Uncertainty is the only certainty or is it?

In the bar side of a loud and crowded restaurant, we sat.  The typical conversation had when a group of cattlemen come out of hiding from their secluded pastures after a long winter was in full swing-market prices, politics, the neighbor’s cattle.  At this point, we had been drinking whisky for a fair share of the evening.  I was, as usual, the youngest one there.  They all had at least 25 years on me.  I sat back and just soaked it all in-the history, the stories, the hard-work, the memories.  As I sat watching and listening, I noticed that one of the older gentlemen’s stories had a lot of weight and emotion trailing along with each word.  He had started to admit how hard this business really is, when his wife subtly put her hand around his shoulders.

Most of you might be thinking, “…..and? People do that all the time.”

This time was different.

This wasn’t just a habit, it wasn’t just a gesture of affection.

This was powerful.  It meant I’m proud of you.  I’m proud of you for seeing this through even through the hard times.  I’m proud of you for doing the hard work that you do.  It meant I understand.  I understand the hours, the frustration, the uncertainty.  It meant I’m here.  I’m here through the nights when you can’t sleep because the wind might freeze the new born calves, when you get your second flat tire of the day hauling cattle 3 hours from home, when the buyer calls and says he’ll only take the calves for half the price next year. And in this life, that’s powerful.

There is so much uncertainty in what we do.  In three years, when this calf is finished and ready to go to market, will people even want to buy it?  Will trends have changed?  Will the cover crops I experimented with this year even emerge?  Will the person that just picked up a semi load of calves pay me?  Will I be able to rent land again next year when the cows don’t pay for themselves?  Will we get the 7 inches of rainfall promised this year?  Will the cows all turn up bred?  Will the hay get rained on or baled properly?  Will the processor cut the meat right for my direct customer?

Uncertainly can weigh you down.

So, when your man sits next to you and spills his guts about his uncertainty, what can you say?  You can’t say “it’ll all work out” or “it’ll be fine.”  It might not be.  It really might not be.

The only thing you really can do is put your arm around them.  Let them know that you’re going to stick through this with them.  That when the person backs out of buying that load of hay, you will be on the phone calling every person in your contact list to find someone new to buy it.  That when that momma cow rejects her calf, you’ll be there to tag team getting her in, milking her out, and feeding the calf.  That when you’re baling hay at 2 in the morning, you’ll deliver the sustenance they haven’t had time for all day.  That when the neighbor calls and says you can’t drive your cattle through their property to get to your next pasture like you have for the last 5 years, you’ll be there to draw evil stick figures of them at the dinner table. That when the processor “loses” the cut sheet again, you’ll be there to drop it off along with some incentivizing cookies. And when they’ve had an awful day, you’ll be there to talk or make them laugh to take their mind off of it.

That is what is certain.

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Chicks Dig It

I find it comical that when people ask what it is I do and I respond with “I work at a bison and beef cattle ranch in Southern Colorado,” people’s reaction is almost always filled with something along the lines of “oh, so you’re a secretary or something?” (actual response from Ohio farmer).  The other predominant reaction is that I just ride the horses.

This interaction also says a lot.  I am in no way throwing this person under the bus or am I mad about his comment.  Again, I just find it comical. People think that the “it’s a man’s world” mentality is over.  I disagree.

Indeed, I am not a secretary nor do I just ride pretty horses. Us ranch girls wrestle calves, haul loads of bulls to the the sale barn by ourselves, build fences and gates, splice barbed wire, fix electric fences, clean irrigation ditches, sort cattle on foot, horse, or dirt bike.  We can fix and repair a flat tire. We can chip bison and tag cattle.  We can drive truck and trailers, fourwheelers, dirt bikes, tractors, and fast horses.

I’m not saying that women prevail over men.  There are some amazing men in this world and we sure need them.  I’m also not saying that we don’t need secretaries and cooks.  What I am saying girls, is that whatever you want to do, whatever you want to be, do it. Be it. Because you can and you will. There’s nothing you can’t do or be if you try hard enough.  I know everyone says that and it’s hard to believe at times, I was there once too.  But let me assure you it’s true.  Be tough girls, you got this.

The speech I won’t give

Having just checked my email which was long overdue, I saw an email asking for nominations for an Ag Advocacy award.  The winner is invited to speak at an upcoming leadership conference.  While I am a day past the deadline to nominate or be nominated, it got me thinking about what I would say if I had to give a speech about ag advocacy.

So here it is:

By this time I’m sure all of you have been preached to a countless number of times to “tell your story” and “start the ag conversation.”  I’m sure you’ve also been told to be civil, open to questions, and walk away from those whose mind is already made up, concentrate your energy on those open to learning and hearing our story.  While I 100% back all of those statements and feel it is never too many times reiterated, I also want to throw some new things at you as to not sound like just another broken record.

The first thing that I would like to ask is that in your efforts to blog, instagram, tweet, etc. make sure that you are reaching beyond your fellow farmer and rancher.  Those most interested in reading these posts are typically those already familiar with what you are writing/posting.  Challenge yourself to reach beyond our peers by doing things like tagging more widely known or popular topics like “food” or “animals” instead of our go-to “farming” or “ranching.”  “Like” other twitter, instagram, or what have you accounts to show your face to them, maybe it will spark interest in what you are posting, “f4f, follow for follow” right?

My second, possibly more important challenge is that you take time on your own to research and gain more knowledge on hot topics that people are interested in or might ask you.  You by no means have to have all of the answers and if you don’t, please don’t make anything up and PLEASE follow up as much as you can with answers.  However, it would be a great idea to make a list of topics such as antibiotics, hormones, cage-free, farrowing crates, etc. and come up with quick elevator speech responses (emphasis on quick-you want them to take something away, not loose interest, and no jargon or crazy science terms).  For example, if someone asks about antibiotics in milk, you can respond with something like “no grade A milk organic, conventional or otherwise contains antibiotics.  Did you know that milk is tested 9 times before it hits your grocery store shelf?  There is a no-tolerance policy, no trace of antibiotic allowed or the whole tank gets dumped.”  There are always new topics, new policies, and new things to learn, but if we aren’t interested and staying up-to-date, why should they?

In summary, do stay civil, but show your passion, reach beyond your peers, and be prepared to engage in the conversation once it is started, be ready to answer questions.  I’ll leave you with something I learned from Michele Payn-Knoper, author of No more food fights at a conference, my promise to agriculture is to give people facts and information to make their own informed decisions about food and farming, what’s your promise?

Plane crash

Did you hear about the plane that didn’t crash?  The plane that landed safely on the ground such as planned?

No probably not.

You only hear about the rare plane that does crash because it makes for a story.  According to statisticbrain.com, the odds of being killed by a plane crash is 1 in 29 million.  So, I wouldn’t say that planes crashing are the norm, would you?

This same reasoning can be applied to agriculture.

You see posts or hear about a farm abusing their livestock.  These people are horrific and should be punished to the full extent of the law.  However, this is NOT the norm.  These rare, awful stories get the media attention, but like a plane crash they are just that-rare.  You hardly ever hear about the normal farms that do the right thing, care for their livestock and the land, and provide for their communities and the world.

Please form your own opinions. Get your own facts and get the full story.

Contact your local farm bureau to see about farm tours in the area or visit one of these websites:

If you have questions, please ask! If you have facts to share or a website to contribute, please share!

Thank you for caring!


Drovers cattle network just challenged the question “why do you do what you do?”

My why is my grandfather.

He was trustworthy and responsible.  He was a story-teller.  He was a hand-shake back when hand-shakes meant something.  He was holding hands under the pillow with my grandmother for 71 years straight with absolutely no falter.  He was yes sir, yes ma’am, treat your woman like a lady.  He was hardworking, done isn’t good enough until it’s done right.  He was name any tree, shrub, plant in sight nature-lover.  He was a get out and be something man.  He was a history buff.  He was a cow breeder.  He was a horse trainer.  He was a maple-syrup award winner.

He was a farmer, a machinist, and a livestock care-giver.

He was the best man I ever knew.

If growing up with the land, get your hands dirty, work for a living agriculture can make that kind of man,

I think we all could use a little bit of it.

Small Town USA

Small Town USA.

Overly highlighted in media.

Under appreciated every day.

I travel. More than most and less than some. What I mean by travel is that I don’t fly in, touch down, go to meetings, and fly back home. I drive. I drive through states, through counties, through small towns connected with funny names. I drive over mountains, through passes and hollers, through prairies and valleys.

And the thing that I have taken away most from all of this is

Thank God for city people.

If we didn’t have people that didn’t mind being packed in like sardines, people that are happy catching a bus to work everyday, people that thrive on upbeat, lights flashing, always humming cities, then we wouldn’t have small town USA as we now know it.

Driving across America makes you realize how much of America truly is made up of these small towns. These breathtaking countryside views, these rolling hills with hidden barns, these one stop sign towns where cops pull you over if they don’t recognize your vehicle, where they take the time to help you if you need it, where whole communities get together for a cause when they need to. This is what America truly is.

People may say that it’s boring, people may say that living there you’ll never get anywhere in life, people may say that gossip goes around faster than wild fire and they may be right.

But I’ll take it.