My earliest memories of living on a farm included a lot of daydreaming. Sometimes I would pick blades of grass and sneak it to the bulls through the fence. Other times I pretended to do chores, carrying an icecream bucket half full of corn to feed it to the calves. Often, I would sit in the hay feeder and let the curious heifers come sniff my coat and my boots. As I grew older, I didn't quit daydreaming, but I did become more involved in the family operation. As a teen, I helped Dad select A.I. sires, talk with our seedstock customers, monitor for sick calves and even made time for waterfights with my little sisters. All of these things became a part of my life, and these are memories that I cherish. However, looking back now, life on a cattle operation didn't come without great sacrifice.
Living on a farm isn't picture perfect. Neverending chores take a chunk out of each day. Calving season kept us up until the wee hours of the night saving new calves. Baling hay was a part of a long, sweaty summer day out in the field. Having the responsibility to take care of someone other than yourself is all about living on a cattle ranch. I remember having to skip a movie night out with friends or a sleepover because of ranch activities. I remember being snowed in my house for days during blizzards with nothing to do but scoop out feed bunks and keep the waterers thawed out. I remember having to take my show steers to the meat locker at the end of the summer, leading them off the trailer myself. I remember cleaning out barns by hand and fixing fence all day long. The fun times and the challenging times are all a part of me now. The joys, the pain, the rewards and the sacrifice. Like all food producers, agriculture life shapes our core values.
Maybe if you haven't grown up on a farm, you might question the lifestyle: Why would you want to grow up like that? The answer is simple: despite the heartaches, the troubled times, the difficulties, and the sacrifices. I wouldn't trade this for anything in the world. Living and working on a cattle ranch has taught me the importance of responsibility to livestock, to the environment, to my family, and to my American heritage. It instilled in me a great understanding of the circle of life, and that the animals I loved would help nourish and feed the world. So when animal rights activists and consumers question the wholesomeness of rural America, I have to beg to differ. When is the last time they did chores, took care of cattle through a blizzard, or worked to feed others? Farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists and animal stewards; animal rights activists just blow smoke. Want to meet someone that truly cares about the land and animals? Talk to a farmer or rancher. They are living proof that the heart of America is made of strong people working hard to produce a quality, safe nutritious product to put at the center of the plate.
Quick Daily Beef Fact: In comparison to the wholesome, nurturing farmers and ranchers, groups like PETA and HSUS seem heartless and cruel in their desire to abolish animal agriculture. Check out PETA Kills Animals and Activist Cash to learn more.