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 ūüôā ).

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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The Test- By Brittany Wilbanks

The sun rises on charred ground.

Any human would shed a tear from looking around.

Fences are gone and cattle are dead.

Ranchers are in pain and unable to rest their heads.

Their livelihoods have been taken.

Families, friends and animals have been shaken.

The fires nor pain will keep them away.

They will get up and fight another day.

You see, God has a plan, whether we like it or not.

He gives the rancher-wind, snow, rain and the unbearably hot.

Test after test, the rancher goes on.

America will never see the day the rancher is gone.

On the horizon you see lines of trucks hauling hay.

The fellow rancher has helped to save the day.

The ranching and farming family is more then most can comprehend

They will be there day after day until their community is on the mend.

From coast to coast- we are united as one.

We are here for each other and to get the job done.

Ranchers are full of hope, strength and tenacity.

They love one another and choose to believe.

Believe that no matter what God has in store.

Our fellow ranchers will be there at our door.

To help us push forward, to not lose hope.

To show Americans what they need to know most.

You see, farming and ranching is more then a profession.

It’s a burning desire, a passion and a dedication.

It’s something passed down and taught with love.

It’s about making those gone before us, proud from above.

It’s hard work-values- blood sweat and tears.

It’s why the rancher has been around for so many years.

We love what we do- our crop and our stock.

Whatever God throws our way we won’t stop.

We are American Born, American raised.

We will rise from the ashes to fight another day.

So pray for the ones who have lost their life work.

Pray for their families and for God to lift their hurt.

If it’s one thing I know that ranchers do best–

It’s trusting in God, even through all of his tests.

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Rural America Will Never Rest in Peace

Tonight while scrolling through my facebook feed I came upon this picture posted by Kaylin Maree Schimpf.

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Photo Courtesy of Kaylin Maree Schimpf Facebook

I immediately started to cry. This picture sums up our industry. What we are made of. Integrity. Humility. Courage. Strength. Passion. Pride. Dedication. Community. Adversity.Love. and most of all HOPE.

Reading the posts of the ones who have lost everything to the fires has lit a fire in me to share their story with the world.

I’ve discussed with multiple people, that if this fire had happened in a more urban setting where thousands of houses or so called “acres of houses” resided, that this would be a national headline story that would be plastered on news channels 24/7. Instead it happened in rural America where there aren’t as many houses but what many Americans don’t realize–is that the “houses” in this setting are cows-horses-sheep-etc.

I believe the uninformed American doesn’t see the true devastation this fire has caused. These people didn’t just lose their homes and some grass. They lost everything. Those cattle—that grass—-it’s their livelihood. Some of those cows could’ve been ones that have been passed down generation to generation ¬†through genetics and replacement programs. Those cows may have been as special to that rancher as most dogs are to their owners in the world today.

We often get ran in the ground by misinformed consumers. Take the pain of losing a family pet and multiply that by however many head of cattle these ranchers had. That is their pain. What that misinformed consumer sees as a cow who is given antibiotics and never sees green grass is actually a cow that is taken care of like she is a pet.

I wish I could load up every single misinformed consumer and take them on a tour of the full process from the time the calf hits the ground to the time it is being served with a side of fries on their plate. We are open and willing to show them. We are open to show them how well we take care of our animals. I pray that when my children are my age that the gap between the consumer and the production of their food is much smaller then it is today. If we keep Agvocating I believe it will be.

After finding this picture posted by Kaylin Maree Schimpf I won’t lie I looked at most of her posts on Facebook. I don’t know this woman but after reading her most recent posts, I want to be her friend. Her and a group of people have been trucking hay into the panhandle. Her posts are powerful and meaningful. She begs drivers to be respectful to the CONVOYS of trucks hauling hay bound for these communities that so desperately need it.

The fact that there are CONVOYS of hay headed already into the aftermath of this fire speaks volumes as to the type of people ranchers and rural ¬†Americans are. Our industry, our people, we are RESILIENT. I can’t even seem to find the right words right now to describe this glorious industry and the people it contains.

I read a post this morning from a lady who said she had stumbled across multiple ranchers who were already out of ammunition to continue to put the rest of their stock down that wasn’t going to pull through and the day was just beginning. Could you imagine? I can’t.¬†I couldn’t imagine pulling the trigger on that many of my own cows strictly because that was better then watching them suffer. It would be hard but anyone in this industry would do it, if put in that situation—because we genuinely care for our stock.

I haven’t heard a number or percentage of cattle that has been¬†lost to these fires. Like most ranchers, I don’t think they want to hear that number. I wish I had the financial means to help these ranchers but I don’t. Instead I will pray and use my words to spread their message to spread their story to those that need to hear it. I wish I could do more.

Today they had the first funeral for one of the men who lost his life protecting what he loved……I read the following story about his wife and his children. I cried yet again.

http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2017-03-09/he-saddled-anyway-first-texas-panhandle-wildfire-victims-buried

Ranchers lost their lives protecting their stock yet they are still viewed as treating their animals with cruelty.

Young ranchers lost their lives….CONVOYS of hay headed to the aftermath of the fire…Ranchers having to put down what remaining stock they do have…..grass that is now just ashes…babies with burnt bodies missing their moms….momma cows bawling for their babies who they lost in the fire….

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Courtesy of Graham and Sons Cattle Co LLC

Pray for our country who doesn’t give respect where respect is due………

God knows if I saw a convoy of trucks headed west hauling hay…….I would be bawling my eyes out…..I would be crying for those who have lost everything and I would be crying because I am so gosh darn PROUD to be part of an industry that will bend over backwards for each other.

Rural America may be covered in ashes now…….but that won’t hurt our industry. What does hurt our industry is the misinformed consumer who makes their choices off assumptions and misleading information. I am begging anyone that enjoys a hamburger every now and then to open their eyes. If we gave up…..there would no longer be an american staple on the menu. It would be a sight to see if the American rancher disappeared off the earth and we were left to raise a calf from start to finish…..I think the world would be full with a heck of a lot more vegetarians because they wouldn’t have the tenacity to do what the American Rancher does.

So out of the ashes……will walk the American Rancher because you can’t stop them from doing what they love. They will face every adversity thrown at them and keep doing what they do because they love what they do that much. So the next bite you take out of a hamburger at your favorite restaurant–think of that rancher who just lost his son because he was tending to that burger you are eating—think of that rancher who just had to kill the last of his stock because it was the humane thing to do…….think of that rancher who has been hit with fire, disease, market prices plummeting , rain and storms, consumers bad mouthing his practices and just about everything under the sun…….think about how passionate she/he must be to want to continue doing what they do…….

THINK ABOUT THE AMERICAN RANCHER…..BECAUSE RIGHT NOW THEY NEED ALL THE THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS WE CAN GIVE THEM……..

 

 

 

Generations of Strength

Yesterday we all saw the news of the raging wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. As most of us in this area (Central MO), I’m sure we were more concerned with the weather coming in–and for good reason. After last nights storms passed through I got the kids back to sleep and then went to bed not thinking about the fires consuming the other states.

This morning I woke up to a heartbreaking story on my Facebook feed. The kind that made me cringe and left me with no appetite all day.

http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2017-03-07/4-killed-overnight-texas-panhandle-wildfires

Four¬†young ranchers were lost to soon. The story I read this morning was about a man and woman. Cody Crockett and Sydney Wallace. A third name was released this afternoon, his name was Sloan Everett. I didn’t know these individuals. I’ve read numerous stories on facebook and other media throughout the day about them . It has been said they were out trying to save their cattle. This evening I’ve also read reports of another man who lost his life due to the fire–Cade Koch.

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Cody and Sydney- Top Sloan-Middle Cade-Bottom Photo Courtesy of KCBD News Channel 11

 

I have to say I’ve never met an industry more wrapped around values, strength, gratitude and hard work. Farmers and ranchers often get a bad wrap for not taking care of their crops and stock as well as those who know nothing about the industry would like us to.

Just yesterday after reading dozens of stories about the avian flu found on a chicken farm in Tennessee I was in disbelief of the comments knocking the family farms¬†and the way we raise our animals. Granted there were plenty family¬†farmers politely responding to the comments and graciously asking those with concerns to ask us questions. Most of the comments were along the lines of the filthy conditions we raise our animals in and how we are about the money and doing anything in our means of making more money even if it affects the quality of their food. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

These four amazing individuals from the Texas panhandle- CODY CROCKETT, SYDNEY WALLACE, SLOAN EVERETT and CADE KOCH are proof of how well we take care of our stock. Proof of how much those animals mean to us. Granted, I don’t know the story. I assume they were out there doing whatever they could to let their herd loose granting them a chance at survival. I would like to think most ranchers would do the same.

I think those not involved in the industry can’t comprehend how much our stock actually means to us as farmers and ranchers. Most may just see a cow or a bull that they think is a cow. I personally see a certain cow that is maybe first to the bunk every morning or a cow who is an amazing mom. I have a cow that has such a huge spot in my heart because I raised her from a bottle calf. My father in law named her sugar and her tags in her ear read in huge letters- SUGAR and she is one of best mommas. Or the #8 cow who is spunky and full of life and has a white patch on her left side. 8904 who is the only white face cow who has a soft spot in my heart. Heck even the bulls have their own temperament and personalities.

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I pray so hard for the families who lost these precious people. They are husbands, brothers, sisters, daughters. They are someones everybody and it truly truly leaves a pit in my stomach. I can’t imagine what their family and friends are going through. I do know that we need to pray for them. Pray for them so hard.

Along with the lives of these individuals thousands of acres have been destroyed along with plenty of cattle ( I have yet to hear a figure). We need to pray for those who have lost either.

Outsiders looking in who know nothing about our marvelous industry may think so what, its a few head of cattle and some grass that burnt. It’s more then that. It is ranchers livelihood. Their passion. Something they may have worked for years building.

If it’s one thing I do know—those facing this awful tragedy will come out on the other side with their head held high. One thing I do know about farmers and ranchers is that we are strong. We work together to help those in our industry that need us. We face so many challenges–mostly due to weather and this strong wind did a doozy on some fellow ranchers this go around. So I urge you to pray, to listen to their stories, offer encouragement or help if possible.

Ranchers are generations and generations of STRENGTH. We will continue to provide great care for our stock that feeds the country even through the tough challenges we face.

Rest in peace dear ranchers. May God be with your families and friends and may he be there for those who have lost their cattle and acreage.

 

 

FarmHER in progress….

As a teenager, I considered myself a self proclaimed “Farm Girl“. Little did I know, what I thought made you a farm girl back then would be put to shame by what I know makes you a farm girl now.

Looking back I should’ve classified myself as a country girl. My grandfather farmed and my dad did as well until he started working off the farm when I was in grade school. My grandfather and uncle continued to farm. We moved to town and then back to the country when I was in fourth grade. As a child I remember being around cows but I didn’t work and interact with them on a daily basis. I remember driving my dads old ford pick up while he fed out of the back. I remember cows getting out and having to go with grandpa to go fix fence. I remember riding in the tractor with grandpa while he sang and drove along like there were no problems in the world. I remember driving our little three wheeler down the windrows of hay and grasshoppers plastering me. I spent endless hours catching frogs, fish and tadpoles. I was always outside and I honestly don’t remember watching much TV.

Fast forward 20 years and here I am, in awe of what made me think I could call myself a farm girl back then. The past 11 years has opened my eyes so wide when it comes to the Ag Industry. 11 years ago, I never would’ve guessed I would move away from my hometown. I never would’ve guessed I would be helping take care of 160 cow calf pairs and 21 heifers—driving a 36ft trailer and actually managing not to hit anything–running all over the country side picking up parts and moving equipment–wearing a ball cap and blue jeans everyday.

Kudos, to all those women out there who have worked on the farm from day one. Granted, if my dad kept farming I would’ve been right there with them. However, in some way God has brought me back to something that completes me.

This past fall, Seth took a job off the family farm and was working a little over an hour away from home. It was harvest. We had 100 cows calving, and it was crazy. It was crazy but awesome! Being out on the farm and caring for something that you have raised is such a rewarding feeling.

Granted, this has been one heck of a learning experience and it will continue to be the rest of my life. I wish I had a dollar for every phone call I made to Seth this fall when I was checking cows because I wasn’t sure what certain signs I needed to be looking for. Or if a calf looked off what the heck I was suppose to do. We lost 6 calves in just one group this fall. It was an awful feeling and I sometimes wonder if Seth had been there if we would’ve lost that many in that bunch. We lost two at the other place but both were stillborn and there wasn’t much I could’ve done. Its a live and learn lifestyle for sure.

Lately the kids and I have been feeding all cows for the most part on a daily basis. I love it. Kinze LOVES it.img_2298

Grady hates it—but he will come around. I’ve finally mastered feeding with the tractor and was getting in the groove. Then my dad let us borrow his truck which has a bale bed on it. I wouldn’t be lying if I said it looks like a circus has come to town when I am trying to feed with it. I’ve wasted more hay this winter then Seth probably has in the past five years. I am learning as I go, that’s for sure. You know its bad when your son tells your husband that mommy doesn’t know what shes doing.

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The cows have become my girls. I have one group that hold a special place in my heart. It’s disheartening how society thinks that we as producers don’t take care of our stock and are only in it for the money. I’ll leave that story for a different day.

I guess what I am getting at is how lucky I am to be able to do what I love everyday. Granted, cow crapped covered boots and jeans, ball caps, and silage smelling truck interior is not every woman’s cup of tea—it is mine. I am so happy I have found that. I know there are many laughs to come. For instance the day I actually get to help work cattle (in 11 years of being with Seth I’ve literally barely helped twice- and maybe there are good reasons for that, lol). I could shout to the earth tops how much I love these cows–but I won’t. When others smell cow crap, I smell money. When others see a “poor mistreated” animal I see a cow and her calf that I see and feed and check on, on a daily basis. I am so proud of what we do. What we, in the Ag industry do.

I know I still have a long ways to go. I will constantly be learning. Granted I hope I own up to my mistakes and learn from them. I hope I can bust fewer bales while transporting them. Become more efficient at raking hay. Speed up my time it takes to load 7 bales on the dump trailer ( I swear a 5 year old could do it faster). Feel more confident when speaking to others about our operation.

I will be the first to tell you I have no clue what I am doing when it comes to cattle. It embarrasses me that I’ve been around cows the past 11 years and only in the last couple have I become fully involved. What counts though, is now I have been given the opportunity to help–to learn by doing–to be a part of something I truly love. Granted I know only a smidgen of what I hope to learn over the years to come.

So 20 year ago was I a farm girl–HECK no! A country girl yes. Can I say that on the last day of February in 2017 that I am farm girl– HECK yes and I am PROUD of it. Hard work–dirty work–rewarding work has brought me so much happiness. I am a proud FarmHER and RanchHER. I have a long ways to go. In 20 years I can look back and laugh at all my rookie mistakes—heck even write a book, simply because there are so many.

So right now what seems to be a chaotic crazy cow woman can hopefully transform into a confident advocating cattle-woman. So stay tuned for my mistakes on this crazy roller coaster ride that these ladies are about to put me on……….

Gone are the days……

Lately, the world has become a scary place. Or lets face it……its been that way for awhile.

In my eyes, today’s society has stripped our children of their childhood. Technology has stripped them.

Granted, everyone is brought up differently and every family has their own way of life.

My childhood didn’t include endless hours in front of the TV watching cartoons or playing video games.

When I think of my childhood it brings a smile to my face and tugs on my¬†heart strings. Today, driving back from my parents house looking in rear view mirror watching my children each holding an ipad playing their games as we sped down the road….. I thought to myself…….they are missing so much and it’s my fault, not theirs. I passed mini van after suv with dvd players playing in the backseat and my car was included in that category.

My family went on vacation every year. I was fortunate enough to have this opportunity. Of all those trips I only remember one, where technology played a part in the trip and that was my sophomore year of high school…..a VHS player in a van as we strolled down the road. Instead of my head glued in a cell phone or ipad…..I played car bingo…..or I spy with my little eye. I took in the scenery and mother natures landscape.

I don’t want my children to miss out on the little things, the important things all because I allow them to indulge in the meaningless things only for the sake of my sanity and plea of a quiet trip home.

This led me to think about how so much our world and time has changed and how it affects our kids lives.

Gone are the days of letting our child walk down the road alone to a friends house. Gone are the days of letting a child use the restroom by themselves. Gone are the days of leaving your children in your car while running into the gas station to pay for your gas. Gone are the days of sending our children to the mall or movies with friends and not having to worry that they won’t be gunned down by someone for no reason. Gone are the days where schools were the place kids felt safe and out of harms way. Gone are the days of letting a child have a childhood instead of forcing them to grow up way to soon due to demands from today’s society. Gone are the days of trusting someone you¬†think you¬†know to watch your children.

My childhood was filled with SOO many great moments.

Making a tepee out of bark and zip ties with my brother acting like we were Indians and expecting to run away to our imaginative camp some night.

Fishing with the family—ALWAYS getting my hook caught in my hair or someones shirt.

Putting on plays in the hay loft after spending hours trying make it the best we could.

Running the creek beds looking for animal tracks and trying to identify them.

Singing “This Little Light of Mine” around my Aunt Lenora’s piano with a handful of other kids and cousins.

Standing in a corner with soap in my mouth for singing “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.

Skipping down the drive way with my grandpa singing skip to my lou……

Riding four wheelers through the windrows in the hay field……

Girl Scouts—-soooo many great memories with this group. We had amazing leaders. Singing songs….camping…..singing carols at the nursing homes… SELLING cookies of course.

4-H- making a dessert and selling it at the auction and enjoying that dessert with the person who bought it. All loading up in a livestock trailer and going from one family to another singing Christmas carols.

Riding in parades in support of my grandpa again supporting him for State Representative.

Showing animals…..cakes……photography……at the county fair.

Feeding cattle and driving while my dad feeds from the back of the truck.

Spending hours at church hanging out with the youth group and putting on the Christmas pageant.

Swimming in the pond…….not the pool.

The list could go on and on and on…. (kind of like how this post is getting).

Point being, what do they have in common? None of them include technology.

I will be the first to admit that I let my kids watch way to much tv and spend to much time on the ipad. It is the norm in today’s society but that doesn’t mean it has to be your¬†norm.

The rest of the way home I thought of ways I could give my children those memories and moments that they would remember for years to come. Granted they are 2 and 4 and are just now coming into a time where they will maybe remember things. Even so, I want them to have those moments. As a stay at home mom, I use technology as an out or a time out from having to play with them so I can finish a household task or get two minutes to myself. It shouldn’t be that way. Tonight I vow to myself to do better. I’m not saying I won’t let them have it every now and then but I won’t use it as a way to occupy them from getting “bored”. There is a whole world outside for that. Same thing goes as far as having my nose stuck in my phone instead of giving them my full attention. I do it a lot, and I am trying to do better on not doing. Leaving my phone lying in the other room or putting it on silent all together.

Truth is, these are moments we can’t get back. These are moments I can’t get back of them doing something they are proud of and seeing the look on their face. Or moments they are missing of spending with me because they see my phone being more important than them.

The world will forever be changing…advancing…..technology will drive the continuing advancements the most. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, but it is CRUCIAL that we don’t let it change us or our priorities or our family aspect for that matter.

So here is saying¬†bye¬†to the days of technology controlling my life, my families life. Here’s to saying welcome back to the days of bonding time…enjoying gods beauty work…..and raising my children like I was raised……with LOVE, FAITH, FAMILY, and FARMING. I may not be able to give my children the memories I have but I can give them moments to remember—it may not be a tepee made of zip ties and bark…….but it could be something even better!

Single Mom Syndrome

Harvest time is my favorite time of year. The smell. The dust. The sounds. The SUNSETS. That being said…..harvest time is my hardest time of year. During harvest most farmers’ wives become single moms. They are alone with the kids 24/7. They have to pick up slack of all the other things that must be done on the farm…..all while maintaining their normal duties as a mom. Every harvest I always find myself thinking about how strong and amazing single moms are.

This is the first year of harvest that I have been given a lot of responsibility. We bought another group of cows this past spring which has doubled our herd. Currently we have about a little over 100 cows calving. This past week there has been no rain in sight and this mom and kids were in charge of checking the herd. Checking cows with two kids is like trying to corral chickens whose heads are cut off. It is a sight to see. Kinze’s flipping all the switches and pushing all the buttons she can reach on the ranger. Four wheel drive goes on and off. Grady’s screaming because cow poop landed on his arm. Kinze’s smearing cow crap on her legs. Kinze somehow manages to wiggle out of her seat belt. Kinze rips the sheet with the calving list in half(I’ve rewritten this list 3 times so far). Kinze screams spooking a new mom. Cow runs off before I can see her tag number. Kids are sweaty and fussy as I load them in the truck. Kinze finally falls asleep as we turn to head home. Grady is complaining because he doesn’t want to go check another set of cows. I explain to him that’s how mommy and daddy make money to buy his toys. He tells me he doesn’t want any more toys. I secretly scream inside my mind…….We arrive at the second group of cows and the process starts all over.

This past week my husband has been out the door before the kids wake up and doesn’t arrive home until we are ALL sound asleep in bed. I haven’t talked to my husband in days. I mean yes we have talked but its simply because I’ve had calving issues or he needs me to go do something else for him. On my watch so far, we have lost two babies. It’s heart wrenching watching a cow bellow at her calf and look up at you like shes begging you to¬†do something. I’m in no way an experienced cattle woman. I really am a beginner.

I’m not complaining, even though it may sound that way. Every job in life is challenging. Its how we handle it is what makes or breaks us in this world. I love that my children know more about the process of crop and livestock production then most adults do. I love that we see a cow and Kinze immediately starts screaming “DOW” at the top of her lungs. I love that Grady comes home from the field and gets his farm equipment all lined up to match what he just saw in the field. I love watching the sunset over the pasture with our livelihood staring back at me.

I have been blessed with an amazing mother and father in law that have already helped me out already so many times this harvest, which I am so grateful for. Checking cows by myself is so much easier…..and honestly it has become my “ME” time. I can’t count how many times I’ve already cried this harvest season out of frustration but hey I’m not ashamed. It’s tough but I am able to push forward because of the help I have. Without them….my life jacket would’ve already fallen off at sea and I would’ve been eaten by sharks….or in my case the ranger would’ve ran out of gas and I would be eaten by coyotes and buzzards….

Regardless……nothing beats watching the sun set¬†on something you’ve managed to maintain for another day…..My kids may have eaten a bag of chips and fruit snacks for lunch that day……my house may be a complete disaster…..I may have realized I haven’t showered in three days……but my kids are still alive and healthy, our cows are fed and chewing their cud…..and me….my heart is still beating and I’m still able to breathe in the smells of harvest….and cattle………..or that could just be me I’m smelling.