Happy Mother's Day to my Mother-in-Law

The other day I was asked about marriage advice and I said-pick your mother-in-law not your spouse. While I don't really mean that, I think it's definitely worth thinking about. If she is the type of woman that a daughter-in-law can look up to, she probably raised her babies to be good men. I made a scrapbook for her over our wedding and I wrote on it saying, "thank you for raising your baby boy to be the man of my dreams." Margaret 100% did this! Her baby boy while incredibly infuriating most of the time, is My Forever and I can attribute a lot of that to Margaret. She has the biggest service-oriented heart there is. I read about so many young wives on bad terms with their MILs. I'm SO blessed to have an AMAZING relationship with mine. Margaret is always asking how she can help me. She works in town and is gone 12 plus hours most days, but if I'm around her house when she gets home (and if I'm not around she will text/call), she ALWAYS asks what she can do for me so Matt and I can get home earlier. She asks if she can make me supper. She asks how my day was. If we have a family dinner for my side of the family, she makes sure to ask what can be done so we can leave on time. A lot of the time she even offers to make food for us to take (that might be her thinking of everyone else so they don't have to eat my cooking, not about saving me time). I cannot say enough nice things about her! If you have ever met Margaret, you have met a saint! I hope to be as generous as she is. I hope one day (very far down the road) that I can be a mother-in-law like her. I'm terrible at cards and giving gifts, but I hope she knows that she is an AMAZING woman and I'm so incredibly blessed to have her in my life. I'm so glad that I fell in love with her son.

I hope you all took a moment today to love on your mother, mother-in-laws and women in your lives. They certainly deserve it! Mother are incredible and I'm SO happy that I have two amazing mom role models in my life! I love you! 

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Dear Mom,

How do I start? Mother's Day is a wonderful opportunity to thank you for what you have done for me and given me. With Kristen having 3 kids now, I do not know how you did what you did, with very little help. You were growing a farm with dad (being 50% of the labor force) while tending, caring and teaching 3 kids the farm lifestyle. You worked outside all day only to come in the house to feed, wash and put us to bed. Your day, however, was far from over. You washed the dishes, folded laundry, swept floors. Still not done, you then sat down for the first time in the day, usually after 10, not to watch TV and unwind, but to do all the paperwork that a farm required. You payed bills, filed papers, did taxes. Then maybe you laid down for a few hours, tossing and turning all night before getting up early the next day to do it all again. And you did this all at about 1/3-1/2 older than the "normal" parenting age. How you dealt with the stress-the debt, the never-ending thousands of dollar questions, the 2 kids (we know I don't count in the stressful part because I always was an angel), the very long hours for years on end, very few breaks, I will NEVER know. I never remember being babysat, except for the sleepovers with Grandma. YOU ARE MY HERO, MOM. 

In the past few years, I've loved how our relationship has changed and matured. Our conversations have changed and how I've loved them. You are my first phone call with most problems, big or small. Most trips to your house end in hours of heart to heart conversations. You are an amazing woman that has showed me what hard work looks like. You've showed me a life filled with hard work, love and perseverance. You and Dad started with nothing and have built your empire. You will forever be the person I can call day or night about anything big or small. You are the person that will shoot me straight, but walk with me through it. 

Mom, I want you to have fun with your life. I want you to not have so much stress. I want you to do what YOU want to do. There are millions of people today telling their mom that they are the best, but I know when I say you are the best it's deeply heart felt and I'm not writing these words just because. Honestly, you probably won't even read this, but I want the world to know how incredible you are. 

I love you!

Kelsey

Beef Month

May is Beef Month! Awesome month to celebrate what we do for a living. This blog is going to be devoted to beef and how it gets from our farm to your plate and a few of the differences between natural, organic, grass fed, etc.

Cattle are ruminant animals. They have four stomach compartments. There are only a few ruminant animals. They include cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer, elk, giraffes and camels. We are able to utilize a lot of our Earth because of ruminant animals. We, as monogastrics, are unable to utilize a lot of the Earth's vegetation. Ruminant animals, such as cattle, are able to convert this unusable land into high quality protein and milk products.

Producers spend a lot of time and money figuring out the best ration for their cattle. As I've explained before, producers have to figure out an economical solution (so they can stay in business), but also because we care about the livestock in our care, figure out a solution that is healthy for our cattle. Our source of income is from these cattle. Sick cattle don't pay. That's why we spend so much time and money ensuring that the cattle are healthy, being fed a balanced diet and have proper shelter and clean water. It's getting close to summer in northeast Kansas. We've had a few days over 90 degrees. It's important for our livestock to have shade to stand under and an adequate water supply.

Now to discuss natural, grass-fed and organic beef. Okay to be very honest with you I know very little about the guidelines for the different types. So to the internet I went.

http://www.explorebeef.org/beefchoices.aspx

This is the website I primarily used. It had a lot of good information on it and would encourage you to visit it.It's structured the same way I'm going to structure my explanation. I'm just going to give a summary of what they explained in detail on their website.

GRAIN FED BEEF:
The most common type of beef raised and harvested. These cattle are finished on a grain based ration. They spend approximately 4-6 months in a feedyard being fed (normally twice a day) a ration including either corn, soybeans, milo, distillers, wheat. This is usually mixed with some hay or silage. Many people prefer their meat is fed a grain based diet shortly before harvest. When this is done, the meat is much more tender and juicy giving the consumer greater satisfaction.

NATURAL BEEF:
There's a couple different pieces to this. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service will allow beef to be labeled natural if the meat doesn't have any

  • artificial flavor or flavoring
  • coloring ingredient
  • chemical preservative
  • any other artificial or synthetic ingredient or 
  • the product and its ingredients aren't more than minimally processed.

What you have to keep in mind is that these guidelines are ONLY for AFTER harvest. It has nothing to do with the way the animal was raised which means the producer has no control over this labeling of natural. It's simply how the meat is processed. Most meats are considered natural by government standards.

The other piece to this is a newer piece. It's the piece that the producer has control over. The naturally raised portion. USDA published a voluntary standard for naturally raised livestock in January of 2009. This allows for third-party verification. So what does naturally raised mean? Well, by the definition that USDA Agricultural Marketing Service certifies it means that the cattle have never received 

  • growth promotants 
  • supplemental hormones
  • have never been administered antibiotics and 
  • were not fed animal by-products. 

A lot fewer animals can meet this certification. If cattle get sick, they are given antibiotics. If they aren't given these, they die. I'm not going to let the cattle in my care die because they got sick and I'm unwilling to give them medicine that will get them better. 

GRASS FED/GRASS-FINISHED BEEF:
This refers to how the cattle were raised. As is pretty obvious in the title, these cattle are fed grass only. Most cattle spend a large majority of their lives in pastures eating grass.The difference is in the finishing stage. To be certified grass fed beef the animal remains on the grass and forage diet their entire lives rather than being moved into a feedlot operation. USDA published certain standards and guidelines that must be followed to have their cattle considered to be grass fed beef. They must be fed a grass and forage diet for the animal's entire life. This is in exception of the milk consumed prior to the calf's weaning. It is very, very, very difficult to produce a large quantity of grass fed beef. This is due to the seasonality of grasses. Grass-finished beef is normally more expensive and some of the grass-fed beef sold in the U.S. may be imported from countries with more temperate climates. Remember, whenever you push for more regulation or want more of this type of beef, it may have to be imported. When products are imported, consumers have little to no say about how that animal is raised. Some countries have different standards for their certification program we have. That could be better in some cases, but a lot worse in others.

ORGANIC BEEF:
The meat that is labeled certified organic must be from cattle that meet USDA National Organic Program livestock requirements. Any of the previously explained types of meat can qualify for the organic program. The standards for organic beef include...
 

  • cattle must be fed certified organic feed, but may be given certain vitamins and minerals
  • Cattle may not be given growth promotants or receive any antibiotics. Any animal that is treated with antibiotics to ensure its health is removed from the National Organic Program.
  • Organically raised cattle must have access to pasture. They may be temporarily confined for specific reasons. (Most cattle in the US meet this requirement. Most of the cattle raised in this country are in pastures for a majority of their lives.)

So that gives you a little about each type of beef. I had to do research because I was unsure of the different guidelines and criteria to be considered for the different types. The following website has some more information about beef and a lot more statistics if you would like more information.

http://www.explorebeef.org/CMDocs/ExploreBeef/Choices%20of%20Beef_Final.pdf

I was reading on one website (don't remember which one), but it was saying that there is room for all the different types and ways of raising and processing beef. The meat raised in the US is safe and healthy for us to consume. However, I encourage you to research thoroughly with several different websites, books and actual live human beings before believing anything you read about any of the different methods. If you want to eat just grass-fed, that's your choice. BUT, make sure you understand what you are supporting, know why you are supporting it, and don't believe, just because you read it on one website that cows don't naturally eat corn. If you want to see that that is a plain lie come visit us any time! We'll show you just how happy those cows go for something that taste delicious to them. Research what you're supporting and if you still want to only eat grass-fed beef, great! Just know the facts!

Thanks so much for supporting us. If you would press the share button, we would be SO grateful! Anyone that mentions this blog before May 15, 2018, will receive 5% off our products, excluding ground beef and eggs! Thank you so much!!

Farmer's Market-What Do All the Labels Mean?

Tis the season for Farmers Markets! We’re excited to have a permanent stall at the Downtown Topeka Farmers Market this year with our beef, eggs and produce. 

There is a lot of information out there and it can be confusing and almost scary to buy food. I don’t want that to be the case for you (or me) so I have compiled a short list of what to look for at farmers market. Remember, just because you’re at a farmers market in your local town doesn’t mean that the products were grown by the vendor, in the state or even this country. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just know what you’re buying! 

 

Homegrown?

First, are you looking for a product that is grown locally by the vendor? Every market has different rules and regulations about how far the products can come from. Watch the signs. Most markets require their vendors to use signage about where their products were grown. If you don’t see a sign saying something like “shipped in” or “homegrown”, don’t be afraid to ask the vendor. We as vendors, are there to serve YOU, the market goer. NEVER be nervous to ask questions-any and all questions. If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions, maybe that’s a sign that you aren’t a good fit with the vendor. At most markets, there are multiple vendors selling the same products, so try another one. Good vendors aren’t there only to sell a product-we are passionate about what we have and what we are growing. We want to share why we are there. We want you to feel confident about your food choices! 

 

Cage free/Free Range

My Forever and I decided we were going to get into the chicken business last April after we decided to start going to the farmers market. Neither of us had ever been around chickens and we knew NOTHING! Matt was going to build a chicken trailer that we could move around, rather than having a set chicken coop that we couldn’t move. My Forever is kind of addicted to checking craigslist and found a trailer and 6-7 week old chickens included. He went and got it that day and we were in the chicken business! Our trailer has a photosynthetic door on it so it opens automatically in the morning and closes at night. Chickens are huge prey animals and pretty easy targets. Possums, raccoons, birds, dogs-really anything-can kill them easily. Chickens “go to bed” at night. They go into their home when it’s getting dark instinctively. We are rarely home at night before it gets dark which is why we love the automatic door! Our chickens are pasture raised (they can go ANYWHERE! We have their trailer we move around our acreage, and when that door opens they can go wherever they went.) They will roam and forage, normally in a flock for protection all day, but will go back to their home right before dark because they know that door closes and they are locked out. If they get locked out, their chances of getting ate by a predator are MUCH higher. It’s amazing how smart they are and know how to stay safe. When we first got them, they were about 6-7 weeks old and didn’t really know how to go back in trailer and what to do. We used a fence for about 3 weeks to give them limited access to the outdoors, but so they couldn’t go all over. This was their training period. It took about 2 weeks for them all to figure out to go inside before the door shut. For the first few weeks whenever My Forever and I got home we would spend 5-10 minutes crawling on the ground under the trailer to put the birds inside. The ones that hadn’t made it inside before the door closed would “roost” on the axles of the trailer. So one of us would crawl under and hand out chickens for the other to put inside. It took about 2 solid weeks for us coming home every night and going crawling for chickens for them to figure out they had to go inside. Since then, they know to go inside. When we move the trailer, it normally takes a couple nights for them to figure out where their home moved to. We find them roosting on the ground where the trailer “should be”. We LOVE our chickens. They are SO easy to take care of and we know the benefits of having our fresh eggs. The chickens keep the bug, mosquito and fly population WAY down. Downside-we don’t have them potty trained so they do poop on our deck. They scratch at the ground to get to the bugs so do tear some grass up. Neither My Forever and I like mowing so we’re pretty ok with it. 

Anyway, back to what to labels and knowing what you are buying at the farmers market. 

Free Range (by USDA standards) simply means the chickens have access to the outdoors. So we all picture these birds being on lush, green pastures being super happy hens. While this is really what our chickens are and can do anything and go anywhere they want to, not all eggs labeled free range actually come from hens that go outside. They just have to have access to the outdoors. Sometimes these areas are screened areas with little grass in them. So even if the hens have access to outdoors, they might not go.

Cage free: These birds, again under USDA standards, can’t be locked in a cage. They have room to move, walk and flap their wings. They don’t have access to outdoors. 

Pasture Raised: Okay-this is a new one to me. I hadn’t heard the definition of this one yet. But I’m going to amend our marketing to using pasture raised instead of simply free range. Our hens, as previously stated, are allowed to go anywhere they want. We do live in Kansas so they aren’t on green pasture year round simply because we don’t have green grass all year, but the door goes up automatically at dawn and those hens go anywhere and eat anything they want until it’s time to go to bed. But of note, this term is not regulated by any agency so be sure to ask the vendor what it means to them. 

To sum up the egg section of this-it all depends on what you’re looking for. I don’t often share other websites, especially those that I don’t know the creator, but I did find this one summed it up pretty good and thought was pretty fair to all. It goes further into detail to sum up a few more labels and if you’re on a budget what the best use of your money is when it comes to labels and buying your eggs. (https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/food/cage-free-vs-free-range-vs-pastured-eggs/)

Our marketplace demands a lot of different products so it is 100% what you’re looking for. The author of this explains if you’re on a budget and looking for the most reasonably priced egg, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between conventionally raised eggs and cage free eggs, except the price. Producers have figured out the “buzz” words, but it isn’t necessarily much different for the actual hen. If you’re looking for eggs from hens that are out and about on grass and can forage and basically do what they want…that is currently being called pasture raised. These hens could still have a fence around them, but should have green grass. Again it isn’t regulated by anyone. At the farmers market, YOU are the boss. YOU get to ask the questions. Ask how the hens are raised, what they call “home”, how often they get to go outside, what they go outside to, where do they lay their eggs, etc. Ask WHATEVER you want to ask because you are the one that needs to feel comfortable feeding your families and we all have different ideas about what is best. 

 

Beef: Grass-fed/Grass-finished/Conventional

Just like everything else, there are a lot of options for buying beef. Again I’m going to start this section with…ASK QUESTIONS! The United States is SO blessed with our food choices. Most of us no longer question where our next meal is going to come from, we’re now focusing on how it was raised. On our operation, we have our calves from beginning to end. From the time the calf is born, to the time that it is harvested, they are on our farm. That means, we control all parts of how that calf is treated, how it is fed and how much stress is put on it. Our cows are always on grass, the calves are on grass a large majority of their lives. They are finished on corn that is produced on our farm. The corn adds the marbling and really brings the taste. We have been marketed that grass finished is better for us. I encourage you to do your research into that. Our corn (some non-GMO) is produced on soil that is getting better, not worse. We put in a great deal of time and money to improving our soil so that we can grow nutritious food. It’s interesting to see the research on how much of our food quality and nutrition is directly tied to what soil it was produced in. Not WHERE, but HOW that soil is treated. Our soil has a living root in the ground as much of the year as possible. We are feeding the bugs and good stuff in soil so that the soil will support us and grow high quality food. Just because cattle are finished on grass doesn’t mean that the animal was well cared for. We are in Kansas and have a winter period where grass doesn’t grow. When the grass isn’t growing, we have to supplement with hay. The quality and nutrition in that hay has a lot to do with how and when the hay was harvested. If you want to buy grass-finished, that’s great. Again, we’re so blessed to have that opportunity, but ask the questions-don’t just assume it is a superior product. It’s all about marketing. Most beef grown has been grass-fed. So if you’re looking for a product that hasn’t ever been given anything, but grass, you must ask the questions. A lot of the time grass-finished producers supplement with grains of some sort in order to provide protein to their cattle. Just know what you’re buying and don’t be tricked into spending more of your hard-earned money on what you don’t want. ASK QUESTIONS!

SUMMARY:

Did you see a theme through this? I hope so…I hope it was to ASK QUESTIONS! YOU are the boss at farmers markets. Most of the vendors LOVE their products, are passionate about how and why it was produced and simply want to share it with the rest of the world. If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions of the vendor, move to a different vendor. We want you to have a great experience and be happy leaving the market with zero buyers remorse. I would LOVE to share our eggs and beef and other products with you, but above all, I want to share about our life and answer YOUR questions. I want you to be excited about the food you consume and feed your families and not worried about whether you bought the right thing or wrong thing for your family. Come see me this Saturday at the Downtown Topeka’s Farmers Market and ask the questions you have! If I don’t know the answer, I’m going to be honest with you and tell you I don’t know, but I am positive that I will know somebody that does know the answer! My hope is this answered some of your questions about all the different labels and what they all mean. If you got some benefit out of this, please share with your family and friends and leave me a comment. It really means SO much to me to have you all in this community! Thank you!!

Why do I call Matt, My Forever?

My favorite hashtag is #worktogetherstaytogether. I'm so blessed to be able to work with My Forever every day. So many Americans only see their spouses for a few hours in the evening and on the weekends. I get to be with mine everyday. Of course, we aren't together every second, but I get to see him multiple times a day and normally eat lunch with him. I love that we get to do this. I love that we're blessed enough to be able to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a farmer. I love that we get to see and be together so much more than we would if we both had "regular" jobs. Can you see where this is going? While I am so blessed and so happy to be able to have this time with him and be able to work together to achieve his dreams, not everyday is sunshine and roses. This week has been a rougher week. Maybe it's the impending harvest that has us stressed, maybe it's the start of the fall calving season, maybe it's everything that needs done outside of harvest, maybe it's having cows to take care of, maybe it's the fact that we haven't had very much moisture, maybe it's none of those things. I don't know.

What I do know is that this week I have had to look at the wedding band Matt placed on my finger almost four years ago that hasn't come off since then, only to clean every 6 months and the one time I got it stuck on a wire fence and bent it really bad and My Forever had to use his pliers to get it off my finger so we could make it round again and restore circulation to my finger, and remind myself of the vows that we wrote to each other. I am not one of those people that believe that there is only one person for everybody and we all have our soul mate. I believe that we make a choice when we get married. I made a choice almost four years ago to love My Forever for the rest of my forever. Hence why I refer to him as My Forever. I knew there would be hard days. Maybe in my naive brain, I probably didn't think there would be as many hard days as there has been, even in the short time we've been married. I leave my wedding band on ALL the time because it reminds me that even though he pisses me off SO easily and he hurts my feelings with certain comments and he doesn't do things that I think he should, WE chose-both him and I-to spend forever together. The rings we place on our spouses fingers the day we vow to spend forever together don't have a beginning or an end, they represent eternity. My ring already has blemishes to it. It has the memories that I immediately think of when I look at it-My Forever placing it on my finger on our wedding day-a day that far surpassed my biggest dreams of a wedding, the honeymoon (right in the middle of harvest that he left the farm and went on with me because I wanted an October wedding-yes a week right in the middle of soybean harvest and he chose me), having to use it to hold a cable to a battery to fill the drill, getting it stuck on a gate and almost ripping my finger off and him having to use his pliers to straighten it and get circulation in my finger, but most of all it reminds me that I was chosen for eternity. He CHOSE me. Matt chose ME to spend the rest of his days with. It reminds me that we have eternity to be together and while I'm most definitely not perfect, that does guide my reactions to so many things. I know I over-react about a lot. I'm an incredibly emotional person!! We are both stubborn enough people to make this work. We won't quit. And because divorce is a word that is off the table in our household, I know that even though this has been a crappy week for us as a couple, neither of us are going anywhere. I know we will work it out. I struggle to remind myself that if it's not important in five years, just let it go and don't fight about it. It's SO hard. Everything seems SO huge at the time. Anyway...I have fall cows to go check before it gets dark. Life on the farm is what I'm trying to share with you in these thought bites every week. This week life on the farm has been rough! Reality is reality. This next week will hopefully be better. It will be crazy busy and stressful, but so will the rest of my life. I always said I wasn't going to marry a farmer, but then I fell in love. I love My Forever so much more than he will ever know and he loves the land and farming and I knew that when I married him. I'm sure someday I will look at this post and think how naive I was. How much life has changed and how I won't remember why I was mad at My Forever this week. What I do know is that I will be with My Forever building our future together....Forever. 

Have an awesome week and take care! 

Quick Sunday Post Before Birthday Party

Good morning! This morning I was up before the break of dawn. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It is the day that My Forever is so much more relaxed. Today is a special day because we finally get to celebrate my sisters kids and husband's birthday! My niece's birthday is July 27th, my nephew is August 5th and my brother in law is July 31st. Since my sister had her third baby on July 17th it made it a little more interesting to have their birthday party with a brand new baby. So today is finally the day! We're looking forward to seeing and spending time with them today. 

We are fall calving so the cows always come first. I was up early to check them before leaving. My Forever has some other odd jobs that he wants to get done before leaving. In the farming world, there is always something that needs done. When we were first married, and even now a lot, I would nag Matt and get really upset when he wouldn't follow my schedule and he just HAD to do this one last job. I'm starting to learn, don't ask him I'm sure he would disagree, but if I just give him a little time and don't nag so much, he is in a much better mood when we are ready to leave and he's normally ready sooner than if I was nagging and he was dragging his feet. 

Anyway, it's been a busy week of getting into the routine of checking the fall cows first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Along with all the other farming activities. Soon it will be the start of harvest! Yesterday my mother in law went with me to the farmers market. I'm so blessed in the mother in law category! She is the best!! I always joke with My Forever that we can't ever get divorced because I had the wedding that exceeded my dreams and I have the absolute best mother in law. 

Got to run now to get ready for the party and have an awesome day with my family! Hope you have an awesome day and remember what's important. So much of our country is getting hit with bad weather and storms and fires so keep them all in your thoughts and prayers. Stay safe and have fun! 

Better Water for Our Cows!

This week we have been super busy putting in better water for our cows. In the last three weeks or so we put in two Cobett waterers. These are automatic waterers that stay full. They provide a safe alternative to having to go in the pond for water. These waterers were placed behind a reservoir and use gravity to stay full. There is no electricity or solar power to power them. I find it so neat that we don't need anything, but gravity to make these work. They are put into the ground about 5 feet or so. The actual water storage is a 25-30 gallon trash can. In the middle of that there is a ball that acts as the float so the water doesn't run over the top and make a mud puddle around the waterer. The floating ball also acts as a freeze deterrent in the winer. The idea is that the ball floating back and forth in the wind keeps the water moving and water that is moving is less likely to freeze. I'm so excited about these waterers because it will make the water SO much better and the cows won't have the chance of getting stuck in ditches. Matt and I did most of the work to put these 2 waterers in.

The other more extensive project we did was put in two spring developments. Springs are naturally occurring. We knew there were springs there because there was water on top of the ground, even in severe droughts. We worked closely with our local NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) to get them designed correctly. The engineer worked with us for about a solid week getting these springs developed. We first had to get below the spring. We have an trackhoe that was instrumental in this job. After we got down below the water we put in perforated pipe until we were past the spring. Perforated means there are holes in the pipe that allow the water to enter it. We put rock all around that perforated pipe and it will act as the filter to keep dirt out and the water streaming in. Again, the engineer is instrumental in making sure we are at the right depth and falling the right amount of depth. Then it's simply digging and laying pipe until we get to the spring box. The spring box is a pipe that is set in cement. Then we put the four inch pipe that came from the perforated pipe through one side and then a foot below that on the other side we place two inch pipe. Somehow that helps equalize the water and pressure and something else. Again, that is how why we work with the engineer so that he knows what's going on and I don't have to. Then we take two inch pipe clear to the tank. We used a recycled earth mover tire for the tank. The two inch pipe comes in the bottom of the tire. There is an outflow pipe that goes back out and we dig an outflow line. We cut the outflow pipe off just below the top of the tire so the water goes out the outflow and not over the top of the tank. Again we don't want the water flowing over the top so the cattle would create a mud puddle. Then we cement the inside of the tank to seal it so water won't leak out of the bottom of the tank. Last we put rock around the tank so it will create a solid foundation for the cattle. 

It took a lot of work! It took a lot of time! It took a lot of money! However, I'm also super excited about these because they are the cleanest water you can get and they will allow the cows to have some awesome water without us having to worry or haul water. 

Hopefully that made sense. Hope you had an amazing holiday weekend! I have lots to do yet tonight, and know I'm a day late on only the second week back to blogging, but better late than never is the philosophy I'm going with. Have an amazing rest of the evening and good luck on the start back to your work week!!

I'm Back...!!!

Where does the time go? It is August already...almost September even. Summer is gone-where did it go?! What has happened since May? Haying, cattle, chickens, vacation, waterer installations, and a million and half other things. Summer time means long hours for us. The days are lighter for so much longer making it easier to stay out and work longer. The hot days makes it ideal to check the cows early in the morning or late at night when they aren't in the shade. During the hotter parts of the day we were busy putting up hay for the winter for the cattle. The summer is just an insanely busy time of year on the farm, but let's be real...every season is busy, it's just a different kind of busy.

After we got the hay put up, My Forever and I slipped away for a vacation. Planning vacations and nailing him down on a specific location and definitely a specific time is nearly impossible (amen farmers wives out there?). So booking hotels is always a little tricky. He finally agreed to Galveston, Texas, and I booked an ocean front, or technically I guess it's bay front hotel two days before we left. We left after our Farm Bureau tractor pull, about 9:45p.m. I drove to Oklahoma City or until about 2 am. Matt drove from 2-6 and then I drove the rest of the way. We love traveling at night, especially since we were going through some of the big Texas towns. There is NO traffic in the middle of the night and the nightmares of traffic jams are nonexistent. We hit a bit of traffic in Houston, but it was okay. We were eating breakfast right down the street from our hotel before 9:30 the next morning. It was a gorgeous time away from home, being present with each other and not having the distractions of being home. The water was gorgeous. It was a nice escape from reality for a bit. It sounds like it is not a good place to be right now. Our thoughts are definitely with the people and animals of Texas. 

But it is back to reality now. We've got several things going on. This week we are busy putting in spring development systems so the cattle will have clean and fresh water without having to worry about the ponds and potentially getting stuck. I'm very excited about getting these put in and able to utilize them in our fall herd better. 

Speaking of the fall herd, we will start calving soon. It's still a bit early, but it's on the horizon. Along with calving fall harvest will be here before we know it. There is always something on the farm to do!

Hopefully you have heard by now, or maybe you've come to us because of this, but we're very happy and proud to be able to sell our farm fresh beef and free range eggs directly to consumers now. We have been going to the Topeka Farmers Market. We are excited about this opportunity and being able to connect with consumers and share our delicious meat and eggs that we get to enjoy! 

That's all for today. Like I said, we're doing a lot of work on spring developments which means some extra mouths to feed with some extra help, so doing some meal prepping today to be ready for the week. Be sure to follow us on Facebook (@SustainableBitesLLC) for daily, or almost, live videos featuring what we're doing on our farm. We want to be open and honest with our consumers about what it is like on a family farm. Thank you for sharing a bit of your day with us and inviting us into your lives for just a bit. My goal, I know I know I've said this before, but my goal is to get a new thought bite out every Sunday so stay tuned! I'd love to hear back from you. Tell me what questions you have about our operation or what confuses you when you go to the grocery store or any questions you have for a farmer. I'd love to answer them and deliver the content you want to read! Have an amazing day! 

A tribute to the Grandpa I never had...

When my sisters and I were growing up, we didn’t have a grandpa in our lives. Both of our grandpas had passed away before any of us were born. Our grandma was our one and only grandparent in our lives. Matt grew up a lot different. He had all four grandparents. When Matt and I started dating, his dad’s mom and mom’s dad were still living. Margaret (Matt’s mom) always has Saturday lunches with the grandparents. Willy was a lifelong member of the same community. He was well known. I knew who he was, but hadn’t spent a lot of time around him. So when we were dating and after we were married, one of the very first things I noticed about Willy was how quiet and soft spoken he was. The time that I was around him, he didn’t get worked up about much of anything. He worked hard, loved his family and loved his farm. Willy was an innovator. They said he was one of the first in the region to switch to notill farming. Him and his son that farmed with him, continue to be innovators and not doing the average, but trying the new ways to improve their farm. Willy loved pie. I’m not a baker. However, he would never complain or critique my ugly pies that were uneven and the crust was definitely far from picture perfect. Willy will be missed by many. Today as we lay him to rest in his final resting place, beside his wife that he has missed for ten long years, I will remember him as a farmer and stockman willing to take risks and do what no one else was doing. I will remember him as a family man, raising four children, all of which have been married for 25 plus years-a novelty in this age. I will remember him as a puzzle man. Every time we went to visit him he would try to get us to work on his puzzle with us. Matt is really good at them, me not so much. He ALWAYS had a puzzle out and working on it. I will remember him as a pie lover. It didn’t really matter the kind. I will remember him as a soft spoken man that when he talked you listened. I will remember him as someone who thought it important to be involved in your local community and volunteer on boards and organizations. Willy, you will be missed by so many. As there are tears being shed down here, you are rejoicing with your wife and farming those fertile fields of heaven (and I hope for your sake there are no thistles or trees!) You will be missed! 

Grain fed, Grass fed, Natural & Organic: Take a look at what they all mean

Very big blog to read! Don't miss this one! Couple things to start off...May is Beef Month! Awesome month to celebrate what we do for a living. Second, I've been meaning to do a blog like this, but I'm being prompted by Matt's sister, Melissa. It fits in great with this month being Beef Month. This blog is going to be devoted to beef and how it gets from our farm to your plate and a few of the differences between natural, organic, grass fed, etc.

Cattle are ruminant animals. They have four stomach compartments. There are only a few ruminant animals. They include cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer, elk, giraffes and camels. We are able to utilize a lot of our Earth because of ruminant animals. We, as monogastrics, are unable to utilize a lot of the Earth's vegetation. Ruminant animals, such as cattle, are able to convert this unusable land into high quality protein and milk products.

Moe (Melissa is called this because Matt couldn't say her name when he was little, so he started calling her Moe and it stuck) asked me to address cattle's natural diets. When told that most cattle are finished on a ration including corn, people balk saying corn isn't something cattle would naturally eat. I think the following picture does a fairly good job of dispelling that fact. Those cows in the background you can see came over as soon as they saw this cow was getting a treat. It's like candy to them. Cattle can eat too much of it and get sick just like humans do when they eat too much stuff.

Producers spend a lot of time and money figuring out the best ration for their cattle. As I've explained before, producers have to figure out an economical solution (so they can stay in business), but since it is their life they figure out a solution that is healthy for their cattle. Our source of income is from these cattle. Sick cattle don't pay. That's why we spend so much time and money ensuring that the cattle are healthy, being fed a balanced diet and have proper shelter and water. It's getting close to summer in northeast Kansas. We've had a few days over 90 degrees. It's important for our livestock to have shade to stand under and an adequate water supply.

Now to discuss natural, grass-fed and organic beef. Okay to be very honest with you I know very little about the guidelines for the different types. So to the internet I went.

http://www.explorebeef.org/beefchoices.aspx

This is the website I primarily used. It had a lot of good information on it and would encourage you to visit it.It's structured the same way I'm going to structure my explanation. I'm just going to give a summary of what they explained in detail on their website.

GRAIN FED BEEF:
The most common type of beef raised and harvested. These cattle finished on a grain based ration. They spend approximately 4-6 months in a feedyard being fed (normally twice a day) a ration including either corn, soybeans, milo, distillers, wheat. This is usually mixed with some hay or silage. Many people prefer their meat is fed a grain based diet shortly before harvest. When this is done, the meat is much more tender and juicy giving the consumer greater satisfaction.

NATURAL BEEF:
There's a couple different pieces to this. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service will allow beef to be labeled natural if the meat doesn't have any

  • artificial flavor or flavoring
  • coloring ingredient
  • chemical preservative
  • any other artificial or synthetic ingredient or 
  • the product and its ingredients aren't more than minimally processed.

What you have to keep in mind is that these guidelines are ONLY for AFTER harvest. It has nothing to do with the way the animal was raised which means the producer has no control over this labeling of natural. It's simply how the meat is processed. Most meats are considered natural by government standards.

The other piece to this is a newer piece. It's the piece that the producer has control over. The naturally raised portion. USDA published a voluntary standard for naturally raised livestock in January of 2009. This allows for third-party verification. So what does naturally raised mean? Well, by the definition that USDA Agricultural Marketing Service certifies it means that the cattle have never received 

  • growth promotants 
  • supplemental hormones
  • have never been administered antibiotics and 
  • were not fed animal by-products. 

A lot fewer animals can meet this certification. If cattle get sick, they are normally given antibiotics. If they aren't given these they normally die. A lot of producers use growth promotants and hormones.

GRASS FED BEEF:
This refers to how the cattle were raised. As is pretty obvious in the title, these cattle are fed grass only. Most cattle spend a large majority of their lives in pastures eating grass.The difference is in the finishing stage. To be certified grass fed beef the animal remains on the grass and forage diet their entire lives rather than being moved into a feedlot operation. USDA published certain standards and guidelines that must be followed to have their cattle considered to be grass fed beef. They must be fed a grass and forage diet for the animal's entire life. This is in exception of the milk consumed prior to the calf's weaning. It is very, very, very difficult to produce a lot quantity of grass fed beef. This is due to the seasonality of grasses. Grass-finished beef is normally more expensive and some of the grass-fed beef sold in the U.S. may be imported from countries with more temperate climates. Remember, whenever you push for more regulation or want more of this type of beef, it may have to be imported. When products are imported, consumers have little to no say about how that animal is raised. Some countries have different standards for their certification program we have. That could be better in some cases, but a lot worse in others.

ORGANIC BEEF:
The meat that is labeled certified organic must be from cattle that meet USDA National Organic Program livestock requirements. Any of the previously explained types of meat can qualify for the organic program. The standards for organic beef include...

  • cattle must be fed certified organic feed, but may be given certain vitamins and minerals
  • Cattle may not be given growth promotants or receive any antibiotics. Any animal that is treated with antibiotics to ensure its health is removed from the National Organic Program.
  • Organically raised cattle must have access to pasture. They may be temporarily confined for specific reasons. (Most cattle in the US meet this requirement. Most of the cattle raised in this country are in pastures for a majority of their lives.)

So that gives you a little about each type of beef. I had to do research because I was unsure of the different guidelines and criteria to be considered for the different types. The following website has some more information about beef and a lot more statistics if you would like more information.

http://www.explorebeef.org/CMDocs/ExploreBeef/Choices%20of%20Beef_Final.pdf

I was reading on one website (don't remember which one), but it was saying that there is room for all the different types and ways of raising and processing beef. The meat raised in the US is safe and healthy for us to consume. However, I encourage you to research thoroughly with several different websites, books and actual live human beings before believing anything you read about any of the different methods. If you want to eat just grass-fed, that's your choice. BUT, make sure you understand what you are supporting, know why you are supporting it, and don't believe, just because you read it on one website that cows don't naturally eat corn. If you want to see that that is a plain lie, come visit us any time! We'll show you just how crazy those cows go for something that's like candy to them. Research what you're supporting and if you still want to only eat grass-fed beef, great! Just know the facts not just one website's version so they can push whatever it is they are selling.