud’s legacy but beginning our own.

Our days on this earth are limited but also our days on our farms are limited. There will come a day when I’ll no longer be able to carry out the tasks on the farm. There will be days where I have to sit back and watch as someone younger steps in and helps me because I’m physically unable. Then their will be that day. The day my last bucket of feed drops out of my hands. The day I unroll my last bale of hay. The last day I can step out and grab the ears of my favorite cow and rub her head. Hopefully, (crossing my fingers) there will be the first day (it’s on my bucket list) I run a combine and the last day I dump that load of beans in the semi. The last day, when hopefully my grandchildren have decided to come back to the farm and I can look out my window and see them taking care of my legacy.

Our days our numbered. One day we will be on the outside looking in. Whether we choose to embrace what we’ve been given or let it beat us down, there will be the day we look out the window and think to ourselves- man do I miss what I use to do. We can’t take one minute for granted not just in life, but on our farms as well. We are blessed to live the best lifestyle out there. We raise food for the world starting with a little seed and a little baby animal. We raise strong families with good values. We work towards a goal of building a legacy not for ourselves but for our family. One day that legacy will be out of our control. It will be found looking out that glass window or door. It will be the moment we realize we are so lucky to have done what we can in hopes that our hard work continues on.

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So until that day, I will choose to embrace the time I have on this farm. This glorious life I’ve been given. It may not be all cupcakes and roses now. Some day down the road it will be the thing I miss the most. I hope in the coming months we can get sweet Bud out of the house and into the pasture even if just driving him around looking at the cows. Spending those few moments with him that day gave me a brief moment of the outside looking in, until my day comes I’m going to choose to open my eyes, take in the smells and the atmosphere of the farm and cherish the love I have inside for feeding the world.

When my day comes, I will look out that window, look at what we have built and hopefully my children can get a glimpse of their future with watching me look from the outside to the inside of what they continue to build. To some its just a window, to others like Bud its his seat to the life of the outside looking in.

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Thank A Farmer

As the end of “Thank A Farmer Week” draws near.

It’s important we continue to thank them all year.

For waking up early, for braving the heat.

To working non stop to provide the food we eat.

For missing family dinners and date nights.

For raising our food safely and right.

For working long hours despite the short pay.

They continue to work day after day.

They are passionate people, some of the greatest on earth.

They witness death, struggles, but also birth.

They place their seed in the ground praying it will grow.

It could be harmed by pests and the weather, they never know.

Regardless of the outcome they do what they do.

Because their passion in life is feeding people, including you.

So if you get stuck behind a slow tractor on the road somewhere.

Their life is more important then hurrying to get there.

They have our best interest at heart, they definitely do.

They take care of what they produce, not just for them but for you.

Show them you trust them and respect what they do.

Give them some credit for what they do for you.

Thank them when you see them and give them a hand.

They will take that gratitude back to their land.

They will continue to work harder, become more efficient and wise.

They will continue to fight even though some consumer still despise.

So let’s trust our farmers. Listen when they share

If we don’t, they have more they have to fight all year.

So here’s to you farmers. The ones working the land.

We are thankful for what you do, for producing all that you can.

Shining the Light on Ag

Today, while scrolling through Facebook I came across a post by Kate Lambert with Uptown Farms. She had posted a picture of her holding an egg, talking about store bought eggs and why she chooses to buy them. Link to her post here. She had posted it a few days ago but it keeps popping up in my feed because my friends keep sharing it. Yep, she’s pretty awesome. Anyways, today I noticed comments that were being made towards her and Agriculture in general and it stopped me in my tracks.

Everyone in society seems to have an opinion and most of us choose to use social media to share that opinion. At what point though, should those opinions become disrespectful and down right ignorant? I’m not a vegan. I don’t agree with some of the reasons vegans choose to be vegans but I don’t go around bad mouthing every vegan in sight.

Kate and others on the comments were doing a great job respectfully responding to people’s opinions and concerns. However, some of those bully trolls as I like to call them, were down right hateful and unwilling to listen to Kate’s side of the story.

It is so hard at times to take the high road when someone is bashing and being unreasonable with their beliefs about something you are so passionate about. It’s so hard not to lose it, when the opposer won’t take the time to listen and be considerate of the story. Instead they are to concerned with the movement. The whole we are vegan, we don’t believe animals should die, they are like humans mentality.

I feel like that is the biggest thing that continues to expand the gap between consumer and producers. Consumers aren’t willing to listen. They see what others post on social media. They see what the news reports, I doubt many vegans watch RFDTV. They choose to believe in something just because they think the way we raise food and livestock is wrong. We can share our story over and over but until those who don’t understand our industry choose to open their eyes and ears it’s going to be an on going battle.

We need strong Agvocates for our industry. People like Kate Lambert. We need to share our story to every outlet possible. May that be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or just your local radio or news station.

We can’t change the way people think. We can’t just magically one day let them see the light. All of us in the Ag industry are so passionate about our industry. If we weren’t we wouldn’t stick through it. I wish there was a way to snap our fingers and all those fearful consumers gain a little common sense.

We don’t wake up every morning thinking about how many gallons of pesticides we can dump on our crops or how many doses of antibiotics that we can give our cattle in hopes of getting back at all those anti-ag. Instead we wake up asking ourselves what we can do to make our farm more sustainable and efficient? How can we reduce our use of pesticides? How can we keep our calves healthier so less antibiotics are needed? How can we as an industry show hesitant consumers that we really have their best interests at heart?

Our children eat the food we raise. Our family eats the food we raise. Why on earth would we expect a consumer to eat something if we wouldn’t feed it to our own families? We don’t. We just hope and ask that consumers take the time to listen to our story. Ask questions they may have. We are more then willing to have them tag along on our farm and look at the hard work that goes into raising food.

Haters can hate but at the end of the day we as producers know how great our industry is. How bad we long for consumers to trust us and listen to our story, our side. They can’t take away our passion and our pride. They can’t take away what we are born to do.

Hopefully, with the push of social media. With more farmers joining the initiative to share their story, we can change the minds of hesitant consumers. It’s not an easy task but our industry is full of some of the strongest people on earth.

We will continue to wake up every morning thinking about how we can make the soil we are maintaining and the stock we are taking care of the best that it can be. That’s all that we can do. If the best we can do is reaching one consumer a day then so be it. It’s like trying to grow and expand your farm. It’s a slow growing process. It takes a lot of nurturing and research but eventually you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In this case that light will hopefully be the last piece of a bridge that connects us with the consumer.

Bridging the Gap

How lucky are we to live the life we live?

We nourish the ground and stock and in return it gives.

Our industry is one of a kind.

It’s hard work but the people don’t mind.

You see, we love what we do.

We enjoy working the land and providing for you.

We plant the seed in the spring. Harvest it in the fall.

We tend to our crop and our stock at every beckoning call.

We fight the rain, the cold and the miserably hot.

We raise the food safely and correctly though sometimes the consumer thinks not.

The gap between the consumer and us has grown to wide.

It is our goal to show them, we produce our food with so much pride.

For many of us, this is all we have ever known.

If given the chance we hope the true story can be shown.

We would happily open our farm to you.

To show you the process and the troubles we go through.

To answer your questions, and listen to your concerns.

It could be an experience where we both can learn.

We are blessed beyond belief to live the lifestyle we do.

Don’t hesitate to call or ask. We are more then happy to share it with you.

So farmers and ranchers open your ears, your eyes, and your farm.

Open up to the consumers and show their food is produced with no harm.

Agriculture is in our blood, it pumps through our veins and our heart.

Now it is the time to bridge the gap and do our part.

Show the consumer how much your job means to you.

How you raise their food safely, it’s what we were born to do.

Share your story, the process, your livelihood.

Share for the sake of the industry if you could.

We can’t let the consumer be afraid of what we produce.

We can’t let others tell our story and social media run loose.

Our job may be loving the stock and the land.

In today’s day and age our industry needs a helping hand.

So don’t get mad at the next consumer who disrespects what you do.

Instead, share your story, allowing them to see the real you.

The farmer who pours every ounce into their farm.

Who produces their food without any harm.

The farmer who loses yields or calves or even your livelihood.

Yet, no matter how bad the troubles may be you still see the good.

Show them how proud you are, of the work you do.

It won’t just benefit them it will help you.

We are an industry, united as one.

We will work endlessly until the job is done.

Let’s join together and bridge the gap.

Let’s share our story and make 2018 the best year yet.

 

 

 

New Year……New Station

All of social media is about to be flooded with peoples New Year Resolutions. Today is New Years Eve after all and people who have their crap together have already been thinking about this. I personally, have been procrastinating because frankly I don’t want to think about all I need to change and do.

As I sit here in my sweatpants that are fitting a little tighter than they were at the beginning of the year. Eating a full bag of Kettle Cooked Chips, gazing down the hallway of laundry shame (probably 10 loads at least, just waiting) I can easily think of three things I need to work on…..eating healthier, working out, and keeping my house organized and clean.

Truth is though, I’m going to continue to put those things on the back burner because I’ve decided my New Years Resolution is to take more time for myself and love who I am.

As moms we often focus so much on our children that we don’t take the time we need. Lately, I’ve found myself having a shorter fuse when it comes to keeping my cool with the kids. I can’t enjoy my time with my kids because I’m to stressed out with all the things I need to do or should be doing.

So this year, I’m going to attempt not to feel guilty or that I need to rush when I drop my kids off or leave the kids with the husband so I can run an errand. I always rush around like a chicken with its head cut off because I feel like I don’t deserve the me time. Not anymore….it’s a new year so it’s a new philosophy.

Most of my alone time in the past year has been spent with cows. I’m not complaining one bit. I love my girls. I hope this year to trade some of the time with those girls to an actual girls night with some actual women not bovine. Go to a movie, go to a concert, take an art class…….

The next part is the trickier one……love myself and who I am. I have struggled so much with this one and quite honestly I think it causes 80 percent of the problems in my life. No one is harder on myself than I. Grady’s teachers at parent teachers conferences told us that if Grady was to get in trouble at school he would be harder on himself then they would. It was like a buzzer went off in my head. Our children truly do soak in what they see and hear. I am so hard on myself. I’m constantly saying sorry for things I don’t need to say sorry for. They have started to do that and it crushes me.

I need to love myself so they have a positive example in life. I don’t want my daughter to think she has to dress a certain way because all the other girls do. I stress out because I’m not the girliest and I have a hard time feeling like I fit in because of this. I don’t want my daughter to be or act this way. She needs to be true to who she is…..and I need to show her that.

They need to see a happy mom. They need to see the old me shine through. They need to see me smiling, laughing, and having fun. Instead of the crying and self criticism. They need to see me happy with who I am not stressing about who I need to be.

So as we head into the new year……I will be putting on my flannel and boots instead of the cute girly outfit I picked out for the evening. I am who I am. So as the new year begins I may not be truly happy with who I am but by next year at this time…..I’ll be on the right track. The song You Make Lovin’ You Easy by Zac Brown keeps playing in my head. If I’m happy and comfortable with who I am there’s no reason I can’t love who I am.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year…..may you have the strength to match your resolution. I know I’m going to need every little pep talk I can give myself tonight to start off where I need to be at midnight. So farewell, the train is leaving the station, next stop…….Love Yourself City.

Real Farmwives of Rural America

Reality tv is everywhere. Like it or not it’s there and it’s something a lot of people are obsessed with. I won’t lie I’ve always been one to watch the Bachelor and Bachelorette —not exactly sure why I continue to, but I do.

However, when flipping through the channels the other night “Real Housewives of Orange County” popped up. I didn’t watch it that night but I had listened to an episode while cleaning the kitchen one day (one of the kids was asleep on the floor and I didn’t want to risk waking them up by changing it). Seeing that on the screen though triggered something in my weird mind. I wondered what it would be like if a film crew followed a group of farm wives or moms around and called it the “Real Farmwives of Rural America”.

The real show is filled with dramatic scenes, makeup, hair and alcohol. I guess all things that make up reality tv.

But what would it look like if a crew followed a group of farm women around, on a daily basis?

First off you wouldn’t find women decked in designer clothing and makeup caked on their face. You would find women in suitable attire for the current season. Flannel, work boots, gloves–their hair pulled back in a ball cap or stocking cap.

You wouldn’t find them spending their days at a spa or shopping until they drop. Instead, you would see them waking up at the crack of dawn–getting their kids fed and on the school bus then tending to the livestock and crop–or in some cases headed into work their full or part time job in town. They do say behind every successful farmer is a woman who works in town. Those that do work in town or somewhere off the farm will come home after getting off to take care of their kids and whatever needs to be done on the farm.

You won’t find these women in BMW’s, Limos or Lexus’. You may find them in an older farm truck that smells like silage and cow manure. You may find them in an SUV that can also double as a parts truck for their farm because it’s carried more parts for repairs then it has people. Or you may find them in a truck that the contents of the back of their trucks makes you think they are in the rodeo business. In my case you find a truck with two car seats, pounds of dirt and manure, various farm supplies rolling around on the floor board and enough crumbs to feed a family of four.

Their weekends won’t consist of costly nights out or fun vacations. It may consist of preparing an enormous amount of meals that will be easy to transport to the men in the field during planting or harvest. It may consist of dragging the kids out of the bed at all times of the day or night to check on heifers calving. It may consist of running to the feed store to pick up feed or doing the grocery shopping with kids in tow. Or it could simply be enjoying a fire and watching the sun set over their farm.

I have nothing against the women on the real show. Everyone is entitled to live the life they want and that is the life they live.

I often what the people who have long passed would think or how they would react if they awoke one morning and were tossed into todays world. It’s mind-blowing the amount of change that has occurred over the years. Heck, just from the time I’ve graduated high school to where I am now I am amazed. It is troubling the types of things that are okay in todays society that weren’t in years past.

I think as farm women or just moms in rural America we can be seen as living a boring life. We live in areas where it takes an hour plus to get to a town large enough to have a selection for shopping. We spend our days working hard to provide for our family beside our husbands or in some cases on our own.

I’ve recently become obsessed with the show Farmher on RFDTV. If you haven’t seen it you should check it out.  You can check them out here—>FarmHer Website

A woman named Marji has started this brand to update the image of agriculture and shine the light on women in agriculture. This show has inspired me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. To know there are women out there who are strong enough to run farms, start farms, and stand up for agriculture. I guess in a way this is the show that shares with the world the Farm/Ranch Wives of the agriculture industry. I have added multiple of these women on snapchat and it’s so fun to follow them on their everyday adventures.

One woman in particular Meredith Bernard who has a blog, a photography business, and home schools her children on top of the everyday farm duties. Her blog can be seen here —>Meredith Bernard. I love following her story. I love following her mishaps and daily struggles as I can relate to her in so many ways. I think it is great that technology can unite and be a way of connecting with other women around the country.

I guess in my mind if you followed a group of farm women on a daily basis and created a reality show you would find women devoted to their faith, their family, and their farm. You would see women who struggle and continue to go on for the sake of their family. You find women who aren’t afraid to share with consumers at the grocery store why they shouldn’t be scared of GMOs or non organic products. You would see women who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and play their role on the farm. I think the key thing you would find is women who instead of breaking each other down, you would find women who build each other up.

We have so much in common. We all struggle during harvest and planting season because we basically become single moms. We all have to deal with explaining death of animals and the process of reproduction to our children. We have to pull corn and soybeans out of the washer during harvest. We have to know that our men want to be there at events that they often have to miss due to their job. We have to realize family vacations may not ever happen because livestock have to be tended to. We have to settle with date nights in tractor cabs. Most of all, we have to realize we have each other. We are one big community of women across the country that have so much in common.

So, no our show might not be as exciting as the Real Wives of Whatever County or City. One thing for sure is that our show will be REAL. We are real people living a fulfilling life feeding the world.

So to all the other farm women reading this—know our life may not be as fancy as most–but it’s still as fun filled, exciting, and wonderful. We witness the birth of baby calves. We witness our corn crop poking up out of the ground and being harvested in the fall. We witness our babies learning about the realities of life and building strong work ethics. We witness the magic of feeding the world. In my eyes, we witness the best life there is to raise a family in.

So fellow farm women……..

We may not be fancy. We may struggle to keep it all together. We may have dirty hands and hair that hasn’t been washed in days under a ball cap (or maybe that’s just me). We may spend more time at the parts store then we do with our kids at the park like other moms. People may think we are single because our men are never around. We may think we are doing a crappy job because you feel like all your attention gets poured into the farm instead of your kids. You may get aggravated at a consumer who bases their judgement on misleading information. You may feel alone and overwhelmed (maybe that’s just me too). Just know though…… you aren’t.

All across America you will find women just like you. All taking part in the reality show of farm life. Keep on keeping on. We are all alike no matter how far away from each other we may be. We should use resources like snapchat, Instagram, facebook and twitter. The closest we may ever get to having our own reality show is FarmHer…..and that is fine by me. Their crew has done an amazing job empowering women and shining the light on women in the industry.

So no I don’t think E, USA, or Bravo are going to pick up a show called “Real Farmwives of Rural America” but I do know FarmHer is a great step in the right direction of showing America how much women do contribute to the agriculture industry.

P.s.  Follow me on snap chat at britlyn88 and on twitter at WilbanksfarmHER

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Blessed Even Through The Mess

The shock of Hurricane Harvey has finally slowed down.

The fires in Montana are finally making headlines around.

These natural disasters are sometimes over looked.

While one is occurring another one is on the hook.

News coverage is often lacking of the devastation they may cause.

That doesn’t mean for one minute that the nation doesn’t pray and pause.

For the people who are hurting–the ones struggling with fear.

For they are losing something that is very close and dear.

Family and friends are out fighting-risking their lives.

While family evacuates and worries that this could be their last goodbyes.

This nation is always hurting by what nature has in store.

Sometimes she seems to pile on more and more and more.

The thing she doesn’t realize, that even through the hurt.

Americans are staying strong while their things are being burnt.

We are resilent people, strong and faithful too.

Even though news coverage is lacking we are still praying for you.

So even though the headlines might not show the story in depth.

The heartache, the losses and the tears that have been wept. 

It is up to us fellow Americans to share their story too.

Because we know if it was you in their shoes, they would do the same for you.

So people in Montana, Texas and those states that are in hurt.

Know we are watching, praying, and sharing your story of your lives being burnt.

So share their story–share it loud and clear.

Share details–the pain–how much it’s near and dear.

We are praying for you all and wishing you the best. 

For one thing I know is God will never rest.

He’s watching over our country, even though it doesn’t seem that’s so. 

Just keep praying and have faith that soon it will snow.

Soon the flakes will fall and they will hit the ground.

While we all look in awe at all the loss that can be found.

For when the fire stops, you will push on and restore. 

For when God closes a window–he opens a door.

That door will soon come open. Your losses will be seen.

We will be there watching pushing you to believe.

Believe that what has happened no matter how devastating it may be. 

There’s a bright side in this horrific event that has yet to be seen. 

Maybe it’s to pull us close. Show us we are blessed.

Maybe it’s to show our country the silly problems don’t compare to this mess.

We often take for granted what we have–the things that are simple and small.

What we don’t realize is that these are the things that mean the most of all.

Our life may not be perfect, but we do our very best.

For its when we see tragedies like these it reminds us we are blessed. 

Mother Nature vs. Team Farmers and Ranchers


Mother Nature—or as I like to call her—a farmers curve ball. You never know what she will throw at you. However, you can bet without doubt she’s going to one way or another.

In her most recent pitches she’s thrown out hurricane Harvey and the wildfires in Montana.

Tonight, the sun was masked with what I assumed to be smoke from those fires in Montana. She has made her presence known with the two catastrophic events and she’s getting ready to throw her third strike with hurricane Irma. 

Lately, my husband and I have been really stressing about the crop prices, equipment breakdowns, and the mounds of bills piling up. 

But you see, today when I saw that haze it stopped me in my tracks while washing dishes looking out the kitchen window. Here I was worrying over these easier yet still troubling pitches that are being thrown at us–when there are farmers and ranchers who have lost everything. I mean everything–their homes–their animals and crops and their livelihoods. Some were able to save some things while others struck completely out.

What this has brought into play is the true American. The land of the free and the home of the brave has shined through. This is the America and Americans Thomas Jefferson and George Washington would be proud of. The Americans facing tragedy as one united and helping one another in the face of hardship. 

The pictures of ranchers herding not only their livestock but others through the flood waters is heart wrenching. The picture of firefighters, families and animals with the fire in the horizon is breathtaking and not in a good way. 

Photo credit to Cory DeStein Photography 

Photo credit to Manning Valley MvPhc 

Reports of over 600,000 acres have burned in Montana–with the fires still out of control. Farmers losing their massive cotton crops and their hay supply for the winter. 

Those games are still in play but with fellow ranchers and farmers around to help–those losing the game now can make a comeback in the next few innings (days and months) ahead.

As farmers and ranchers we continue to play the game, we don’t quit. We might not win the World Series every year or we may come in dead last–but at the end of the day we hold our heads high–help our teammates and continue playing the game we love so much –FEEDING THE WORLD.

In the days, months and years to come I will no longer drown myself with my losing streak. Instead I will take a step back and cheer and support my fellow teammates (my fellow ranchers and farmers) on their uphill battle with their fight against team Mother Nature.

She may win the fight–the game–this time–but the games in the days to come she better come prepared because Team “farmers and ranchers” have many years of practice with slumps. However, we always manage to come back to fight our way through the next season. So reach out and support our fellow teammates. Give them the resources you have available and most of all share your faith and confidence that they will pull through to make a comeback. Our team is forever united as one. We have FAITH, we have FRIENDS, we are FAMILY. We are feeding the world one game at a time. 

Farming With A Leap Of Faith

First off……just let me start with apologizing for my absence. Between juggling the end of the school year…enrolling my little boy in kindergarten and full blown hay season I’ve just had limited time to spare for my interests. Plus, lets be honest–my real reason is I haven’t had any inspiration for a post.

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Tonight, my husband and I attended a meeting at Von Holten Ranch for the Benton County Veterinary Service dinner. While sitting there in this very crowded room I realized something—it is evident that the average age of an American farmer is 58.3 years old. I’m not calling those in the crowd old but just from looking around the room the percentage of producers 35 and younger were much slimmer compared to the older generations ( and I don’t mean weight 🙂 ).

On the way home we both made mention of the dynamics of those in attendance. Both trying to think of reasons as to why it happened to be that way. When I look at an elderly couple in their late 60’s or even 70’s the first thought that comes into my mind is family farms that have been well established and passed down generation to generation. That is something that always warms my heart. Those families take pride in what they have built and are willing to pass it down to the next generation in hopes they can continue the tradition.

After doing a little research and using the information from the most recent USDA Farm Census–the numbers made things a little more clear. By the way, the next census is under way and I believe it is vital to turn in those numbers and information. The past census shows that the number of beginning farmers decreased by 20 percent from the prior census. To me that shows me one thing—becoming a farmer from scratch or just trying to stay a float in those early years can be a struggle and sometimes it easier to let go then it is to continue.

My husband and I met almost 11 years ago. At that time he had a few cows (10-15 if I remember correctly). I came from a family farm that also kind of diminished when my father took a job off the farm when I was a child. We were blessed to use the Beginning farmer program through the USDA and Farm Service Agency. We actually just used the last year of our 10 years with the program. Without this program we wouldn’t be where we are today. By the end of the program we have built our herd from those few he originally purchased to close to 200 cow calf pairs today along with purchasing 160 acres.

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At one point, we truly believed we would have the chance to be part of the next generation of the family farm and unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances that won’t be happening. Luckily we were able to use resources from my husbands grandfather and local farmers to sort of give us a foundation to start on. In the last year we have really been tossed to the wolves and had to fight our way just to stay a float.

Farming is such a hard and risky profession. Not only do you have the financial issues but you also have the weather, market fluctuations, and just input costs and equipment upkeep. Within the last year we have had to purchase a full line up of equipment due to not being able to use the resources from my husbands previous involvement on the family farm. Being a farmer in general is hard. Trying to become a farmer and venture out on your own is even more difficult.

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We are so far in debt it isn’t funny. However, we are taking major risks in hoping we can fight on to give our children the chance to become the next generation on our family farm if they choose to do so.

I have grown so much over the last two years not just by knowledge but just my confidence on helping on the farm. Two years ago I hadn’t even driven a tractor to feed hay or rake hay for that matter. Today, my daughter and I can be caught in the cab of a tractor feeding hay in the winter, daily and raking hay in the summer (trying to please my husband with my raking abilities–but we will leave that story for another day). Two years ago I wouldn’t have done it. I was scared to. I wasn’t given the opportunity. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to it just wasn’t something women did on their family farm. When my husband and I were thrown to the wolves and out on our I was finally given the chance. Since then I have surprised myself. I can’t tell you that there hasn’t been tears or yelling matches but even through all of that my confidence on what I can do and what I am capable of doing in the future has grown tremendously. My goal next year is hoping to plant more then an acre of corn and beans along with mowing or baling hay. Until then–I will take any tractor time my husband is willing to give me. me

Many family and community members say we are in over our head and we won’t make it  and that we are destined for failure. We were hesitant at first but we decided we would rather take the risk of trying to make it work verses always looking back regretting we didn’t at least try. Some call it crazy and foolish but I like to call it taking a leap of faith. The next few years are going to be a struggle but with the help of a few select family members so far, we have been able to hold on. I’ve seen multiple posts lately about dairy farms completely selling their herd or all those in other states selling out due to the drought. If that day comes for us, we can at least look back and say we tried. Granted I would probably shed more then a few tears but I hope that day never comes.

My husband and I don’t have new equipment other then a couple items that were more reasonable to purchase new but we are lucky to have what we have. A John Deere 4250 was the first tractor and major piece of equipment we purchased and so far I am more fond of it then any other piece we have. To me it symbolizes that first step at standing off the first pack of wolves standing in our way. She may not be new, and she may not be in the best of shape but I am still proud of her (yes, I’m referring to the tractor). Looking at our situation I can’t help but think of those families that have passed down their farms from generation to generation and what their first big purchase was. Today, they may be fortunate enough to have the new equipment but they had to start somewhere. Heck, going back it could’ve been a couple mules and an old plow.  At one point those farms were starting from scratch like we are and look where they are today.

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My favorite ol gal

Looking around the room tonight, I didn’t just see an older generation I saw HOPE. I saw blood, sweat and tears. I saw an older man working his last day on the farm only to see his son working harder for the sake of his father and his family. I think of the risk those farmers took but looking tonight, I saw the reward.

I hope 40 years from now, I can look across the table at one of these dinners and provide HOPE and INSPIRATION to the younger generation sitting around me. Granted they look past the grey hair and wrinkly skin—or maybe even my outdated clothes.

Our family has some tough years ahead but we chose to take the risk over the reward. We chose to take the major debt load and hectic days. We chose to attempt to build something. We chose to be like that farmer from over a hundred years ago that said, “You know what- I want to become a farmer and feed the world, I want to take that leap of faith.”

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Our family taking our leap of faith

 

Hope In The Heartland

Sitting down to write this blog I have struggled and struggled because I don’t think words can justify the magnitude of generosity that these acts of kindness entail. So let me start by saying I hope I can share their story- their message-and the true story of the wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. I still don’t think it truly captures the magnitude of the past week, but it’s a start.

For those of us in rural america, the heartland–we know the devastation that the wildfires have caused. This hasn’t been a national news headline–though it should be. It wasn’t in an urban setting but it has impacted in my opinion the best type of people there are in the world. The blue collar-hard working-family oriented- american ranching and farming families. It is my goal to continue to share the stories of these hard working men and women.

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A group of drivers left Midway Truck stop Friday morning to head to Ashland, Kansas

This past weekend a group of around 25 people and 15 loads of hay headed west from central Missouri to Ashland, Kansas. After a short delay, of one truck being to tall they hit the road and didn’t look back. On their way at various stops for fuel and food, donations were handed to them. A man gave them $20 and told him he wished he could give them more. A man at a Loves Truck stop in Cunningham, Kansas bought sandwiches for the group of drivers and managed to sneak out before the group was able to realize the gracious act that had been done.

Let me give you a little history on the woman who coordinated this amazing haul. Her name is Courtney Collins. She comes from a family full of huge hearts and are willing to help anyone at the drop of a dime. I grew up with this wonderful girl, being involved in 4-H and FFA. I’ve tried all morning to come up with just one word that describes her, but I simply can’t  describe her in one word. This girl can put a smile on anyone’s face simply with her own smile. She is a loving mother and wife. She has a heart so big and caring that I know she would do anything for anyone even if she had no means to which to do it–because she is so passionate and filled with determination that she would find a way. Courtney started organizing this haul just a week before they left.

Courtney Collins

Courtney Collins— From Englewood, MO

They organized a Facebook page, Central Missouri Wildfire Relief Convoy https://www.facebook.com/Centralmoconvoy/ (check it out). Since then they have also started another page, Hopeintheheartland https://www.facebook.com/hopeintheheartland/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf (check it out too).

Using social media, radio stations, and news channels this group alone donated over:

  • 511 round bales of hay and over 220 square bales
  • 650 T-Posts
  • They received over $8,000 dollars just in monetary donations- this included $3,050 from their GoFundMe page. $1,040 from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Meeting, $3,000 from Veterans United, and gobs of gift cards and fuel cards to purchase items that these ranchers needed.

I interviewed Courtney today about the trip to give me a little more insight on what it is really like out there. She told me she thought she had prepared herself for how bad it was going to be out there, but that didn’t prepare her for what she saw.

After seven blown tires and an overpass that a few hay bales got a hair cut from, they arrived in Ashland, Kansas at 11:30 on Friday evening. They were greeted by Jeff Kay the owner of Ashland Feed and Seed. Courtney told me that this was one of the largest convoys of hay that had been brought into that location. The hay was unloaded to get guys that were headed back that night, on the road again. They were given a cabin to stay in at  Tamarack Outfitters.

 

The sun rose on another day and Courtney had the chance to hop in the truck with Jeff Kay and see the country side. That day they also delivered hay to Mr. David Clawson. Courtney described David as a very sweet man. David lost six to seven thousand acres to the fire. He lost his barn, 250 round bales of alfalfa and 30 head of cattle. People with large amounts of cattle that are spread out on a lot of land sometimes use a siren to call their cows in. David’s cattle were trained to a siren. The day of the fire he used his siren to call in his cows. However, at the same time on the back side of his property fire trucks were coming down the road with their sirens blaring . He lost those 30 cows because they ran to the fire trucks sirens over his own.

Courtney went on to describe that as the fire progressed David jumped into his tractor and worked on working the ground to try to save his house and the ground essentially making a barrier. He could feel the heat and was eventually consumed by a black cloud of smoke. He was only saved by knowing the lay of the land. He almost ran into the chicken house while doing so but somehow miraculously the smoke cleared just as David was about to hit it, which allowed him to swerve to miss it.

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Photo Credit to “Outdoor Exposure by Denise” I’ve been told this is David Clawson himself but I can’t say that with 100 percent accuracy.Please correct me if you know differently.

 

The group standing at David Clawson’s farm.

I asked Courtney what the most heartbreaking thing she saw during her visit to Ashland, Kansas was. She said, “There was this cow who had died, but she was pressed up against the fence with her legs underneath it like she was doing everything in her power to escape. I can only hope she died of smoke inhalation before she was consumed by the fire.

Courtney talked about how the game warden and local vet had to ride around and look at various groups of cattle to determine whether or not they would pull through or if putting them down was the humane thing to do. I’ve talked before how hard it would be for me to shoot that many of my cows. A cow that they may have raised their mother and her grandmother. It’s simply unimaginable.

When asking Courtney to describe her experience in only three words, she said,”Emotional, Heartbreaking,Humbling, and Devastating.” That’s four words as anyone can read but I think this event deserves as many words as we can give it.

Another young woman who drove a load of hay out to Ashland, Kansas that day was Mj Williams. I also had the privilege of going to school with her. She is also a loving mother and a strong willed, caring, and fun loving person. She sent me a piece she had written to describe her experience and asked me to share it. So the following is from Mj Williams from Ashland, MO.

Mj

Mj Williams, from Ashland, MO stands by the American flag on her trailer load of hay headed to Ashland, KS

“Leaning against the bed of my pick-up, scenes from last night reeled through my mind: dirt roads, laden with soot. Ditches and fence lines, reduced to dry earth and ash. The sickening aroma that wafted through the air. The Kansas sun crept along its morning path, fingers of golden light filtering through the ancient cottonwood trees. Cows lulled in the distance, their voices riding the cool breeze. Shakily, I breathed deep, filling my lungs with that beautiful prairie air. I’m not an emotional person; however, I couldn’t stop the tears. I was wrecked with grief: grief that I didn’t own. Heartache that I didn’t earn. Pain that I hadn’t truly felt. The weakening that my brothers and sisters had endured had latched on to my soul, digging its wretched claws into my very being. The next tidal wave hit me: selfishness. Who was I to feel this way? I had a home. I didn’t know loss. My greatest woes came from a sore back and tired mind, just a stitch compared to the mortal wound members of rural Kansas had felt. I reminded myself: I made this trip, traveled 1,100 miles, to share my neighbors’ burden. This is exactly what I signed up for. I just never dreamed how raw it would be. My body slumped, with weak knees, I sought comfort in the form of a flatbed trailer. I sat, head in my hands, and wept. The fuel pump clicked but I didn’t care. I was the only truck parked in the small gravel lot. Three ragged fuel silos separated the co-op station from the railroad tracks. A stubby brick building blocked my view to the east.
Ahead of me, the long narrow blacktop rolled on, riddled with potholes, edged with pasture. A glint of green caught my eye: a wheat pasture stood alone in the midst of the drought stricken paddocks. I would never look at a wheat field the same again. My memory flashed to a story heard just the night before: families, just like mine, fled their homes. Running for their lives, they sought refuge from the flames. A wheat pasture, their saving grace. What a fate, to stand huddled, watching the world burn around you. To watch everything you have ever known, everything you hold dear, fall victim to an unnamed monster. A monster with no face and no prejudice: a wicked demon, feasting on your home, your livelihood. Fire does not discriminate. Fueled by the wind, it seeks and destroys with reckless abandon. It knows but one enemy: love. A commodity overflowing in rural America. Love shows in the form of bravery: formed in the hearts and minds of the volunteer fire departments who battled tirelessly. Love shines through the headlights of the tractors, working non-stop, engineered by the locals to provide hay to their neighbors. Love rings out with every t-post driven into the charred ground. Love courses through the veins and fuel lines of every single individual, from near and far, who drove hours and days to deliver aid. Three-hundred thousand acres fell victim to this beast. But love, love will rebuild it. The agricultural community knows no boundaries. Reaching out with calloused hands, we will cross state lines, we will build fence, we will pray, we will hold our brothers and sisters tight. We will share their burden with strong backs and full hearts. We will not stop. We will continue to deliver hope in the heartland, one bale of hay at a time.”
Beautifully Written by Mj Williams
I wanted so badly to tag along on this trip to see the devastation, to talk to the locals and hear their stories, their grief and burden. I was unable to as you can see. I would like to think I could prepare myself for what I would’ve seen but after talking with Courtney and Mj I wouldn’t have stood a chance. I had tears rolling down my cheeks just from the last few posts I published about the fires. I couldn’t imagine how I would be after actually witnessing the aftermath.
I think the thing that chokes me up the most is the support these wonderful folks have been given from their neighbors. I’m not talking about the person who lives down the road or right next door from them. I am talking about the hundreds of thousands of people across the United States who have dropped everything-loaded up hay and feed and headed to their fellow farmers and ranchers without even blinking an eye.
My facebook feed has been filled with video after video and picture after picture of trucks loaded up and headed out hauling hay, fencing supplies or feed. Our industry is made up of the best people. They are generous. They are resilient. They are strong. They are loving. They are full of passion and dedication. I could go on and on but I won’t. They are full of HOPE. They are united as one. They are here for their neighbors even if that neighbor is a thousand miles away.
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I talked to Courtney this evening and she informed me that the 1000th bale that she organized to be delivered had arrived in Ashland, Kansas. She started this all a week ago in hopes of getting 30 bales out there this past weekend. The fact that in a weeks time 1000 bales made it out there is simply amazing. This girl has the biggest heart and I know that everyone else that knows her would say the same. What Courtney orchestrated though wouldn’t have been possible without all the donations–the hay, feed, fencing supplies, trucks and trailers, money and gift cards.
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The fire may have burned the grass, the hay, the cows, the homes and barns. What that fire can’t burn is the passion and dedication of the people that remain. It’s what makes us more then just acquaintances and neighbors, it’s what makes us a family.  We are put through trial after trial of hardship but we still manage to pull through thanks to our fellow ranchers and farmers. We know that if this happened in our home, on our turf they would be knocking on our door.
Thanks to the generous donations of others, the people who fell victim to these fires are slowly but surely on the road to recovery. No, we can’t replace the items they lost. We can’t pull the images embedded in their head from those days. We can’t physically be there everyday until they are put back together. What we can do, is continue to send donations, continue to pray for them, continue to share their story. 
Courtney has already began plans to make another trip sometime in April (the 15th possibly). Again they are taking donations of any kinds. Money to pay for fuel and blown tires. Money for the fire victims. They are specifically asking for six foot t posts and barbed wire. Anything that you may think these sweet people need.
So as the weeks go on, lets not forget these people. Lets continue to help them move forward. We all know that we would be wanting them to do the same for us. That’s the great thing about all of this. These enormous acts of kindness have proven time and time again what great people this industry holds. It proves that we have each others back even if that means literally giving them the shirt off our own.
Looking west today, only reminds me of what Courntey Collins and the Central Missouri Wildfire Relief Convoy have done. They have shown urban America what rural America is all about, being there for others even during the worst of times and helping them in any form possible—even if that is simply delivering HOPE one hay bale at a time…….
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