Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Luxurious Life

The other night I decided to work with one of my horses and do some fundamental practice with neck reining, developing gaits, giving to leg pressure, and other riding attributes. She was already broke and very gentle-knew how to take cues and respond to handling, but just needed some time to get her polished. As I finished up my workout with her, I proceeded to take her out to the small pasture behind our house and just ride around for fun. After making a couple laps around the 15 acres or so, I stopped her on the rise in the pasture and sat there for a while. The sun was easing it's way closer to the horizon on my left, glowing more and more each minute and casting it reflective shade on the nearby trees and grass. A herd of cattle were peacefully grazing to my right, enjoying the cooler weather of the evening. And ahead of me was our pond, with still waters, spotted by shadows of trees along its edge. As I sat there, the slight breeze circled my head and birds whistled back in the trees and brush. I was at that moment so thankful for the wonderful creation around me and the opportunity to be amidst the beauty while sitting atop my horse. I simply relished the moment and thanked God for the blessings of not only the sights and sounds around me, but the opportunity to experience these wonderful things by living in the country.
I count it not only a blessing, but a privilege to call the county line gravel road my home. It is truly rewarding and enjoyable to work off the land and reap the benefits of the country life. Throughout the seasons, in rainy weather and in drought, through snow, mud, ice and floods, there is something remarkable about being surrounded by nature and livestock. Whether it's driving through the cows on a summer evening, riding your horse down a gravel road, plowing up a field for springtime planting or sitting in the combine cab looking across a field of 7 foot tall corn, the sights, sounds, and smells of the backroads and fields can never be replicated or replaced.
It is an honor to provide beef for the people of this nation and the world and it's reassuring to know your neighbor will always be someone you can turn to for a helping hand.
In visiting with a friend yesterday, we discussed how it would be for a city dweller to spend a week in the country. Would they enjoy the experience or despise it? Would it be challenging for them to be 15 miles from the closest gas station and 30 minutes from a McDonalds or Walmart? Would they learn the different lifestyle or would it be too much out of their comfort zone to even adapt? Granted, there are folks who simply cannot leave the city and have to be surrounded by people, cars, noise and business. But how would their view change if they took a drive down a backwoods gravel road and spent of the evening on the back porch watching the dogs play, enjoying the beautiful sunset and listening to coyotes howl at dusk?
Too many times I think we take for granted where God places us and what blessings we receive by living in the country. There really is something to be said for, pardon the redneck context, being able to walk in the backyard in your pajamas!
I hope I never have to submit myself to living within city limits, but that God allows me to plant my roots in the back 40, thirty minutes from Walmart and Sonic, surrounded by good, faithful neighbors and a scenic backyard view of the cows.

So what do you enjoy most about the country? What blessings do you derive out of the lifestyle of the gravel road residence? And what kind of experience do you think our friends in the city would have if they spent a week as your pickup truck passenger and right man farm hand?

Until next time, you'll find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We're a Big Family!

This last weekend I was able to help out with the Missouri Cattleman's Association All-Breeds Jr. Show in Sedalia, Mo. Attending this show is always a treat for me, because not only am I able to help out a great Jr. organization and support the next generation of beef producers, but it allows me opportunity to be around fellow cattle producers. These events are like family reunions for me because I've grown up and spent most of my summers competing and sharing memories with many of these families. We all share something that creates a strong bond and a closeness among us.
It's more than just producing cattle that brings us together. It's not just the common ties to agriculture that connect our hearts. It's the friendship that we have based on how we were raised. It's the knowledge that we can depend on one another to not only be supportive as friends, but as producers. We can trust each other to market our product, carry our vision and strive for the same goals. We have the same passions, motivations and dreams for our families and our industry.
I know many industries are like this: beef, dairy, pork, equine, crop, etc. But how many times do these industries share the same relations and friendship between one another? How often do we work together to promote agriculture in general and how many times do we really on each other to watch our back? Yes, the agriculture industries have united in recent years to face challenges from animal rights activists, government regulations and other obstacles. But I believe too many times we are more concerned about our own safety and goals to really ensure lasting sustainability for the whole agriculture community.
Take the organic vs. modern production practices. Without a doubt, there are benefits to both methods as well as drawbacks. But I'm saddened that the two groups can't combine their efforts to promote and boost agriculture in general, rather than trying to accuse and downplay each other on various issues. I will admit that I favor the modern production practices for various reasons. That doesn't mean I don't understand, respect and see a need for quality niche marketing. At the same time, I realize that there are wholesome benefits and rewards to raising livestock and crops on smaller scales using historic methods that are not see in modern production. But the problem is both groups find the need and boldness to accuse the other for their methods, beliefs and practices when issues arise and people ask questions. People feel good when they raise enough produce, beef and pork to feed their family and they know the food was raised safely and properly. At the same time, large feedlots and confinement operations are essential to providing enough food to feed this entire country and world. And both methods are done with very strict guidelines and protocols. The agriculture industry needs both groups.
If we expect to survive as an industry, we have to lay our minor differences aside and focus on the important goal-promoting agriculture. It doesn't matter if you prefer organic, grass finished or grain finished, cage free eggs or gestation crates. What's crucial is that we encourage consumers to trust the supply chain, not matter what method and help them understand that US agriculture is responsible for producing high quality and affordable food and fiber.
Everything is always enjoyable when it involves a family. I think that's why I love being in agriculture so much-no matter what industry it is, your feel like you're a part of something important. We're all in this together, so let's get together and have a big family reunion!!

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Golden Grain

I watched it change color and grow day by day, transitioning from a pale green-tan mixture to a creamy yellow to a golden bronze. The heads waved in the wind like a sea and gave blackbirds a place to rest. As the time for harvest approached and dust filled the air, combines crawled across the fields of wheat-the golden grain.
Wheat is averaging 60-70 b/acre for this
West Central Mo farmer
Upon visiting with a neighboring farmer, I was reminded of the importance and the delicate nature of this small grain. Their one farm alone harvested 200 acres this year. Although this is quite a small area in comparison to 1,000 acre wheat farms in the West, my neighbor was stating they were averaging 60-70 bushels/acre. Added up, this comprises approximately 784,000 pounds of wheat harvested!! He continued to share that the weather had affected their harvest in both good and bad ways. Due to the early and mild warm weather they experienced, the wheat had seen amazing growth. But the dry conditions experienced in the recent weeks made the wheat mature almost too fast-as the grain in their last field was quite hard. More moisture would have increased yields slightly, but nevertheless the season had gone amazingly well. They had to evaluate the dryness or moisture of the crop, combined with market prices they could attain, and analyze which fields were most ready each day to determine how to collect the best harvest and make the most profit.
Wheat will be used to make flour for food
When I think about how important is was to these farmers to monitor and manage the condition of their crop and their resources, carefully planning when to plant, and when to harvest, I am reminded of how God strategically and methodically does the same with His children. Those that are not saved are shown witnesses to plant seeds and nurture growth at just the right time. Like some fields, some people are too dry for planting at times. But once seed for the right person is planted at the right time, the seed begins to grow. Then, after days, or months, or maybe even years, the seed is finally mature, the person is ready and the harvest for God is made-salvation occurs. In perfect timing, the greatest reward is made.
As you go throughout your week, keep your eyes and ears open for the chance to plant a seed in a prepared field and watch it grow. In the same way, remember the thousands of farmers across the nation who are watching their own seed, waiting for the perfect time to harvest. And next time you eat a slice of bread, put crackers in your soup or bake a cake, thank those same people who made that possible!

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!