The following is a guest post by my good friend Nicky Tiffany who writes from a Kansas feedyard.
When the Kansas Livestock Association called to ask if we'd serve as a host family for the Kansas Farm Food Connection "Get The Dirt" Contest giving one lucky urban family a behind the scenes, fun packed day on the farm, we said "Of course!"...
And then the madness ensued!
You know what I'm talking about- What will they want to do? Do we need to feed everyone? Will they come to the house or just the feedyard? Exactly HOW many people are coming? Wait a minute... What did we just agree to??
As the follow up calls were made and weather reports reviewed, I realized yes, yes I do need to scour the house, plant every bush and shrub known to man to create the perfect curb appeal (ok muddy gravel road appeal), check Pinterest for an awesome welcome gift and ideas to entertain 16 people and stuff ALL our junk into every hideyhole I had... Oh, and then they calmly said that they will be filming the day too- ahhh!!
In all reality meeting and connecting to families that don't have the opportunity to cuss the dirt and smell the farm is one of my passions. It's one of the areas I feel deserves more attention than it often gets. Consumers, including our family, want to know about where and how their food is grown, handled and harvested.
And while I'm aware that terms like Confined Animal Feeding Operations (farms that have 1000 head of livestock or more in one location) and "factory farms" are regularly and negatively misused to mean the same thing, in reality, 97% of beef farms and ranches are family owned just like us. So exposing your family & operation to the world- remember I said they wanted to FILM us- can be very scary!
The truth of the matter is that animals can be messy, kids can be messy, husbands (Shawn's arguing in my ear while I write) can be messy... And what if this family didn't like "messy"?!
Even so, after the initial panic wore off, I compromised with my inner perfectionist, gave everyone a good scrub in the tub and made sure things were mostly tidy when Saturday morning rolled around.
So here's a run down of what really happened and what really happens each and every day in the feedyard:
1.) Beef it's what's for breakfast, right?! Steak burritos and blueberry scones for all.
2.) Admire impromptu rain shower followed by a full rainbow over the grazing steers in our pasture (God's reminder that He's got it under control).
3.) Take a drive to look at the crops growing that will ultimately be used in rations for the cattle.
4.) "Read Bunks" aka assess how the cattle have eaten the previous days' pass of feed.
5.) Determine what and how the cattle should be fed for the day and begin feeding.
6.) Begin checking cattle via horseback for health and pens for maintenance and repair.
7.) This time of year we are also busy cutting and harvesting our wheat fields and replanting those acres to a fall crop, that is if the weather remains dry, which it has not.
8.) Repeat and get ready to do it all again tomorrow!
So there you have it- that's our daily life in a feedyard and how we "entertained" our guests. And you know what? It was muddy, we got dirty, and I believe they enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them! I was reminded that life can be messy for everyone and sometimes that's the one thing we have in common!
Connecting the dots between our families isn't as hard as it can seem at first glance. Bridging the gap between city folk and country kids is nothing more than listening, being genuine and friendly. And remembering that a little dirt is good for the soul wherever you may live!
Ps. The following is a link to the video we made after the visit!
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