I had a little trouble coming up with a topic for the 2011 Blog Action Day. Sure, I need to talk about food, but what about it? How does my work with cattle connect with food? If I had to choose, what one message do I want to share for BAD?

My connection with the food on my plate is a little different from most. As a 4-H kid, I grew up with a backyard vegetable garden, raising hogs for freezer pork, and showing steers at the county fair in September. I would spend most of the year, teaching these calves how to lead and stand up straight for the judges. Fair week meant camping out all week in the cattle barn at the fair grounds, grooming my steer to look his best, then heading home with my ribbons and prize money. Before fair week was over, I would always catch up with our local butcher and schedule a day in October to take my steer to the slaughter-house. Then a few month’s down the road, my family would be sitting at the table, slicing into a rib steak, and my dad would ask what I had learned while taking care of that year’s steer.

Now as a 23 year-old, I look back on those days and see what I learned. Showing that steer wasn’t about the money (that all went to feed and grooming supplies), it wasn’t about the competition (I never had that much money to invest), my dad had taught me a one-on-one lesson about raising cattle. I learned more about animal behavior, their reactions and instincts, eating habits, and purpose, than I ever could have in my high school Ag classes. I started with each steer, knowing I would be raising the beef for our freezer.

I look back on the experience of raising those show steers, along with the 1,200 mother cows out in our pastures, and thank my dad for that raising. I know have a stronger appreciation, not only for the food on my plate, but for the animals we raise and the lifestyle I know. I never realized how unique that appreciation was til I moved off to college. Not everyone had the opportunities I had as a kid.

So what message do I have to share about food for BAD?

  1. Yeah those cattle in my family’s pasture are our livelihood, but they’re also what ties my family together. We have that connection to work together as a family, and raise our own food. Raising cattle was also my parent’s way of teaching me so many life lessons as a kid.
  2. Providing exceptional care for those cattle isn’t a choice, it’s a moral obligation. Yeah, when it comes down to it, we want to make money to live off of, but in order to do that, they have to be raised right.
  3. Raising cattle is my passion. Thanks to my years spent in college, I now realize not every one has the connection to animals and food that I have. I gained a better appreciation for that, and want to share my passion.
So when I say “my day job is more fun than your vacation,” I mean it. I go to work everyday, knowing those cattle depend on me to provide their needs, and my family depends on me (in part) ┬áto produce our food. And at the end of the day when I go home (even if that is late, muddy, and cold) I can have a feeling of accomplishment, knowing I did my best caring for what I love most.
Cattle not only provide the beef on our plates, but also these items and more that enrich our daily lives.
Don’t forget to thank the livestock ranchers, crop farmers, harvesters, food processors, and others involved in bringing food from pastures to your plate.
I post daily about my life on the ranch and as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee. Find me on Twitter (@AR_ranchhand) on Facebook (ARranchhand) and video blogs from my daily life on YouTube (AgProud). Feel free to send me any messages via a comment below or email (agricultureproud@hotmail.com).