Anne Burkholder ‘Feed Yard Foodie’ blog opens world of cattle feeding to consumers
“I make decisions every day that affect the health of my cattle and the safety of the beef that they produce,” writes Anne Burkholder in her new blog, “Feed Yard Foodie,” which launched earlier this month. “If I treated my animals as pets, I would be doing a disservice to you as the consumer because food safety and quality would then not be my top priority. When asked what I do every day, I always answer, ‘I care for animals that will be harvested to feed to my children and to yours.'”
Does this sound like a scripted public relations commercial for the beef industry? Hardly. The writer behind “Feed Yard Foodie,” found at http://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com, is a cattle feeder, buyer, wife and mother from central Nebraska.
Burkholder describes herself as, “A native of urban Palm Beach County, FL; I was an Ivy League educated athlete fueled by beef for many years before I understood where my beef came from. Now, I am a mother of three and live with my husband in Nebraska where we run a cattle feedyard and farming operation. ‘Feed Yard Foodie’ is a site where people can come to read about the real story of beef, written by someone who actually gets their hands dirty.”
Sometimes the best spokespersons for the beef industry aren’t celebrities; they are ranchers, and Burkholder is a great example. While already successful in the beef business, transitioning into the world of online social media has been a new experience in itself. She offered her advice, first impressions and reasonings behind this new project that often takes her from chores and puts her in front of a computer.
“I think that as afraid as I am of social media, the biggest challenge for me was to just start blogging,” said Burkholder. “Blogging is such a huge tool for the industry. Only 2 percent of us are directly involved in production agriculture today, and while I can’t bring 98 percent of the U.S. to me, I can bring my story to them online – that’s why I decided to start this blog.”
Yet, like a lot of ranchers, being tech-savvy isn’t the first tool in her arsenal. When Burkholder approached the beef checkoff to assist her in getting the ball rolling, checkoff-contractor The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was more than willing to get the blog launched and get the eager cattlewoman trained for online blogging.
“I’m so thankful for the checkoff for helping me get started,” said Burkholder. “My biggest obstacle was technical. They provided me the resources and saved me a lot of time, so now I can get right to work. I believe it’s a good use of checkoff dollars when a producer asks for help. This blog isn’t political. I truly want to share my story with consumers and bridge the gap between rural and urban America.”
In just a few weeks of blogging, “Feed Yard Foodie” is gaining national attention, and the demographics of her readership include moms, athletes and consumers who live in big cities on the coast.
“I would like to help the consumer understand where their beef comes from,” explained Burkholder. “I didn’t grow up in agriculture, and I have a lot of empathy for the consumer, especially those who sincerely want to know where their food comes from. I want to show them what I do every day – raising animals and producing safe and healthy beef. I’m a person just like they are. I have same priorities. My job is feeding the world. I’m striving for a strong consumer audience. I realize this will take some work and time, but that’s really what I’m striving for.”
Burkholder has the hard work ethic and the desire to make this blog a successful one, while still managing to take care of her family and the feedlot. Yet one more ball to juggle doesn’t seem to bother her.
“Cattlemen are a wonderful group of people, and we have a great story to tell,” said Burkholder. “I hope others will want to do the same thing as I’m doing. We are gaining momentum as an industry, finding people who enjoy caring for animals and also want to reach out and share what they do. One thing I’ve learned is that the consumer is always right, and while it’s easy to get defensive, anger doesn’t help spread our message. An open-door policy is a good way to have an effective blog, and through open conversations, we can start to be truly influential.”
Follow the consumer-producer conversations at the “Feed Yard Foodie” blog, an up-and-coming Web site to watch as Burkholder bridges gap between ranchers and consumers.
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